Tennessee woos Sierra Nevada

The Blount Daily Times and other new sources in Tennessee are reporting extensively about the possibility that Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will build a brewery in the city of Alcoa.

Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson said Tuesday the brewing company is also looking at two other eastern U.S. sites in other states.

“Not just Alcoa, they’re looking at the entire region. Once they landed here, literally, they liked the community,” he said.

To enhance the city’s chances of landing the brewery, the state Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 10-0 to advance a bill establishing state guidelines for high-alcohol beer to a full floor vote. The measure would ease laws restricting the production of beer stronger than 5% by weight (6.25% by volume).

Sierra Nevada currently produces about 800,000 barrels a year and may reach capacity at its Chico, California, site within three years. Sierra Nevada Communications Coordinator Bill Manley said the company began considering a second brewery several years ago because of the environmental impact of shipping across the entire country.

“We started with a couple of hundred sites, and have narrowed it down to a handful,” Manley said.

The second brewery would brew many of the beers currently also made in California, but not necessarily all specialty beers. It would also be a hub for east coast distribution.

Representatives of Sierra Nevada recently toured potential sites in Alcoa. Manley said they were impressed by the closeness to the mountains, just like the California brewery, and an attention to environmental concerns as exemplified by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) requirement for the Pellissippi Place business development park.

Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson said the company wants its eastern facility to be a tourist destination, and the proximity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural fit. Other pluses include an abundant water supply and logistical issues such as interstate connections and McGhee Tyson Airport.

“Quality of life, conservation issues, being green. They’re a very environmentally conscious company,” Johnson said.