New legislation signed by Governor Bob McDonnell is making it easier for brewery businesses to thrive the commonwealth. A pair of laws set to go into effect means Starr Hill is ramping up production and expanding.
This will be Starr Hill's largest capital expansion. Founder and master brewer Mark Thompson helped with the legislation and says it will level the playing field with neighboring wineries.
From top to bottom, Albemarle County-based beer brewer Starr Hill is growing.
"This is all about taxes. This is all about jobs and creating tourism dollars," said Thompson.
The new legislation will allow for breweries to serve you a pint of beer on site. Before, the restaurant-less Starr Hill could only sell you your favorite brew and you'd have to drink it somewhere else.
Thompson stated, "Financially, it lowers the barrier of entry for a lot of up and coming breweries, emerging breweries, to sell less beer but to sell it directly to the consumer, instead of having to go through a traditional distribution channel."
As a result, Starr Hill is in the middle of a five-year, million dollar capital expansion project. The tasting room will be three times bigger, a new deck is coming, and more tanks are being installed to produce more bottles each day.
"To put all of this into perspective for you, right now Starr Hill produces about 275,000 cases of beer each year. In five years, that number will jump to 826,000," Thompson said.
Meanwhile, House Bill 359 will allow beer manufacturers to lease space in their breweries to small-scale brewers, giving some novice entrepreneurs a shot at making it big.
"If someone wants to start a brewery, they don't have to go out and spend a million dollars to buy equipment," stated Thompson. "They can actually come to another brewery and lease their facility and make their brand of beer."
Thompson says the expansion will add 10 to 15 new jobs. The tanks will be ready next month. The new tasting room will be completed in the fall.