Highland Brewing Announces $5 Million Expansion

Highland's Leah Wong Ashburn & Oscar Wong

Highland Brewing is investing $5 million into a facility expansion that will enable the company, which is based in Asheville, N.C., to boost annual capacity by 60,000 barrels and create additional jobs.

Backed by bank loans and some gradual tax incentives offered up by the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC), the brewery plans to occupy an additional 30,000 sq. ft. of its current building with new tanks and a bottling line.

Highland also plans to gradually expand its distribution as a result of the expansion, though brewery founder Oscar Wong told Brewbound the company doesn’t have aspirations to go much wider with its current footprint of nine states.

“We just added [Kentucky and Ohio], so this will help us take care of those two states,” he said. “In a way it’s kind of enhancing what we have.”

Highland is forecasting sales of 40,000 barrels this year, a 15 percent uptick over 2013 numbers, said Wong.

Though the company is growing, the expansion is all about keeping up with increased competition in the region, namely that of craft stalwarts like Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues, which have recently opened secondary brewing facilities in the area.

“We’re just trying to stay up with the competition because it’s rough,” added Wong. “We didn’t expect to have all these guys come to town.”

Competition in Asheville is expected to tighten even further when New Belgium opens its East Coast facility in the city next year.

Nevertheless, EDC chairman Paul Szurek called Highland “Asheville’s gold standard for creative entrepreneurism.”

“Oscar’s focus on quality innovation with integrity, along with his support for the broader brewing community, is a leading example of how high-growth entrepreneurs drive the critical mass necessary to bring talent, capital and ideas together in the 21st century economy,” he said.