A prized new set of gargantuan beer cans arrived at Charleston’s port Tuesday after a 14-day voyage across the frothy Atlantic Ocean from Germany.
Twenty-eight beer brewing tanks — some large enough to hold up to 3,200 kegs worth of suds — made landfall at the Port of Charleston’s Columbus Street Terminal. They are bound for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s new brewery in Mills River, N.C., about 12 miles south of Asheville.
The Chico, Calif.-based company announced the expansion last year, and the arrival of the tanks marks the next milestone in the brewery’s development, according to port officials. The stainless steel tanks, made by Ziemann Group in Burgstadt, Germany, came wrapped and tethered to the deck of a container ship with chains. They looked a bit like farm silos tipped on their sides or stages from a rocket laid end-to-end.
Burly longshoremen and giant cranes lifted the tanks from the ship and onto large flatbed trailers.
They are expected to idle at the port for several days while Sierra Nevada irons out a plan with the state Department of Transportation to haul the tanks up Interstate 26 to Asheville.
Bill Manley, Sierra Nevada product development manager, said the operation has many parts and pieces, and even he’s not sure how much it will all cost.
“But this is the bread and butter of our brewery,” he said. “This is where the wort — the sugar water — turns into beer. That is an investment you never want to skimp on. That is an investment in the future of our brewery and our beer.”
The company went all the way to Europe to get its equipment because it was trying to match, as closely as possible, the brewing setup in Chico, Manley said.
The idea is to keep the equipment and process the same so beer drinkers don’t notice any difference between the brews produced by each coast, other than some added freshness on this end.
“We want to eliminate as many variables as we can between the two breweries,” he said.
Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is among America’s first craft breweries.
The Asheville-area brewery is Sierra Nevada’s first East Coast facility.
The brewery will start with a capacity of about 300,000 barrels, with room to grow. The company hopes to start producing beer there later this year.
The brewery is expected to be fully operational in early 2014 and employ about 90 workers, the company said.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.