Big beer tanks arriving at Charleston port today for Sierra Nevada

Huge beer tanks were waiting Tuesday to be offloaded from a ship at the Port of Charleston. The tanks are bound for the Sierra Nevada brewery.

Twenty-eight beer brewing tanks – some large enough to hold up to 3,200 kegs worth of beer – arrived at the Port of Charleston’s Columbus Street Terminal this afternoon.

The tanks are bound for Chico, Calif.-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s new brewery in Mills River, N.C., about 12 miles south of Asheville.

The company announced the expansion last year, and the arrival of the tanks from Germany marks the next milestone in the brewery’s development, according to port officials.

Giant cranes are lifting the tanks from the deck of a large container ship that traveled 14 days across the Atlantic Ocean to deliver the oversized beer cans from their manufacturer in Germany.

Bill Manley, Sierra Nevada product development manager, said 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. The idea is to keep the equipment and process the same so beer drinkers won’t notice any difference between the coastal brews, other than some added freshness on this end.

“We want to eliminate as many variables as we can between the two breweries,” he said.

The tanks will sit on trucks here for a few days while Sierra Nevada works out arrangements with the state Department of Transportation to haul them to the Asheville area, Manley said.

His appearance marks the second area visit from a high-ranking Sierra Nevada official in recent weeks.

Brewery founder Ken Grossman paid a visit to the fourth annual Brewvival last month as a keynote speaker and was on hand for the morning-after beer breakfast as well.

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. It is expected to be operational in early 2014 and employ about 90 workers, the company said.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.