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North Carolina Crafts a New Beer City, USA

Jack Andersen | FoodPix | Getty Images

Move over Milwaukee and step aside St. Louis! There’s a new Beer City, USA.

Asheville, North Carolina is now the hottest spot in the brewing world. The city can make its claim for brewing supremacy in the wake of the No. 3 craft brewer, New Belgium Brewing, announcing it will be locating an East Coast brewery there.

New Belgium’s announcement comes not long after the No. 2 craft brewer, Sierra Nevada, announced they would be building their East Coast facility in Asheville.

“New Belgium’s expansion will enhance the craft brewery cluster that is growing here. The jobs and investment the company is committing will be a major boon for the region and for the state” said North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue.

“While the overall beer market experienced a 1.3-percent volume decrease in 2011, craft brewing saw significant growth, surpassing 5-percent total market volume share for the first time,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that with the variety of styles and flavors to choose from, Americans are developing a strong taste for high-quality, small-batch beer from independent brewers.”

While the craft beer segment is still a small portion of the overall beer market, it has shown steady growth the past few years. In 2011, craft brewers represented 5.7 percent of volume of the U.S. beer market, up from 5 percent in 2010.

The steady growth is leading more entrepreneurs to take the craft beer plunge. The Brewers Association counted 1,989 breweries in operation at the end of 2011, an increase of 11 percent. The BA estimates that small brewers employed about 103,585 workers in the U.S in 2011 and more breweries are coming online each month.

“We saw rapid growth in brewery openings last year, particularly with microbrewery start-ups, and these numbers are poised to rise even more in 2012,” said Gatza. “In February 2012, we already topped 2,000 operating breweries — a truly remarkable milestone.”

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Tom Rotunno on Twitter @tomrotunno.

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