RICHMOND, Va. — Stone Brewing Co., one of the nation’s top 10 craft breweries, is tapping Virginia for its East Coast operations.

The Escondido, California-based brewery announced Thursday that it plans to invest to build a $74 million facility in Richmond, creating nearly 290 jobs over five years. The facility southeast of downtown Richmond will include a bistro, gardens and a company store similar to its California facility and its recently announced brewery in Berlin.

“We can’t build fast enough (and) we can’t wait to serve you guys beer,” Stone’s Chief Operating Officer Pat Tiernan told a crowd at the Executive Mansion in Richmond.

With a wide variety of beers including Levitation Ale, Arrogant Bastard Ale and its “Enjoy By” IPA series, Stone will join a growing list of more than 80 craft breweries in Virginia that will soon also include fellow California brewery Green Flash Brewing Co., which plans to break ground on a facility in Virginia Beach next week.

The move comes as demand for craft beer continues to bubble domestically and abroad.

Sales of craft beer rose about 17 percent last year, making up about 14 percent of the retail market share in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association.

There are more than 2,700 breweries in the U.S. and an additional 1,700 in the works. And 75 percent of legal-drinking-age Americans living within 10 miles of a local craft brewery, the trade group says.

The 200,000 square-foot production brewery in Richmond is expected to be operational in late 2015 or early 2016. Initially, the brewery is expected to produce about 120,000 barrel annually, but that number could grow to nearly 500,000 barrels annually, according to its request for proposals. Stone also plans to renovate a two-story, 30,000 square-foot building for a restaurant and garden that’s expected to open a year or two later.

Virginia was selected among more than 20 states, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday at a news conference that included a toast with Stone beers. Stone officials received more than 200 proposals and made 40 site visits before settling on Richmond, which ultimately beat out Norfolk and Columbus, Ohio, for the facility.

“The local craft brew community is unbelievable,” said president and co-founder Steve Wagner. “It’s a beautiful city and the site is spectacular. … Logistically it definitely won out.”

Stone also is receiving a $5 million grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund and also will be eligible to receive up to a $250,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, depending on its use of Virginia grown products in its operations.

Last year at its California brewery, Stone produced 213,000 barrels of beer and exceeded $135 million in revenue. The brewery founded in 1996 employs nearly 900 people and distributes in 40 states and seven countries. In July the company also announced plans to renovate a historic gas works building in Berlin that’s set to open late next year or early 2016 for distribution throughout Germany and Europe.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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