Good Beer Hunting

Green Flash Announces Production Facility, Taproom, and Restaurant in Nebraska

Green Flash is headed to the Great Plains. The company announced today that it has acquired a 10,000 square foot turnkey production facility, equipped with a tasting room and restaurant component, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The move, which comes less than a year after the California native brewery opened its second facility in Virginia Beach, will bolster its strategy of “establishing regional footholds in key cities across the United States.” Given its presence on both coasts, the company tells GBH the middle of the country was the logical next step.

“We’ve been looking in the Midwest just generally for quite some time, maybe about a year,” says Mike Hinkley, company co-founder. “Potentially for the spot that would be the Green Flash brewery in the middle of the country, potentially looking to consolidate with another brewery perhaps. Just generally keeping a good eye on the Midwest.”

Green Flash already sells beer in all 50 states, but Hinkley says the Nebraska brewery will help elevate its line of hoppy west coast beers as a “true” national brand. That’s because currently, he says, there’s a lot of “white space” in not only Nebraska, but throughout the region as a whole.

“We do ship beer into Lincoln and Omaha, and we have for a few years, but we’ve never been able to make investments into the territory with representatives, sales, and marketing people on the ground, or anything,” Hinkley tells GBH. “This is our first big step into Nebraska and those surrounding states: Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado… the Dakotas. It’s pretty much wide open space for us.”

As it fits in that abovementioned longer-term strategy to establish footholds in other cities, Hinkley adds that the company isn’t likely finished in Nebraska. And even though this expansion comes fresh off the heels of its Virginia move, Green Flash is not necessarily in a rush to open up new breweries across the map, as Hinkley describes its intentions to do so as more of a “100-year plan.” That said, he says the benefits of establishing a tangible presence in underserved markets as a national brand does come with tangible benefits. Since opening Virginia, Hinkley says, the state has become its number two market overall.

“We sell about a third of our beer from Miami to Boston on the east coast right now,” he adds. “This is the beginning for us to setting up a hub [in the Midwest].”

The Nebraska facility itself will boast an annual capacity of 10,000 BBLs as spearheaded by brewmaster Erik Jensen. Jensen was promoted from head brewer to brewmaster in San Diego back in 2015 following the resignation of Chuck Silva.

Further, the new space will accommodate 2,000 square feet, with room for 100 seats, dedicated to food and beer service, and employ more than 20 locals, according to a statement. Beyond Green Flash, drinkers in the region can also look forward to finding more freshly produced Alpine beer in the area. “Everywhere Green Flash goes, you’re going to see some more Alpine. We’re one big happy family,” Hinkley adds. Green Flash acquired Alpine in 2015.

The company acquired the assets of the facility from Ploughshare Brewing after getting a tip from friends in the state’s brewers guild that they were available while it was searching for an outpost in the region. From there, Hinkley says he and Dave Adams, the company’s vice president of retail operations, visited the area and were taken by its “community feel.”

“We like that it’s a college town, a lot of young people, it’s an exciting town, and it’s right smack dab in the middle of the Midwest in a perfect location to ship beer from,” he says. “It all seemed to click and it happened pretty quickly, the whole process took less than a month.”

Green Flash, the 37th largest craft brewery by volume, says it expects to be up and running in its new Midwest home by the end of this year.

Update: Shortly after publishing this story, we heard back from Infusion Brewing owner Bill Baburek. Speaking as a brewer currently in Nebraska (Infusion has locations in Benson and Omaha), Baburek says he hopes the arrival of Green Flash will contribute to the betterment of the state’s industry at large.

That said, he’s aware of the apprehension felt by smaller breweries in cities like Asheville, North Carolina, which viewed the migration of companies like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues with a level of cautious excitement. But he’s hopeful "everyone can get along." And to that end, he also thinks the presence of a company like Green Flash can help boost the state’s standing in the eyes of both consumers and, critically, lawmakers.
“We weathered some threats in the legislature this last session to take away a lot of our rights as craft brewers, and we were able to band together and get those types of things defeated,” Baburek says. “Hopefully a brewery like Green Flash will bring in even more respectability to the state.”

—Dave Eisenberg