USA: Second largest German beer group to enter U.S. market with own production

TCB Beverages, second largest beer group in Germany with a production of nearly 9 million hectoliters (7.7 million barrels) in 2018 is to enter the U.S. beer market with its own production in Charlotte, North Carolina. The News & Observer, a NC based newspaper, reported on Wednesday that TCB is planning within the next 3 years “a massive 100,000 SqFt [9,290 square meters] flagship brewery that will include Charlotte first truly authentic German beer garden, an on-site german-style restaurant, and capacity to brew up to 500,000 barrels [587,000 hl] per year (more than all other current breweries in Charlotte – combined).”

TCB will sell its beer under the Gilde label, a brand from a nearly 500-year old brewery from Hanover, Germany, capital city of the German state of Lower Saxony. Gilde Brewery became part of TCB effective on 1.1.2016, when AB InBev Germany wanted to close the ailing brewery and looked for a “solution”.

Mike Gärtner, co-partner and managing director of TCB did neither confirm nor deny the intention to build a brewery of this size in the United States. “It’s a vague idea and depends on the acceptance of the beer by the clients in the U.S.,” he said when contacted by inside-getraenke.

Karsten Uhlmann, Gärtner’s co-partner, who spent the last year officially “on sabbatical leave” in Cornelius, North Carolina, 20 miles north of Charlotte, spoke more clearly to the local press. Gilde plans to open a brewery in “a dynamic part of Charlotte”, he was quoted as saying.

“Charlotte is a rapidly growing city with a bustling airport,” Uhlmann said. “It’s relatively close to Charleston, the port city through which it will import its beer, and Charlotte also has a sizable German business community.”

And the city’s German namesake, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, ruled over Gilde’s hometown of Hanover before marrying King George III and becoming the Queen of England. “We believe that obviously Queen Charlotte forgot to bring her beer (here) … and we’re trying our best to correct this mistake,” Uhlmann said.

The first step is to open a 5,000 SqFt (464 SqM) microbrewery, named The Embassy, which will open until the end of this year. It will brew small batches of authentic German-style pilsners and hefeweizens to serve in their tap room. The majority of the canned and bottled beer will still be imported from Germany through the port of Charleston, South Carolina, which is about 200 miles (320 km) away from Charlotte. It is planned to sell Gilde beer throughout the U.S. with a focus on the East Coast.

Currently, TCB is working with local Charlotte distributor Adams Beverages to sell their cans in several local grocery chains within the coming months. However, people close to the matter believe that one of the main distribution channels will be through Lidl grocery stores. Lidl is a global discount supermarket chain, based in Neckarsulm, Germany, that operates 10,500 stores in 29 countries across Europe and the United States. The U.S. stores are all located along the East coast of the United States with shops in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The company announced last month to open up 25 new stores by next spring on the East Coast bringing Lidl's US footprint to more than 100 stores by the end of 2020.

"We are committed to long-term growth in the United States," Johannes Fieber, CEO of Lidl's U.S. operation, said in a statement. "These new stores are part of the next steps in our U.S. expansion."

So far, all Lidl stores in the U.S. are within reach of the planned new brewery. Lidl’s U.S. head office is in Arlington, Virginia, about 400 miles north of Charlotte.

TCB, which is the “largest private label beer producer in Europe” according to their own website, is already one of the main beer suppliers of Lidl in Germany and Europe. Next to Germany, where TCB operates 3 breweries and Lidl has more than 3,300 outlets, France is second biggest market for both companies with TCB having one brewery and Lidl 1,500 shops. It seems that the success of both companies is interrelated.

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