OMB plans to open a new brewery and beer garden in Cornelius — but there’s a catch

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CharlotteFive archives
Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has purchased 24 acres of property in Cornelius, including a 51,000-square-foot building and more than 17 acres of woodland.

Exactly what happens on this newly-acquired land depends on the N.C. General Assembly and Craft Freedom, a coalition of breweries and supporters aiming to raise the state’s limit on the amount of barrels a brewery can self-distribute. That limit is currently at 25,000 barrels, which OMB should surpass this year.

If that limit is raised this year, OMB will invest an additional $7 million in the new property by building a full brewery, taproom and beer garden reminiscent of the current Charlotte property. The brewery would be smaller than the current one, but could supply that taproom with its own series of Brauhaus Reserve beers. It could also potentially be outfitted with open fermenters for some of the brewery’s wheat beers.

“If Craft Freedom passes, we can use this facility to both bring the promotion of our product to the lake region with the Brauhaus and Biergarten, but also expand our wholesale capacity,” said John Marrino, founder of OMB. “We want to put a brewery in there.”

If the self-distribution limit remains at 25,000 barrels, however, the brewery plans to add only the taproom and a beer garden that would be significantly more wooded than Charlotte’s. The current brewery would supply that taproom, but since the brewery is so close to the barrel limit it would almost certainly mean sending less beer to other markets (especially in the suburbs or in South Carolina).

Not only would there be no actual brewery in Cornelius, but there would be fewer jobs and substantially less money spent on the development of the property, according to Marrino. 

The brewery purchased the Cornelius property, which previously housed MacLean Curtis, last month. Located at 20401 Zion Ave, the building and property are just off of N. Main St. A greenway will soon run alongside the wooded property, across from which is a new housing development.

Though the current brewery and the new property are separated by only a 23-mile trip on I-77, Marrino believes that traffic makes its unfeasible for many to make the trip down from the booming Lake Norman area.

“We have an opportunity to introduce people to our beer here,” said Marrino. “Cornelius is effectively a separate market from Charlotte right now. We look at it as a way to promote our product in the lake region of Charlotte.”

Marrino said he has faith that the state legislature will raise the limit this year.

“Even if we don’t win this year, we’ll win eventually,” said Marrino. “We’re not going to give up. We’re going to fight this battle to the death.”

While he would have preferred to see what happens with the Craft Freedom movement, Marrino said the Cornelius property was too good to pass up. If the self-distribution limit is not raised this year, Marrino said, the plans for the new space will be “markedly different.”

“We won’t start construction there until this legislative session is done this year,” he said. “We’re going to know. The North Carolina legislature is going to tell us what we’re going to do there.”

The brewery is about a month away from completing construction on buildings next to its current brewery, which will hold around 10,000-square-feet of office space and 30,000-square-feet of warehouse space for bottles and packaging as well as 80 new parking spaces. All told, Marrino estimates he has invested $17 million in the current brewery since opening it in 2015.

The brewery purchased the property in Cornelius for $3.1 million. How much more the brewery invests there remains to be seen.

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