State of craft beer market called into question with Ballast Point's surprise move

Experts said market is still strong

SALEM, Va. – The shocking news about Ballast Point closing to the public is raising questions about the state of craft beer in Southwest Virginia.

As Botetourt's beloved Ballast Point enters its final two weeks open to the public, just across the valley at Salem's Parkway Brewing Company, business is booming.

"We're in four states now and we're just trucking right along," said Mike Pensinger, general manager and brewmaster for Parkway Brewing Company.

The big players may be losing steam, with Ballast Point leaving its customer base behind for more production and the future of Deschutes still uncertain.

"I think the state of craft beer is booming still," Pensinger said.

"When times are good, people enjoy their beer, but when times are bad, people still enjoy their beer,"  Valley Business Front publisher Tom Field said.

Field has studied the beer industry since it started in the Roanoke Valley about 10 years ago.

"While we have a good robust selection of breweries in the area, we're actually not oversaturated," Field said.

In fact, he said there's still room to grow because the market isn't defined by big breweries.

"I think there's a big difference between what's in your stores, on your shelves, versus what's down the street through that door," Field said.

Field said the experience of going to a brewery and location have become more important factors than ever before.

"We actually know of breweries that there's a difference depending which side of the bridge you're on," Field said.

It's good news for the local guys, who may now have to deal with the loss of some beer tourism, but said there's more opportunity brewing than ever before.

"We're small, we're local, we're owned by local people, so that brings that certain flavor that we have that they didn't have and honestly, unfortunately, could never have," Pensinger said.

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