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Southern Tier Brewing expanding into Charlotte, Pittsburgh

Southern Tier Brewing Co. recently tapped into some deep pockets, and the new business structure is quickly beginning to accomplish what the brewery set out to do: grow beyond its presence in Western New York.

The Lakewood brewery has been busy. In just the last few months, it has formed a new parent company, acquired a popular Pennsylvania brewery, and has put into motion plans for two breweries – one in Charlotte, N.C., and one in Pittsburgh.

Artisanal Brewing Ventures, the parent company Southern Tier formed with Manhattan private equity firm Ulysses, has set up operations in Charlotte. That facility is centrally located to service the company’s market areas, which are predominantly in the eastern United States.

Last month, Artisanal Brewing Ventures acquired another small brewer, Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewing Co.

But Artisanal Brewing Ventures’ presence in Charlotte won’t be limited to corporate offices. A shared production facility is in the works, with a 50-barrel production system. It will serve both brands of beer and have a tap room.

The company will add up to 50 jobs to support production there.

Southern Tier’s Pittsburgh brew pub will be located between two sports venues, Heinz Field and PNC Park. Plans call for a smaller version of Southern Tier’s custom-built Lakewood brewery. It will have a full menu and serve the brand’s traditional beers along with batches of specialty brew made exclusively at and for the brewery.

People in Pittsburgh have long appreciated Southern Tier Brewing Co.’s offerings, according to the company’s CEO, John Coleman. The number of people who travel from Western Pennsylvania to visit the Southern Tier facility in Lakewood is “astounding,” he said.

Southern Tier’s creation of Artisanal Brewing Ventures makes ABV Southern Tier’s parent company.

The deal provides stable, steady funding to the brewery, allowing it to scale up its sales and operations. Making ABV an umbrella over the two small breweries, and allowing Victory Brewing Co. to keep its own brewers and leadership in place, lets the small brewers keep their independence and integrity, while increasing production and distribution.

Late last month, Southern Tier partnered with Superior Beverage Group, the Miller-Coors distribution network, to increase its distribution throughout Ohio.

As more craft brewers get swallowed by big beer conglomerates like Anheiser-Busch InBev, Southern Tier’s different path to growth has been applauded as an alternative to corporate acquisitions.

Southern Tier Brewing Co. opened in Lakewood in 2002. Victory Brewing Co. was founded near Philadelphia in 1996.