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Construction is pushing ahead on the massive New Belgium brewery site in West Asheville and the separate distribution beer center in Enka, and passers-by will notice some real progress, especially on the riverfront brewing location.

New Belgium looks to open the Enka hub by spring 2015 and first use it to distribute beer made at the company's original brewery in Fort Collins, Col., New Belgium spokeswoman Susanne Hackett said.

The goal is to be brewing in Asheville by the end of 2015, but tours may not be offered before 2016, she said. The brewery will eventually produce a half million barrels of beer annually for sale in the eastern U.S., brewery general manager Jay Richardson said.

"We're just starting to go vertical" in the brewery construction, Hackett said. "It will be easier and more exciting to see the process unfolding over the next year or so as buildings go up." Silos will begin taking shape in September.

The New Belgium team now in Asheville numbers eight, and will increase to 140 employees between the brewery, the Liquid Center tasting room and the Enka distribution site, Hackett said. Most of the hiring will begin in early 2015.

The brewery construction crew is mostly using Riverside Drive to access the site, "although we are still using Haywood to Clingman in some instances," she said.

New Belgium teams will meet with area residents Aug. 5 at the West Asheville farmers market and on Aug. 20 at the River Arts District farmers market.

The $175 million brewery joins the already open Sierra Nevada brewery in Mills River, and the Oskar Blues brewery in Brevard as national craft beer producers located here. Sierra Nevada will host its first public event, the sold-out Beer Camp festival Aug. 3, but is not yet offering brewery tours, spokesman Ryan Arnold said.

Buncombe County is now home to 17 operating breweries, most of them in Asheville. More than a dozen other craft breweries are located around the Western North Carolina mountains.

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