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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weyerbacher: real growth, right now

I promised information on the Weyerbacher expansion yesterday, and then got wrapped up in the whole seasonal thing (and doing my taxes...), so today I'm going to refer you to Uncle Jack's post at The Beer Yard for the details. Here's the basics: its a $1.1 million, 7500 sq. ft. addition, a 40% increase in space that will give Weyerbacher the ability to triple their capacity to 30,000 bbls. a year. They need it: they did 9,729 bbls. in 2011, growth of 34%, which was $3.6 million in sales. Brewery founder and president Dan Weirback also told me that they're already up 51% in January and February over last year. The space won't be completed till the fall, but they're going to be cramming four 80-barrel tanks in next month; "We need them now," Dan said.

Maybe more to the point, and what got Easton mayor Sal Panto out to the groundbreaking yesterday, Weyerbacher now has sixteen full-time employees (up from six in 2006). A million dollar project means more jobs, a significant number in a town of about 25,000, and the mayor showing up signifies that Weyerbacher, like most craft breweries, is recognized as a solid citizen, a benefit to the community. "We’ve always found Easton to be cooperative and favorable," Dan said. "We’ve never asked for special favors." Now watch the shoveling:

As Jack mentioned, and Dan confirmed, there will be -- finally! -- a tasting room. Don't expect anything ambitious on menu, this is going to be more along the lines of Yards, or the Harrisburg Tröegs tasting rooms: beers, yes, some snacks -- snacks, Dan emphasized, and gave...pretzels as an example; I'm telling you, the brewpub traumatized the man -- but they're not in competition with their restaurant accounts. Probably open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 to 6. Reasonable. And it probably means at least one more full-time employee... Look for it after the buildout is completed and the bottling and kegging operations are moved into it, so about a year from now.

What else? Well, there's a new IPA coming to replace Hops Infusion. Hops Infusion just never could settle into the groove after its initial success; it was tweaked, put on hiatus, retooled, re-imaged...and finally retired. The new IPA will be along in May or June, the Crimson recipe from Weyerbacher's IPA Project. “It will be a west coast style IPA," said Chris Wilson, head brewer. "Significant amounts of hops are used for flavor and aroma while keeping the malt profile simple, allowing hops flavor to dominate and shine" It won't be called "Crimson," or "Hops Infusion," there will be a new name to go with the new Weyerbacher packaging and logo and colors. Which seems like a good excuse to stick in that new logo...
Hope you're not one of those folks scared of clowns...

Another new beer is coming, a currently-unnamed sour black ale. That's going to be in 750 ml bottles, and again, out in May or June. 

Dan wanted to emphasize that this expansion is, in effect, already paid for, in the sense that the additional capacity that will be created will meet demand that's already there. "That's an important thing to remember about brewers who did this kind of thing 10 years ago," he said. "They expanded planning on growth to meet capacity. Catamount, Blue Ridge, Independence[all breweries that invested heavily in expansion; all breweries that are no more] We’ve been careful. Our sales grew enough in 2011 to cover the costs already. This is not that risky."

He was also proud to point out that two former Weyerbacher employees were about to open breweries. "Jean Broilette is opening Tired Hands Brewing, he worked for us back in 2006, and Dan Hitchcock is opening his own place, Rushing Duck Brewery, in Chester, New York," Dan said, more indication that craft brewing is continuing to grow at a strong pace. 

Dan clearly feels relatively confident; there's a ten-year lease in place. "Everything’s cyclical," he said, "and I don’t know if we’ll see this strong growth in craft beer for more than another year or two. People can’t do more with what they have now. They’ll have to expand, and that takes time." 
Weyerbacher is going to be ready.

1 comment:

Dan Hitchcock said...

Lew, thanks for linking our blog in your post! Look forward to getting you some beer. - Dan, Rushing Duck Brewing