Nearly two years in the making, SweetWater Brewing Co. is polishing off the finishing touches on its newly expanded brewhouse, a system that can now manage more than 250-barrel (bbl) batches. This project completes the final phase of SweetWater’s recent three-part production overhaul. With the new system in operation, SweetWater’s brewing capacity has more than quadrupled, allowing the team to start checking off some long-awaited boxes, including plans to expand its Southeast distribution to a handful of new markets and open sales to three new states for the first time since 2008.
“In the 16 years we’ve been brewing beer, we’ve never been able to keep up with the demand,” said Freddy Bensch, founder and Big Kahuna of SweetWater Brewing Co. “This new brewhouse will allow us to brew larger amounts of beer at a single time. Most importantly, it will allow us to slow down those processes and improve the quality of our beer, and the quality of life for people behind it — two things we are most dedicated to.”
In 2012, SweetWater still experienced a 15 percent annual increase from its existing sales footprint halting production during the peak summer selling season on a number of key items due to capacity restraints. Last October was also the first time the brewery was able to expand its distribution to include Central and Southeast Florida, as well as new markets within Tennessee and South Carolina.
With the new brewhouse ready to roll, SweetWater will continue expanding its footprint in the coming weeks, opening new markets in South Florida including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm and the Florida Keys with Gold Coast Beverage; Outer Banks, N.C., with City Beverage Co.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C., with The Yahnis Co., rounding out their distribution to offer beers comprehensively throughout each of those states. Rolling into the second and third quarter of 2013, the brewery will begin shipping its unpasteurized ales in three new states including Kentucky, Virginia and Louisiana bringing SweetWater’s availability to a total of nine U.S. states across the Southeast.
The new 250-bbl brewhouse is quite an upgrade from the company’s very first 25-bbl facility. With 10 new 1,000-bbl fermentation tanks, four 1,000-bbl brite tanks, a wet mill and a slew of new brewhouse equipment, SweetWater is now working with one of the larger and more advanced systems within the craft brewing industry. Brewers ran initial tests on the lines earlier this quarter, quickly diving in to brew batches of various year-round beers to keep up with marketplace demand. The new system will offer brewers added breathing room to shift focus on more innovative projects within the brewery, promising fans some interesting new beers in its future.
Although it was anticipated to be the initial brew to christen the new system, Some Strange — a new limited-time, high gravity release — was actually the first Dank Tank series beer to makes its way through the new equipment. This black IPA is the latest of Captain Danko’s infamous blends, weighing in at 10 percent ABV. Fans can expect to see the brew hit shelves in mid-April.
The Sweetwater team has uploaded a ton of photos to their Flickr account, if you are interested in checking out the new set up. For more on SweetWater Brewery and upcoming events, visit www.sweetwaterbrew.com.