Growing pains isn’t just one of our favorite shows. It’s an industry-wide challenge for the craft brewing industry (even here at surprisingly successful CBB). How do you manage growth while maintaining a great product — and satisfying distributors, customers and coworkers?
It’s interesting to see how top craft breweries are handling, struggling with or overcoming their growing pains. A great example is Founders Brewing Co., Michigan’s second-largest beer maker. The company was ranked No. 30 on the Brewers Association’s list of the Top 50 Largest Craft Breweries in the United States in 2012. It was No. 42 in 2011, so the company is consistently kicking ass. Founders estimated it brewed about 71,886 barrels (bbls) in 2012 and projected to push that to 130,000 bbls in 2013, but with that type of aggressive expansion planned, there are bound to be a few hurdles.
Recently, in a great article on the Grand Rapids Business Journal‘s website, Founders co-founder Mike Stevens dubbed 2013 a year of “positive turmoil,” which is a beautiful term.
“We had a pretty tough year, but it was positive turmoil,” Stevens said. “All the construction, expansion and capital being invested in new machinery — everything is now in place and on the floor.”
In 2013, Founders spearheaded several expansion projects, including a larger production facility, new taproom and a beer garden, totaling around $26 million. The new brewhouse is more than doubling its capacity to 340,000 bbls, according to that same article, increasing the brewery’s ability to produce great brands like Centennial IPA, Founders Porter, Breakfast Stout and All Day IPA. But the expansion did result in several downtime periods and a delayed release of All Day IPA in cans. But overall it looks like the company is handling it like champs, and now it seems somewhat finished.
This year, Stevens said production should be amped up enough to brew up to 200,000 barrels, which should place Founders among the top 20 largest breweries in the U.S.
“It’s back to the infrastructure,” [co-founder Dave] Engbers said. “We’re positioned now to just execute. It’ll be nice to have a breather from the expansion.”