Being in Portland all this week for the Craft Brewers Conference, it only seems appropriate that we share some good news about local brews from this craft brewing mecca. Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. announced a $10 million investment to expand its brewery on North Russell Street in Portland. The expansion will increase annual production capacity of Oregon’s largest brewery by 200,000 barrels (bbls) to 750,000 bbls. The entire expansion project, which includes significant brew house enhancements and a new innovation brewery, is expected to be completed by early 2017.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to continue expanding in our hometown,” said Rob Widmer, co-founder of Widmer Brothers Brewing. “For 31 years in the brewing business, Kurt and I have prided ourselves on smart growth, investing in building this great community, and always focusing on quality above all else. We feel that by keeping our expansion within our current footprint and bringing the pilot brewery to the main brewery campus, we will do just that — make more, quality beer and continue to innovate.”
This is the sixth major brewery expansion for Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, the brewery’s hometown, since it was founded in 1984. The original 10-bbl Widmer Brothers brewery, located in the Pearl District in northwest Portland, had a 12,000-bbl annual production capacity. The Widmer Brothers brewery moved to its current location in North Portland in 1990, and has since invested in four additional major expansion efforts to grow the brewery to its current 550,000-bbl capacity.
This sixth expansion is not only significant for Widmer Brothers but also for the beer industry in Portland, a city that has become the epicenter of American craft beer over the last 31 years with the help of brewery co-founders Kurt and Rob Widmer. The additional 200,000 bbls in brewing capacity represents over 12 percent of the 1.6 million bbls of beer produced by all Oregon breweries in 2014, and will allow Widmer Brothers to maintain its position as a leader in the craft beer community while contributing materially to the remarkable growth of the Oregon beer market.
The decision to add capacity in Portland builds on the recent resurgence of Widmer Brothers’ flagship Hefeweizen, which grew shipments approximately 9 percent in Oregon in 2014, as well as continued momentum for Widmer Brothers Upheaval IPA and its new session-style Replay IPA. Launched in 1986, Hefeweizen is the top-selling craft beer in Oregon, and sales are growing, particularly in the Northwest. The expansion will allow the brewery to meet consumer demand and brew more beer for Oregonians and fans across the country and globe.
As part of the expansion project, Widmer Brothers is also building a new state-of-the-art 10-bbl innovation brewery and a tasting room for brewery tours adjacent to its pub on North Russell Street in Portland, to be completed by the end of 2015. The new innovation brewery will continue the work of Widmer Brothers’ pilot brewery, which has been producing specialty small-batch beers and used for research and new product development for more than 20 years.
To expand capacity within the current footprint, the brewery is adding new fermenters, bright beer tanks, and a second filtration line, as well as extending existing tanks to increase cooling capacity. Additional enhancements throughout the brew house are being made to increase production efficiency and leverage new innovations in wastewater treatment and energy recovery, as part of Widmer Brothers’ commitment to sustainability.
The expansion of the Widmer Brothers brewery in Portland will also offer flexibility to support the continued growth of other brands within Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), an innovative brewing company and business model that launched in 2008 with the merger of Widmer Brothers Brewing and Woodinville, Washington-based Redhook Ale Brewery.