There’s a saying at Short’s Brewing Co. — the only thing constant is change. Since the brewery opened in a renovated hardware store in 2004, change — along with growth and expansion — has been a part of the company’s DNA. 2020 impacted the brewery in ways they didn’t expect — and one in a good way. June saw a 30 percent increase in sales for the brewery, followed by its busiest July 4th holiday ever. Summer sales trends continued and resulted in 14 percent growth over summer 2019. And while 2020 was crazy, the change and expansion didn’t stop.
“We’ve literally been working around the clock to try to keep our products stocked for our distribution and retail partners, and we are so grateful for their patience and grace. The demand has been insane, this expansion couldn’t come online at a better time,” said Scott Newman-Bale, chief executive officer for the brewery. “We definitely experienced some bumps and setbacks along the way due to COVID but are excited to be wrapping up construction soon.”
Starting with their new warehouse. At over 6,000 sq ft, with an additional three loading docks, the new warehouse sets the brewery up to store a surplus of packaging, and to get ahead on production during slower seasons. Additionally, it will streamline shipping and logistics, easing distribution issues.
Short’s is also about to install a massive new packaging line — which has been under construction in California for the past four months — that will double the rate in which beer can be packaged. It will also eliminate the need for plastic rings, a sustainability issue Short’s has been working on for some time. A new kettle has also just come online for the brewery, which allows Short’s to produce multiple products at a time — which has been great for the multi-dimensional producer whose brands include Starcut Hard Cider, Beaches Hard Seltzer, and the recently acquired Arcadia Brewing Co. brands.
In addition to production facility updates, Short’s is almost finished with an expansion of its Elk Rapids tasting room, known as The Pull Barn. The Pull Barn expansion will turn the outdoor, three-season tourist destination into an indoor, year-round location complete with a beautiful custom bar and bathrooms. The brewery hopes to have the Pull Barn open for inside service by the beginning of November and will feature 20 drafts from the brands mentioned above.
The cost of these projects? A cool $1.5 million. But Short’s isn’t stopping there — the brewery has an additional $2 million in improvements scheduled for 2021 that will continue to increase capacity and efficiency.
“We plan to implement one of the fastest expansions we have ever undertaken and continually increase capacity throughout 2021,” stated Newman-Bale. “We’re ready for 2021 to be our biggest year yet.”
Of course, change and growth don’t come without their share of setbacks.
“We’ve had to cancel a couple of Specialty projects in our schedule to make sure we could produce enough of our flagship brands to meet demand,” stated Pauline Knighton-Prueter, sales director at Short’s. “But fear not, good humans, we’re going to slate any projects we cancelled into our 2021 release calendar.”