Craft Beer Expansion
Numbers don’t lie; craft beer is growing. In fact, 826 new breweries opened in 2016, according to the Brewers Association. That’s 826 new reasons to love craft beer. But the craft beer expansion goes further than new breweries; existing breweries are also growing. Many breweries have out-grown their current space and need a new, larger location.
But their original location and taproom are what made them who they are. Without the local community and regular customers in the taproom, they wouldn’t have a need to expand in the first place.
So how does a brewery expand into a new location without loosing the unique atmosphere that attracted so many craft beer fans? Here’s three examples of breweries in my area that have moved into larger spaces but continue to meet the needs of their loyal fan base.
In early 2015, DogBerry Brewing opened their brewery in northern West Chester, Ohio. This is an area just north of Cincinnati that has less breweries than many other parts of the city. High demand, great beer and a neighborhood atmosphere made this a local favorite spot for many.
The problem was their brewing system, tap room and parking didn’t allow for any growth so they were in need of a larger space. This new space opened on Friday May 26, 2017. They moved to the southern side of West Chester but are still ideally situated to meet the demands of this area.
This new location made substantial changes to their business. Their brew house went from a 1 bbl system to 10 bbl (10x growth!). A ton more parking and the taproom can fit nearly 80 people compared to 45 in the old space. It is obvious that this was quite a change for DogBerry Brewing.
Creating A Laid Back Atmosphere
To ensure they are still able to create the same laid back atmosphere, they dismantled and re-purposed the bar from the original taproom. It is now the bar rail that separates the taproom from the brewing area. They also maintained a rustic feel with a live edge bar, barn wood tap wall and picnic table seating. All of this is accomplished with a clean, organized feel to it. There is plenty of room to spread out but it doesn’t feel like an empty space either.
To make their space friendly for everyone, they’ve added skee ball and air hockey. Families with kids will feel very welcomed here. There is also a lounge area that includes a couple couches.
Their new brew house will not only allow for more beer but a wider variety of beer with higher quality. They even plan on doing collaboration projects. And they will be able to start kegging as well. So look for them to be a much larger part of the craft beer scene outside of their taproom.
They want their new taproom to continue to be a place for the community to gather around a pint of beer. It’s a place to relax, meet someone new and be part of local craft beer. Tony Meyer of DogBerry Brewing told me, “In the end, the goal is to make the beer we love and share it with those that want it!” I don’t think he could have said it any better.
MadTree Brewing brewed their first back on January 12, 2013 and by 2015 they knew a larger space was needed because production and taproom capacity was beyond strained. Fast forward to 2017 and they opened their new location and had an amazing grand opening where 15,000 people attended.
While the building is new to them, it is not a new building. In fact, it was an old decaying factory that was an eye sore to the community. That is no longer the case as it is now a beautiful brewery and taproom. The best part is they didn’t move far; only 1 mile. They stayed close to the community that helped them grow.
Maintaining A Similar Style
The design of the new space has many features that connect it to the original. The floors are all polished concrete and there is a large MadTree logo on the floor right inside the front door. The barnwood clad bar is also designed to match the old one with a similar “toss a buck” grate which is a program they run to support local charities. One of my favorite features of the old space was the brewing area was within arms reach of the taproom. While it isn’t that close now, it is still visible and they even have a viewing area so customers can see, hear and smell where the beer is made.
With all of these elements being similar, there were some ways they wanted to improve upon the original. If you ever went to the old taproom, then you know that parking and bathrooms weren’t great. The new space has improved both of these area immensely. They also added ways to let light and air flow through the space making it much more inviting than the old space.
But don’t miss out on the fact that the new space is enormous compared to the old space. They have went from a 15 bbl to a 125 bbl brewhouse. (bbl = barrel which is 31.5 gallons of beer). The original space could ferment 840 bbls at a time while the new one can currently handle 1400 bbls with tons of room to grow. In fact, they will be adding 800 bbl more before the end of summer. Annually, the old system could brew 22,000 bbls while the new one could theoritically pump out 180,000 bbls.
The taproom went from a capacity of 130 to 500 seats. And that’s just inside; they can handle another 500 in the massive 10,000 sqft patio & beer garden. They have 32 taps on the inside and outside. Catch-A-Fire Pizza was a key element of the old space and they have moved into the new space as well. They expanded their capacity and menu options to help serve larger crowds.
Craft beer fans are loving the new MadTree and it is easy to see that they have successfully kept the same atmosphere in this massive new space.
Related Post: Why 15,000 People Attended MadTree’s Grand Opening Event
Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House
When Rivertown opened their original brewery in Lockland, Ohio (just north of Cincinnati), the law did not allow a taproom. Laws changed and Rivertown added a taproom as well as continually updated and renovated this space. However, it was obvious that a new larger space would be better for them. So earlier this year, they opened a new location that was a new brewery and also a restaurant. The original taproom has remained open to continue to meet the needs of customers in that area.
The new space is something special. It is about 20 miles between the new and old locations and they are about that far apart in appearance and function. While the old space was altered to become a taproom and brewery, the new space was purpose built for Rivertown’s vision; a brewpub.
Creating The Same Vibe With A New Vision
According to Rivertown’s Dream Facilitator, Lindsey Roeper, much of the reason that the new location has maintained the same feel comes from their vision, people and intention. She says that both spaces are designed to be all inclusive and comfortable for all ages and taste preferences.
What is amazing about her answer is it has nothing to do with beer. Yes, the beer is important and their new brewing setup is amazing. But as she points out; the feel of their new location is the same because the people are motivated by the same factors. Their desire to create an inviting atmosphere is evident and powerful.
Rivertown’s new location also has a lot more brewing power too. Since they are continuing to operate their original location, all of the additional equipment just adds to what they can now produce. The new brewery has a 50 bbl brewhouse with 1700 bbl of total fermenting capacity. This is on top of the 30 bbl brewhouse and 470 bbls fermenting space in the original location. With additional fermentation space, they could theoretically produce up to 150,000 bbls per year. And they added an additional 4,000 sqft of space for barrel-aging their sour beers.
Seating went from 100 to 375 and taps tripled from 16 to 54. With the addition of the restaurant, they now have the ability to meet the needs of more customers; regardless of whether they like craft beer or not.
It has been amazing watching Rivertown achieve their vision for what their brewery is and I am sure they will continue to grow and evolve. In fact, they recently announced three new beers and new branding that will roll out this summer.
Craft beer is more than just beer. Something more powerful is pulling people together. In small taprooms throughout the country, people are connecting. But in some cases, these breweries must grow and expand into larger buildings. It is not easy to expand and carry over the same characteristics that made them a local favorite.
These three examples of Cincinnati based breweries are just a small look into the ever changing craft beer world. I am sure there are hundreds of similar stories from across the nation. I hope that every expansion is as successful as these have been.