New Glarus Brewing Co. is adding 16 fermentation tanks that will eventually allow the Wisconsin brewery to double its annual capacity to more than 400,000 barrels.
The German manufactured tanks, each capable of holding about 580 barrels of beer, arrived via boat in Milwaukee earlier this week.
“Did I envision a 400,000 barrel brewery? Hell no,” New Glarus founder and president Deb Carey told Brewbound. “We thought we’d be an 8,000 or 15,000 barrel brewery.”
A total of $12 million was spent on the tanks, which will help the employee-owned company meet growing demand for its products (sold exclusively in Wisconsin). The company sold more than 214,000 barrels in 2016, according to Brewers Association (BA) records.
“As the brewery grows, there’s always a bottleneck — something holding us back from making more beer,” she said. “It moves around.”
The latest issue was a lack of space for fermenting beer, so the brewery ordered additional tanks and began construction on a third cellar.
Carey had hoped the tanks would be operational for a busy summer selling season, but the additional fermentation space won’t officially come online until next year.
Even when they do, the chances of expanded distribution to out-of-state markets remains remote, Carey said. She stressed that New Glarus refuses to play an “ego game of bragging about a distribution thumbprint or footprint,” and that the cellar expansion is aimed at improving the availability of quality beer.
“I think it’s such an absolutely ego driven conversation,” she said. “It’s not how we think and how we operate. This is just to take care of Wisconsin.”
The thirst for New Glarus beer within Wisconsin has proven hard enough to satiate. Carey told Brewbound that her brewery is currently dealing with out-of-stock issues.
“We’re totally out of 12-packs [of bottles],” she said.
New Glarus — which was founded in 1993 and is now ranked by the BA as the sixteenth largest U.S. craft brewery — grew about 10 percent in 2016. The company is anticipating similar growth of about 10 percent in 2017, Carey added.
Through the first half of this year, sales of the brewery’s flagship, Spotted Cow farmhouse ale, are up 10 percent while Moon Man pale ale sales are up 30 percent. And while some craft breweries have struggled to grow their seasonal brands, sales of New Glarus’ offerings are up 40 percent, Carey said.
Meanwhile, sales of Spotted Cow and Moon Man in cans, which began midway through last year and already account for about 15 percent of the company’s business, are beating the company’s original projections by 500 percent, Carey added.
“Who would guess 500 percent growth?” she asked. “We’re just really struggling to keep up. We’re working from 5 a.m. to midnight to keep up.”
In addition to a strong core business, Carey said that New Glarus’ Thumbprint series of limited-edition special release beers, such as Strawberry Rhubarb and Berliner Weisse, have also been “selling out in minutes.” Those beers were supposed to keep retailers’ shelves stocked for two to three months, she added.
“Every week we shipped them, and every week they were gone,” she said. “If it was in a store for a day, it was unusual.”
Additionally, New Glarus is in the midst of an expansion of its tasting room and “Beer Depot,” which sells to-go beer. The move will double the tasting room’s capacity to around 150 people. Carey said construction on that project is expected to be completed by the second week of August.
Expanding the taproom was necessary to meet the growing number of visitors to New Glarus’ campus, which serves about 15,000 people weekly during the busy May to October period, Carey added.
“It’s like we’re running a festival every weekend,” she said.
More construction is likely on the way as well. New Glarus recently purchased 40 acres of nearby land, which Carey said could be used for a hop barn, hop freezer and possibly a home for the brewery’s distillery.
“We’ve been in a constant state of construction for 25 years,” she said. “We keep trying to find where we can fit the puzzle pieces.”