Reuben’s Brews Considers Move as Demand Increases

Reuben’s Brews co-founder Adam Robbings is on the hunt for a new production facility in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Washington.

Robbings, who started the fast-growing brewery in 2012 with his wife, Grace, told Brewbound that a larger space would help alleviate some headaches that have developed as a result of rapid growth.

“The initial issue is to get production under one space, so we can just focus on it,” he said. “The logistics of playing with so many different spaces is hard.”

The company currently leases four spaces: a 20-barrel production brewery with a tasting room, a warehouse, sour facility and its original 5-barrel brewery, which now serves as an R&D facility.

Robbings admits that a single location would go a long way in simplifying operations and reducing overhead, but his commitment to remaining in Ballard, where where many of the brewery’s 18 employees reside, has added another wrinkle to the search process.

“It doesn’t feel right to do something else,” he said.

Nevertheless, demand for Reuben’s Brews products has steadily risen over the last three years. The company sold about 2,700 barrels of beer in 2015, a figure that swelled to 5,700 barrels last year.

But all of that growth has created other issues, such as out-of-stocks, which have forced the company to limit the availability of certain products.

“To essentially be at 15 times the production volumes of last year, you can’t plan for that,” Robbings said. “It’s pretty impossible. If you knew what demand was in the future you could plan for it, but it’s really hard to know that in real life.”

After expanding into its current production facility midway through 2015, Reuben’s Brews signed with Click Wholesale Distributing for expanded coverage throughout Seattle. Shortly thereafter, the company began packaging its beer in cans, Robbings said.

As a result of those moves, Reuben’s Brews now expects to produce about 9,200 barrels of beer in 2017, while also selling in parts of Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho and Portland, Oregon.

According to Robbings, who cited data from market research firm IRI Worldwide, sales of Reuben’s Brews beer were up 104 percent throughout Washington during the six month period ending June 30.

Leading the way is the brewery’s flagship, Crikey IPA, which now accounts for more than 40 percent of the company’s annual sales, Robbings added.

However, the company has maxed out the number of fermentation tanks it can squeeze into its facilities, and total capacity is currently hovering around 12,000 barrels — hence the need for additional space.

While the search for a new facility continues, Reuben’s Brews has invested in other areas of the business. In February, Reuben’s opened a facility dedicated to aging sour beers, and the first release from that program — a fruited brett beer — is slated for a January 2018 release. The company also recently hired James McDermet, formerly of Fremont Brewing, to serve as Reuben’s Brews head brewer.

Reuben’s Brews will most likely hit capacity next year, Robbings said, and despite a desire to create efficiencies in the brewhouse — by bringing production under one roof — he believes that not using a house yeast strain or relying on a core set of base malts in most of his beers adds a complexity that makes the company’s beers more “unique.”

In terms of size, the sweet spot for Reuben’s Brew would be a “manageable” output of 15,000 to 20,000 barrels annually, Robbings said.

“We don’t have a need to be big,” he said.