Boulevard Grows, Block by Block

With the help of eight new 300-barrel fermentation tanks, Boulevard Brewing has bought itself a few years of capacity before it undergoes a much larger expansion to “Cellar Five,” the main brewhouse.

The current $3 million dollar expansion — it should be complete in April — is a far cry from the estimated $20 million that Boulevard’s Vice President, Bob Sullivan, anticipates the next phase will cost, but it’s a start.

“We are at capacity,” he said. “This temporary expansion will give us a 20 to 30 percent bump.”

Sullivan said the initial expansion was necessary to keep up with growing demand in its current markets. While much of that local demand comes from the company’s core wheat beer, company’s Smokestack Series, an ever-evolving collection of bigger, more complex offerings that typically possess a higher ABV, is also driving growth.

The current expansion is being made to “Cellar One,” where those special Smokestack offerings ferment. Sullivan said the series was up 130 percent in 2011 and he doesn’t think that growth will slow anytime soon.

“January is historically our slowest month,” he said. “We were up 20 percent as a company to start the year and no way did I think that would happen.”

The Smokestack Series has proven to be an effective weapon when entering new markets, like Massachusetts.

“We certainly don’t think we can ship our wheat beer everywhere and take existing business away from someone who is either already there or local,” said Sullivan. “We started shipping only Smokestack Series beers to Massachusetts as a way to test this model and so far it’s worked really well.”

Shipping only Smokestack Series beers to Massachusetts allowed the company to develop a new consumer base while still leaving the door open to extend their portfolio. Brian Murphy, the Director of Sales & Marketing for Massachusetts Beverage Alliance (who distributes Boulevard) said Boulevard is performing well, having shipped 725 barrels since entering the Commonwealth last September.

Boulevard is currently looking to duplicate the distribution model it used in Massachusetts in other east coast cities as well as California, although the plans are not yet concrete. The brewery shipped 157,000 barrels of beer in 2011 and is projecting another 11 percent growth year in 2012.

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