Craft Brew Alliance has officially opened its new Widmer Brothers innovation brewery, relocating the small-batch operation from a cramped corner of Portland’s Moda Center to the company’s primary brewing facility about one mile away.
First announced last April, the new innovation brewery will enable CBA to conduct research and development, experiment with emerging styles and give Widmer brewers a chance to collaborate with other food and beverage industry entrepreneurs.
“We have some incredible collaborations out of the gate,” said newly hired innovation brewmaster Tom Bleigh, who came to the company from nearby Hopworks Urban Brewery, where he served as director of brewery operations.
The new R&D space was part of the company’s $10 million Portland brewery expansion — which will bring total capacity at that facility to 750,000 barrels — and includes a new 10-barrel brewhouse, two 10-barrel brite beer tanks and nine 10-barrel fermentation tanks. When running at full capacity, the new space is capable of producing about 1,500 barrels annually, the company said.
In addition to moving the innovation brewery back to its main Russell Street brewing campus, CBA also purchased a Crowler machine — which will be used to fill and seal 32 oz. cans of on-demand small-batch beers for offsite consumption — and installed large viewing windows that give pub visitors a glimpse of the new brew space.
“It’s important to me personally that every one of our guests at the pub is served the freshest Widmer Brothers beer they will find anywhere,” Rob Widmer, co-founder of Widmer Brothers Brewing said via a press release. “And, with the unveiling of our new state-of-the-art Innovation Brewery, every guest can expect to find old favorites along with delicious new beers as we continue to explore the world of beer.”
Widmer has already worked on a series of collaborations in the new space, including brew days with Double Mountain Brewery co-founder Charlie Devereux, who left that company in 2013 to help found the soon-to-launch Wayfinder Beer, and Japan’s North Island Beer.
Also getting a chance to be one of the first collaborators on the new system will be Chicago’s Hopewell Brewing Company, which won our Startup Brewery Challenge at the June 9 Brewbound Session in Brooklyn.