Eastern U.S. Craft Brewery Expansions Abound

As the craft category continues to grow at a double-digit clip — dollar sales are up nearly 23 percent in the latest IRI scans — brewers across the country, in an effort to keep up with growing demand, are investing heavily in facility expansions.

A crop of mid-size and regional craft breweries located in the eastern half of the U.S. recently announced multi-million dollar expansion efforts which will enable those companies to not only expand production capabilities, but in some cases distribution footprints as well. Here are a few updates:

Sun King Brewing, Indianapolis, IN.

Sun King Brewing last week announced plans to invest $8.8 million in a new brewery and tasting room in Fishers, Ind., about 30 minutes north of its current Indianapolis headquarters.

The proposed 40,000 sq. ft. facility, which is expected to be complete by July of next year, according to WISHTV, will enable the brewery to increase capacity by 28,000 barrels and accommodate future growth. Currently butting up against capacity, Sun King is on pace to produce approximately 28,500 barrels this year.

“The whole goal is, of course, first and foremost, to make more beer,” Sun King co-founder Clay Robinson told Brewbound. “All of that is devised on our continued goal to sell as much beer as close to home as humanly possible. We’re actually doing this with no plans to distribute beer outside of Indiana.”

The company isn’t tackling the project without some help, however.

The Fishers Town Council unanimously approved a $2.5 million economic development deal to capture property taxes for 25 years “to fund infrastructure improvements and help offset project costs,” according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. Additionally, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is kicking in $450,000 in grants and tax credits based on the facility’s potential to create jobs.

Though municipal wallets weren’t always so quick to open up for the brewery.

“Six years ago, I was writing a business plan,” added Robinson, “just trying to figure out how to get someone to give us half a million dollars to get our dream off the ground.”

Abita Brewing Co.Abita Brewing Company, Abita Springs, LA.

Abita Brewing is set to get on with the last phase of its $15 million expansion and property renovation, reports the Associated Press.

Though the company has increased capacity along the way — it’s now ultimately capable of producing 900,000 barrels per year — this final phase is all about marketing.

In addition to creating new office space at its Abita Springs, La.-based brewery, the company will create a new 5,800 sq. ft. visitor center, doubling the size of its previous space. By 2018, Abita also hopes to more than double the number of visitors that pass through its doors each year, to 70,000, the article adds.

Abita CEO David Blossman said he has seen the demand for tours and consumer facing retail components grow exponentially over the years.

“It’s big, it’s grown every year,” he told Brewbound. “We’ll have issues with parking. We have problems with beer lines and lines for retail. So we just keep growing it.”

“It got beyond our abilities here,” he added. “I didn’t think we were giving as good a tour as we could.”

The company projects revenues of $43 million in 2014, up from $39 million last year.

Abita produced 157,000 barrels in 2013 and expects production to grow six percent this year. The company’s products are currently available in 41 states as well as Washington D.C. and multiple international markets.

Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI.

Lakefront Brewery, Inc. last week announced its intent to purchase the land adjacent to its existing facility in Milwaukee, Wis. and begin building as soon as it’s “financially feasible,” per a news release from the company.

Lakefront plans to relocate its packaging lines as well as additional fermentation tanks to the new facility, which will free up room at its existing digs to grow its barrel-aging program.

The expansion will also create 40 full-time jobs over the next few years, according to the statement.

“We are taking a very measured approach to expansion, and acquiring this land is an initial step,” said Lakefront owner Ross Klisch in the release. “However, the craft beer market just continues to grow and we need to expand production or we won’t be able to keep up with demand. ”It’s not the first time Lakefront has looked to expand, however. Last year the company announced its intent to purchase 9.3 acres of land in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, but those plans fell through.

Hill Farmstead, Greensboro, VT.

Vermont’s Hill Farmstead is in the midst of an expansion that will double its current rate of production.

According to Boston Magazine, the expansion, which is expected to be complete by February of 2015, will enable the brewery to produce 6,000 barrels per year.

In January, the New York Times reported Hill Farmstead would cap production forever at 150,000 gallons, or roughly 4,800 barrels, so it’s likely this is the last time the company grows its brewing footprint.

Hill Farmstead’s beers have been scarcely available outside of Vermont, but this expansion could change things.

“It could mean that [you’ll be able to purchase Hill Farmstead beers in other parts of New England],” Hill Farmstead owner Shaun Hill told Boston Magazine. “Our foremost plan is to provide more beer to our current accounts in Vermont. We will expand this footprint organically.”

Natty Greene’s Brewing, Greensboro, NC.

Natty Greene’s is in the “exploratory stages” of building a 75,000 sq. ft. campus that would bring all of its facilities — a brewery, a pub or tasting room, and a music venue — under one roof, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

The company is hopeful that the new space, which could cost an estimated $10 million, will be operational by 2018.

Within five years, production at the new brewery could be scaled to 100,000 barrels annually, the report said. Within 10 years, the facility could produce upwards of 200,000 barrels annually. According to the Brewers Association, Natty Greene’s produced nearly 16,000 barrels in 2013.

What this expansion — which as of now is unfinanced — means for its current facility in Greensboro, N.C. is unclear, however.

“Whether we sell it turnkey to an upstart brewery, or whether we keep it and maybe rebrand it, or open it in a different concept, but yes, everything’s going to go under one roof,” Natty Greene’s co-founder Kayne Fischer told the website. “To operate and to manage a production facility, or brewery, and two restaurants, is tough. It’s very daunting.”

Lucette Brewing, Menomonie, WI.

Lucette Brewing has announced plans for an expansion that will not only increase capacity, but also enhance operational efficiency and create more space for visitors.

The Menomonie, Wis.-based brewery has plans to add a 57,000-pound grain silo, additional fermenters, and will connect its two current buildings by this fall, according to a company statement.

“This expansion will not only allow us to get closer to meeting current demand, it will also allow us to incorporate more packaging and a greater focus on experimental beers, which the current setup was not conducive to,” co-founder Michael Wilson said in the release.

Currently only available in seven markets (five in Wisconsin, two in Minnesota), the expansion will enable the company enter new territories throughout the Midwest.

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