Speakeasy Ales & Lagers Announces Major Expansion


Speakeasy Ales & Lagers has revealed plans to increase its production volume by 500 percent as part of an ambitious expansion project, the San Francisco-based brewery has just announced.

Per a statement from the company, Speakeasy will increase its annual production capacity from 15,000 barrels to 90,000 barrels with the installation of a 60-barrel brewhouse and eight 300-barrel fermenters. The expansion, the largest in the brewery’s 17-year history, also includes the installation of a new lab, centrifuge, as well as canning and kegging lines.

“We’ve been growing double digits for several years and we’ve definitely been up against the wall,” Speakeasy founder Forest Gray told Brewbound. “And last year we had an opportunity to work with a bank that was working in the craft beer space.”

The project, financed by Union Bank, is expected to cost approximately $7.5 million, according to Gray, who said that Speakeasy would be ready to begin producing beer with the new brewhouse by next month.

Speakeasy is the latest in a string of Bay Area breweries expanding operations. Having contracted much of its production to a brewery in Minnesota for the past several years, 21st Amendment is now getting set to bring production back home by moving into its own new $21 million facility in San Leandro. Earlier this year, Magnolia Brewing crowdfunded $150,000 in less than 24 hours to expand its own operations.

With the new equipment and capacity, Speakeasy also plans to expand its barrel program and debut what it’s calling the Session 47 Series, a new line of low ABV products.

“Speakeasy didn’t make any beers that I could drink through a six hour smoke on a pork butt,” added head brewer, Kushal Hall. “The Session 47 Series is our answer.”

The series will debut with Baby Daddy IPA. At 4.7 percent ABV, it’s a canned complement to its bottled cousin, Big Daddy IPA, which clocks in at 6.5 percent ABV. The brewery has no immediate plans to can other current offerings, said Gray, who is wary of cannibalizing Speakeasy’s bottled business, something he spoke about during a Brew Talks meet up in 2013.

“If we put Big Daddy in a can, is it going to disrupt our bottles sales? It becomes a huge guessing game as to what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s a vertical play. We’re not trying to cannibalize our current bottle sales. There are just some times when you don’t want a bottle, you want a can.”

Gray said he anticipates the series, which will be released throughout the company’s distribution footprint by July 4, to be a “pretty legitimate chunk” of the overall business, accounting for 8 to 10 percent of total sales by the end of the year.

Speakeasy, which sells beer in 14 states, is projecting sales of about 50,000 barrels of beer in 2015, roughly 50 percent more than it produced last year, said Gray.