Atlanta, Ga. based Sweetwater Brewing is waving goodbye to Sch’Wheat, their sessionable pale wheat ale, just a few months after it took home a gold medal from the 2011 GABF.
Brewery spokesperson Steve Farace explained that the decision to axe Sch’Wheat was done to make room for ‘all the new brews 2012 will offer.’
“From a production standpoint, we really wanted to bring back the Exodus Porter and also wanted to take the Rye’d Ale from the Crank Tank series and offer that more year-round under the LowRYEder name,” said Farace.
Those introductions, along with the growing demand for its core offerings like 420 and Blue forced the brewery to shelve Sch’Wheat indefinitely.
To accommodate demand, the company broke ground on an 18-month expansion last June that will provide enough space for the brewery to produce upwards of 500,000 barrels annually.
The second phase of expansion (moving equipment) is underway and Farace expects to ‘cut the ribbon’ on the new space sometime in March.
“We moved into our new office space just after the first of the year and the brewhouse equipment is currently being moved over,” he said.
Once a new bottling line gets going in March, Farace said the brewery will begin receiving new 1000-barrel fermentation tanks sometime in April.
“That’s really phase three,” he said. “We will have the ability to pull out some of the smaller tanks and put in the new brewhouse. We should hopefully be done with the entire expansion by September.”
Farace said the company is planning for ‘conservative’ growth in 2012.
“We plan to brew about 115,000 barrels this year,” he said.
Conservative or not, that number is still a big increase from the 95,000 barrels Sweetwater produced in 2011. If the projections hold, the brewery will have added almost 40,000 barrels since 2010.
So where is all that growth coming from? Most of it is ‘organic’ growth in existing markets according to Farace.
“420 continues to crank,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic flagship. Our IPA was on fire in 2011 and Blue continues to do really well also. About 70 percent of our total production is in those three beers.”
Farace also mentioned that the brewery put an increased focused on their seasonal offerings, which until 2011 hadn’t really been distributed in many markets outside of Atlanta.
The brewery will send 16 different beers to market in 2012 along with four rotating seasonal variety packs.