Sweetwater Brewing Heads West
Steve’s breakdown: With this new brewing facility in Berkeley, CA and another one in the works in the mid-west, introducing Sweetwater to new markets is going to be a bigger & bigger requirement. Look for them to consider a national agency.
ATLANTA, GA: At last, a brewery based in the East will expand its brewing capabilities out West.
Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing said it plans to build a secondary brewing facility in the Pacific Time zone by 2017 and, although it hasn’t decided on a final location, has identified California as a potential landing place.
To kick-start the process, Sweetwater purchased brewing equipment from North American Breweries’ recently shuttered Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, Calif., company founder and California native Freddy Bensch told Brewbound.
“We’ve been eyeing options out West, and this equipment becoming available presented an opportunity for us to speed up the expansion process by acquiring an almost complete production brewery, rather than starting from scratch,” he wrote to Brewbound in an email. “We did consider purchasing the building as well, but a developer had already claimed it.”
The newly acquired brewing equipment — which includes a fully-automated, 4 vessel, 130-barrel brewhouse, 3 silos and over 31 fermentation and brite beer tanks — will enable Sweetwater to produce upwards of 400,000 barrels at its western production facility, the company said.
Sweetwater, which paid cash for Pyramid’s brewhouse equipment, is currently considering all western states and expects to open the new brewery in 2017.
A search for a third brewery in the central U.S. is also underway, Bensch said.
“Getting the freshest beer to our consumers is supremely important, which means we need to get liquid to lips as fast as we can,” he wrote. “We eventually want to distribute across the nation, so naturally having breweries in the Central and Western U.S. will result in shorter trips, and decrease our carbon footprint.”
The decision to build additional production facilities is the latest in a string of announcements from the South’s largest craft brewery — it was ranked by the Brewers Association as the 18 largest craft outfit in 2014.
In July, the company promoted its chief financial officer, Kim Jones, to CEO and hired former Molson Coors executive Bill Waters to fill the vacant position. Last September, the company sold a minority stake to private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners, which also owns part of Pabst Brewing.
In recent months, and amidst reports that the company was considering an IPO, Sweetwater has expanded distribution across the east coast, entering New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania in the last month. The brand is currently sold in 18 states, as well as Washington D.C.
Once open, the new Sweetwater brewery is expected to create 100 new jobs, the company said.
Bensch said the company isn’t “fixated” on becoming a national brand, rather that the expansion is aimed primarily at getting “the freshest beer into more hands, and building real relationships with consumers and communities.”
“It’s an exciting next step in the growth of our company — the brewery is hitting on all cylinders, and the response to Sweetwater in new markets has been incredible,” he added. “We’re perfectly positioned for a successful national footprint.”