ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON FEB 17, 2009
Washington Beer Blog recently got a behind-the-scenes peek at the new Georgetown brewhouse, located in the building that will eventually be the Georgetown Brewing Company’s headquarters. Very quietly, they began brewing at the new facility a few months ago. They have not officially moved the entire operation yet, and you should still go to the current/old location for all your retail needs, but the new facility now produces the beer. The complete relocation will take, perhaps, as long as a year. The retail shop, where you buy your kegs, growlers and swag, will be the last thing to move. Likely, that will happen early next year.
If you are a Seattle area beer lover, you have likely visited the Georgetown Brewing Company’s location off Airport Way. Let’s be honest, you pulled around back into the parking lot, trusting the directions you were given, and then you wondered if this was the right place. When you finally spotted the Georgetown Brewing sign, you were surprised at the operation’s modest size. Manny’s Pale Ale is everywhere, so you expected to find a palatial brewery, right? Instead, you found a brewery that is as unassuming as the beer is ubiquitous. Georgetown Brewing, like the Georgetown neighborhood, is about getting the job done without any fancy frills. It’s not about making a statement. It’s about making darn tasty beer.
The old place was a bit cramped. Let’s call it cozy, in an industrial sort of way. Upon entering the new facility, it is clear that there is nothing modest or diminutive here. It is big. How big? The overall floor space is just a touch smaller than an entire football field. There are two walk-in coolers. The smaller of the two coolers is probably bigger than your house.
The new location offers 37,000 square feet of much-needed and much-appreciated elbowroom. In the center of it all is a new 60-barrel brewhouse, complete with five 60-barrel fermenters and five 120-barrel fermenters. Still, the brewing equipment almost seems dwarfed by the vastness of the overall space. There is plenty of room for whatever the future might hold. For example, there would be plenty of room for a bottling line and plenty of room to store all of those lovely, packaged bottles and/or cans. No such plan exists, but now that they have the room, they can at least start to think about stuff like that.
Then there are the two coolers, offering all the mother-beautiful refrigerated square footage you could ever want. Manny and I stood in the middle of the smaller cooler (2,000 square feet). It was not empty, but even with several dozen kegs piled up over yonder in the corner it felt vast. It seemed larger than they could ever possibly need. This, the smaller cooler, seemed like the Yukon Territory. Manny says that the other 4,000 square foot cooler —currently used for non-refrigerated storage space— will not actually cool anything until future growth requires it to do so.
Future growth, eh? Are they plotting to take over the world? Manny assures me that there is no such plan. Darn it. That would have made this story so much sexier.
Truth is, Georgetown Brewing has been squeezing out 15 barrels per batch. Meeting demand required two shifts of brewers working almost constantly. The first shift started at 3:30 AM. The second ended at midnight. Now that they have more than quadrupled the brewing capacity, and can make more beer in a single batch, the Brewmpa-Loompas are much happier and much better rested.
Manny explained that this move, and the corresponding increase in brewing capacity, is not part of some grand scheme to attain global, or even regional, domination of the craft beer biz. Over the past several years, they have enjoyed a continual, gradual increase in sales, slowly and deliberately expanding into new territories across the state. This move will simple allow them to continue to grow at a consistent, manageable rate without blowing any gaskets or bursting at the seams. Most importantly, they will be able to continue delivering darn tasty beer.
We will certainly follow this story and make sure everyone knows when the move is complete. Heaven forbid that you don’t know where to go when you need a fresh keg or growler of Manny’s, Roger’s, or Chopper’s.