The past 14 months since we first launched our brewery have been unbelievable. We've evolved from not quite knowing how anything would work out to having no idea what's next, but with our eyes and ears open, confident that we're on the right track.
From day one to about a month ago we've done nothing but worry about whether we were making too much stock. In our first six months, when we had to put short dates on our beer because we had no evidence it'd last longer than that in good shape, but even still today, excess stock is a liability. Today, with more than a year's sales data, we work on making the beer that you folks seem to want from us the most, but we've run against a new problem — we're turning down existing customers every day, and have had to stop taking on new accounts as demand has leaped passed our supply capacity.
We don't rush beer through our tanks, allowing at least 28 days from wort production to packaging of our keg and bottled beer, and around 10-14 days for cask beers. It seems this tank occupancy is considered very long to some of our peers, but we're happy with the quality of our beer this way, so cutting back on tank occupancy is not currently an option to meet demand.
Thankfully we build into our start up plan some room to expand, in part due to our own observations that any brewery that gains good support seems to grow, and partly due to forewarnings from our friends in the industry not to back ourselves into a tight space. I'm delighted to say that we have just ordered another 504HL of FV tank capacity, to build upon the 336HL capacity we started with. Eventually we'll be able to produce up to 25,000 litres a week, up from the 10,000 litres a week we produce currently. We're really excited that we'll be able to stop saying no to our current customers, and stop saying no to new customers, as well as start working with over ten importers in Europe and beyond who have been patiently waiting for us to have the capacity to export our beer.
For anyone interested in the specifics here's what we're adding:
• 6 x 72hl uni-tanks for triple brew length batches (increased volume for IPA, DIPA, and more)
• 2 x 24hl uni-tanks allowing us to turn out even more small batch beer
• 2 x 12hl uni-tanks for pilot testing, yeast propagation, and barrel racking
• 1 x 72hl brite beer tank for packaging all those 72hl fermentations
Growth is a touchy subject in the UK, with a little unhealthy cynicism from tiny minority stopping many breweries honestly and openly discussing annual outputs, financial stability, and the like. We long for the days that the UK brewing industry relaxes into the maturity and public discussion we see in the US marketplace, where breweries openly celebrate their successes. There's only one very big craft brewery in the UK (although some are playing catch up pretty well), so we don't have many homegrown examples of what breweries do when they scale up. Couple this with the nanophilia seen amongst some rather vocal yet grouchy voices in the UK, and frankly we’re not entirely sure how our expansion will be seen, but we’re sticking to what feels right to us – honesty and openness. As before I won't be going into money stuff, but my policy on this hasn't changed – I'll tell you everything you ever wanted to know about our financing of our brewery once the other top 50 breweries in the UK reveal all too. ;-)
Although we’re going to be brewing many more times than we are now (we think we might be able to brew up to 10 times a week, up from the average of 4 times a week now), our processes, recipes, and procedures will only change for the better. All we’re doing is increasing our cellar tank population, so we ought to face none of the difficulties all breweries seem to face when wort production (widely know as the brewhouse) is upscaled or changed. With any luck, all you’ll notice as our new tanks come online early Autumn is that our beer is a little more available where supply has been patchy or limited before.
Above all I’m most excited that we’ll get to create a few more jobs as a result. I’m incredibly proud of starting a company that has a staff of 10 after just 14 months production, who, despite each day being filled with new challenges and growing pains, are having a great time along the way. Growing our team will mean even more problem solving capacity, more critical eyes on our processes, and more perspectives on our internal QC. I already work with a team I’m constantly inspired and impressed by, so I can’t wait to announce job openings in the coming months and see who steps forward help us perpetually raise our game, and make better beer than we ever thought possible.