Details on the Bluegrass Brewing Company Expansion

We got the scoop on the big expansion at BBC's production brewery.

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I stopped in to the BBC Production/Taproom Monday afternoon to see how the progress was coming on their brewery expansion. Joel Halbleib, Director of Brewing Operations, seemed excited about the progress being made. This is the biggest expansion of Joel’s eight year career with BBC (the last three acting as Director of Brewing Operations). “I think I’ve fixed everything in the building at least twice,” jokes Halbleib. “Sometimes three times.”

They are essentially doubling the capacity of the production brewery, solving the shortages that have plagued them over the last year or two. Three 60-barrel fermentation tanks are going in by January 2013. This expansion will take them up to 18,000 gallons of fermentation space. “We should get into the 12,000 – 14,000 barrel per year stage depending on how we hustle,” says Halbleib.

“We’re going to double our Bourbon Barrel Stout capacity,” which is their top-selling beer. Two of the new tanks will be going to BBS, while the other will be dedicated to American Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Amber Ale, Dark Star Porter and seasonals. “I want it to happen faster!” Halbleib

This is the “painful” expansion, because of new concrete, electrical and plumbing. Moving packaging to its own area will clear up room for a larger bottling and/or kegging line in the future. So, they’re essentially growing now, and betting on future growth.

The brite tanks and the keg washer/filler and a new bottling line will all be moving to a space specifically designed for them, making the brewery more efficient. The area they are moving from is going to be filled with three new fermenters. Packaging materials, dry goods and storage will all be moving upstairs, and they will have a loading dock available from Main Street. Hableib says, “It’s challenging to work in a very old building like this. It was [Pipkin] brewery before we moved in, so that helped a lot.”

By mid to late first quarter, the five states BBC distributes in will see more beer on their shelves and more taps in bars and restaurants. “We’ve practically pulled out of everywhere but Kentucky at the moment, just because demand is constantly continuing to rise,” says Halbleib. They’re hoping to bounce back when there’s more beer to go around. Halbleib says they have a game plan on other markets where they can expand, but thinks they’ll be just fine expanding into the areas they’ve pulled out of.

One of the harder parts of this expansion is finding more places to store the bourbon barrels that are used to age Bourbon Barrel Stout for six weeks. The floors upstairs would not hold the weight, and the barrels tend to leak a little bit, so as nice as raining Bourbon Barrel Stout sounds, it’s probably not the best idea.

In the future, Halbleib hopes to add a grain silo, to free up some space for even further growth. The only problem might be their location on Main Street and getting permits and access for the grain trucks to come fill the 40,000 pounds needed for a load of malted barley. Billy Goat Strut (the alley that runs behind their building) isn’t exactly a four-lane highway. Plans and quotes will get started once this expansion is finished.

“I would love to put one out on Main Street, I just don’t think it’s possible. This area’s got some great brewing history […] and it would be cool to have a big grain silo with a huge BBC logo on it.”

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John Wurth
John Wurth started LouisvilleBeer.com back in 2008 as he and some of his friends were getting into craft beer, then it sat dormant for a couple years. He resurrected the site in the Summer of 2011 when he noticed how big the craft beer scene was blowing up in Louisville. With a little help from his friends, LouisvilleBeer.com has become *the* place for craft beer news, reviews and events.

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