Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cigar City Brew News

Expansion Time

Not quite two years ago in March of 2009 Cigar City Brewing sold the first batch of beer made on our then shiny new 15 bbl brewhouse. The beer (Maduro) was brewed back in January of 2009. If you are wondering why it took two months, readers of this blog will recall that we were waiting for the City of Tampa to finally approve the electrical work that we'd installed as per their approved plans, only to be told we couldn't install it the way they approved it and then to later be told ok fine it is approved, sorry we jerked you around for two months.

Fortunately, it was cold at the time and the time in the tank meant the beer didn't need to be filtered. It was a slow way to make beer, but the beer itself tasted exactly how we wanted it to. Back then the brewery consisted of myself, Wayne and a steady stream of volunteers many of which, like our Production Manager Doug Dozark, have become full-time employees. There are 25 of us now. And we continue to have our issues with the city, but as was the case two years ago, things have mostly worked out for us.

Which brings us to today, just a couple of months shy of our two year anniversary and we are ready to expand production once again. We've added tanks as we have grown (3 60 bbl fermenters, a 30 bbl and a motley collection of Brite Tanks and assorted vessels along with sundry bottling machines). But it has mostly been stop-gap measures just trying to keep enough beer around so that when a local bar orders Cigar City, the distributor actually has some to sell.

And that has been frustrating. Our success has far outpaced our expectations and the brewpub style brewhouse we started with just can't keep up. So we are pleased to announce that we have a new 30 bbl, four vessel, brewhouse set to arrive in about 6 weeks. This new brewhouse will double our per batch capacity and allow us to brew from our current 3 batches a day up to 8 batch a day! In addition to the brewhouse we'll be adding 9 30 bbl fermenters right away and hope to add some 90 to 120 bbl fermenters when we get the old brewhouse and 15 bbl feremnters sold.

What this all means is a drastic increase in brewing capacity along with a brewhouse capable, with enough additional fermentation space, of handling growth into the 45,000+ bbl range. Of course it also brings new challenges, space limitations, packaging speed conundrums and logistical problems, but taking on and overcoming these issues is something we have grown to relish and we now have a staff in place that greatly augments what Wayne and I were able to do alone. We welcome the challenges.

And lest I forgot our Pilot Brewery lead Brewer, Ben Romano is expanding as well! We've added 4 more 300 liter pilot tanks for Ben to create interesting new brews with. Including today's brew a Wayne designed Asian-inspired ale featuring rice, roasted sea weed and Chinese 5 Spice fermented with Saint Somewhere yeast.

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