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Nashville’s Blackstone Brewing Company adds capacity

December 22, 2012 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer

Blackstone Brewing Company logoNew tanks arrived at Blackstone Brewing Company this week that will allow the Nashville craft brewery to increase capacity by 60 percent.

Blackstone received three new tanks (two fermentation and one bright tank) with nominal capacity of 120 barrels each. They were fabricated by the W.M. Sprinkman Corp. in Elroy, Wisconsin.

Here’s more from Blackstone:

Our current fermentation capacity is 390 barrels and this will increase that by about 60% to 630 barrels. Our annual capacity will increase from 10,000 barrels to 16,000 barrels. For 2013 we will use this capacity to support the growth of our core brands, four seasonal brands and one high gravity brand in the existing markets. In addition we will bring out new brands, HopJack IPA in and a new high gravity brand in early spring. Assuming that we can satisfy our current markets, we plan to expand our brands to the remaining Tennessee markets first and then to limited markets in Kentucky and Alabama. Our capacity will also be used to support existing contract brewing arrangements. Within the next two months we will place an order for two additional tanks for delivery in the summer of 2013 which will boost our fermentation capacity to 750 barrels giving us annual capacity of 19,000 barrels.

In October, Blackstone celebrated a milestone by capping its one millionth bottle since opening a bottling line in the summer of 2011.


Tours of Memphis’ Ghost River Brewing to resume Oct. 29

October 06, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Memphis

Ghost River BrewingGhost River Brewing has been in the midst of a $750,000 expansion to double its capacity and add a bottling line in recent months. As a result, the Great American Beer Festival silver medalist had to stop giving tours to the public.

Well, the work is about done and Ghost River has announced plans to resume tours this month.

The free tours start again on Oct. 29 and will be offered Saturday afternoons at 3 p.m. at  827 S. Main, just south of Downtown Memphis.

With all the extra equipment packed inside the brewery, space on the tours will be limited and a reservation is required.

Call 901-278-0087, ext. 208, or e-mail info@ghostriverbrewing.com for availability.

Chuck Skypeck talks bottling line, expansion for Memphis’ Ghost River Brewing

February 07, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Memphis

In 1992, brewer Chuck Skypeck c0-founded the first brewpub in Tennessee — Boscos in Germantown — with the goal of bringing good craft beer to skeptical Mid-South consumers.

Two decades after the founding of Boscos, the Germantown location is closed, but Skypeck and his partners have methodically expanded to Memphis, Little Rock, Nashville and Franklin, Tenn.

Chuck Skypeck

Chuck Skypeck, founding partner of Boscos and Ghost River Brewing, holds a prototype of Ghost River's new beer bottles.

Meanwhile, Ghost River Brewing — a beer brand founded by Skypeck & Co. in 2008 — has landed its beers on the taps of 110 bars and restaurants in the Memphis metropolitan area.

In Memphis, Boscos and Ghost River are craft beer.

Other breweries have opened — Breckinridge, Gordon Biersch — and closed, while Ghost River and Boscos have slowly carved out a niche for fresh, locally-made beer.

In 2011, Skypeck is upping the ante. Ghost River is embarking on a $750,000 expansion to double capacity at its Downtown Memphis brewery and install a bottling line that will bring Ghost River beer to even more bars and restaurants and, ultimately, area retail shelves.

Expansion plans

Ghost River’s expansion will entail improvements to just about every inch of the brewery on South Main Street.

Two 50-barrel fermentation tanks are being installed, as well as a new steam boiler, new refrigeration and a modern keg filler and cleaner. Drainage throughout the brewery is being expanded and improved.

For bottling, a 12-head filler made by an Italian company called Comac will be installed.

Ghost River’s current capacity — 2,500 barrels, or 5,000 full kegs — will double to 5,000 barrels.

On brew days, Ghost River will be doing “double brews,” brewing batches back-to-back.

Ghost River has two full-time employees and one part-time employee in the brewery. With the expansion, the company will add two to three jobs.

“We’re selling all the beer we can make, so we have to be able to make more beer before we can bottle,” Skypeck says.

Most, if not all, of the additional beer produced will be bottled — up to about 137,000 six-packs annually.  “Within about a year, we’ll probably be producing and selling that capacity, I think, but it won’t happen overnight,” he says.

Ghost River produces three beers year-round — Golden Ale, Glacial Pale Ale and Copperhead Red — plus several special and seasonal beers.

Ghost River Golden Ale

A mock-up shows the label design for the Golden Ale, Ghost River's first beer to be bottled.

For now, only the Golden Ale — a lighter beer brewed with German variety hops and malts, which is Ghost River’s most popular beer — is headed for the bottling line.

Skypeck believes Ghost River can sell all the additional capacity in Golden bottles.

The Glacial Pale Ale is Ghost River’s second-best-selling beer and would be a candidate for bottling, as would some of the seasonal beers. But bottling more than one kind of beer is more expensive and logistically difficult, and federal laws that require approval of labels and six-pack holders are additional roadblocks.

“We want to learn to walk before we learn to run, so we are focusing on one product right now. Where we go after that, we’ll figure it out,” Skypeck says.

Bars/restaurants, then retail

With Ghost River beer available on draft at more than 100 bars and restaurants, Skypeck says Ghost River is close to reaching the point of saturation when it comes to Memphis taps.

The company has targeted primarily independent, locally owned places to sell beer — businesses that actually have control over their menus and can add new beers to their offerings.

“Memphis is not a big draft beer town, and there’s a finite amount of potential sources for us to sell craft beer,” he says.

When bottling begins, Ghost River initially plans to target bars and restaurants that don’t carry draft beer as a way of introducing their product in those establishments. At bars that sell Ghost River beer on draft, but not the Golden, Ghost River plans to approach those bars about selling the Golden bottles.

After that, bottles in six-pack holders will be headed to retail shelves, but don’t expect to see Ghost River beer in your neighborhood Kroger.

“We’ll get into retail outlets — which are typically called off-premise outlets — quickly. But we’re going to be following that same route of looking for smaller, independent operators rather than large chains,” Skypeck says.

Southwestern Distributing Co. will continue handling distribution for Ghost River Brewing when bottles hit the market.

In terms of price, Ghost River is still grappling with the decision of what to charge for a six-pack.

“We don’t have control over that final price. The only thing we have control over is how much we sell it to the distributor for. The distributor will set his price, accordingly, and then the retailer will set their own prices, accordingly. So I can’t tell you how much each retailer is going to sell it for,” Skypeck says.

“There’s been a fair amount of discussion about where we want to be positioned in the market,  and we actually haven’t make that decision yet.”

Ghost River fermenation tanks

In 2011, Ghost River will double its brewing capacity.

For now, Ghost River only plans to sell bottles in the metro Memphis area — minus Arkansas, which charges a hefty sum for a license to sell packaged beer. That means folks in Jackson, Miss., Jackson, Tenn., and Nashville aren’t likely to find Ghost River beer for awhile.

“Being a smaller business and not having economies of scale, our margins are very, very tight. And selling in farther markets is less desirable simply because we have decreased margins. We have to ship the product, and we have to then support it with some level of sales and sales activity in different markets.

“We are much better off finding ways to sell that product in Memphis than worrying about being somewhere else with it.”

Memphis and craft beer

Memphis, itself, has been no easy sell when it comes to craft beer, as Skypeck has found over the years. “Memphis has never been a good craft beer market and still is a hard craft beer market,” says Skypeck, who won ribbons in the Mid-South Fair homebrew competition before homebrewing was even legal in Tennessee.

Some of that stems from demographics. “Craft beers drinkers tend to be higher than average levels of income and education, which Memphis lags behind on. And then there’s a whole lot of cultural factors involved.”

In Memphis, that includes evangelical Christians, Southern Baptists and a large African American population, which have not participated in the development of the craft beer market, he says.

“I used to think that at Boscos we were doing a pretty good job of educating people about craft beer. I’ve kind of revised that thinking,” he says. “We’ve done a real good job of preaching to the choir. People who have gotten interested for whatever reason and come to us, I think we’ve done a good job of exposing them to a lot of different things.”

In a lot of ways, he says, Memphis is still at “square one” when it comes to craft beer.

Ghost River’s beer, he says, is not nearly as aggressive as many popular craft brands across the country.

“We’re not putting out Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA or Stone’s Arrogant Bastard or things like that. But I don’t think we would be selling the volumes of beer we are if we were doing that type of product,” Skypeck says.

“I think we still are in the phase of really trying to educate consumers that it’s OK to have a beer with more flavor than Bud, Miller or Coors, but not drive them away.”

What are your thoughts on Ghost River’s expansion? Leave a comment below.

Ghost River Brewing in Memphis to double capacity, add bottling line

January 31, 2011 By: mike Category: Beer in the news, Craft beer, Memphis

Ghost River BrewingGhost River beer — in 12-ounce bottles — is coming soon to a beer aisle near you.

Ghost River Brewing, Memphis’ only craft brewery, has announced a major expansion for 2011, with plans to double capacity and add a bottling line.

Ghost River is adding additional fermentation tanks, a new steam boiler and new refrigeration, as well as a modern keg filler and cleaner at its 827 S. Main Street facility, according to a release.

In addition, Ghost River is installing a new 12-head bottle filler to package Ghost River beers in bottles.

The expansion is expected to be completed by mid-summer, and beers will soon be headed to Memphis area retail shelves.

Ghost River was founded in 2007 and has three year-round brews — Golden Ale, Copperhead Red and Glacial Pale Ale — as well as a variety of seasonal beers, that Ghost River supplies to more than 80 bars and restaurants and sells in growlers from its docks.

Check back to FuzzyBrew.com in the coming weeks and months for more on Ghost River’s expansion plans.