Buena Vista, Colorado
Employees: 54 year-round, more than 100 during the summer
With the completion of $3 million expansion, variety is on the menu for this Chaffee County brewery.
At Eddyline Brewing, growth has been consistent and constant since launch. Founded by owners Mic and Molley Heynekamp as a brewpub, it reached its original 400-barrel capacity within a year. Though a production facility added in 2011 provided some breathing room, it too was maxed out less than three years later.
"We produced 2,700 barrels in 2014," recounts Brian England, who, as CEO, oversees all taproom and brewery operations, and owns Eddyline Restaurant at South Main. "It was as much as we could possibly do in that facility and it prompted us to pull the trigger on a $3 million expansion." Completed in summer 2015, the project included an 8,000-square foot building with a new cold room and docks, an upgrade to a custom-built 30-barrel, four-vessel Newlands brewing system, multiple 90-barrel fermentation tanks, and a CFT Packaging USA canning system out of Italy.
"We made sure we bought something big enough to really allow us room to grow," says England. "Right now, we're only at about 30 percent of our production capacity, if that." Eddyline produced 6,000 barrels in 2015 and is currently aiming at a 2016 target of 10,000 to 12,000 barrels. "I'd like to double again," England says, "though, realistically, we'll probably be closer to 8,000 to 10,000 barrels this year."
In addition to producing more of the brewery's year-round standards -- from the best-selling Crank Yanker IPA and the Great American Beer Festival gold-medal winning River Runners Pale Ale to Jolly Roger Black Lager and Kick'n Back Amber Lager -- England plans to use the increased capacity to add more rotating seasonals and special releases to the mix.
"Variety is important," says England. "Over the last three or four years, I've noticed that everyone wants something new. Every time I walk into a liquor store, they ask what we have coming out next. That's driven by consumers. They have their favorites, but they also want to try any new thing coming out. We're going to keep up with that demand now that we can."
Barrel aging is high on the priority list. "Last year we did one barrel of 14'er Java Stout aged in Deerhammer Single Malt barrels," he explains. "We've decided to do more of that in 2016. We just bought more barrels and filled them all with the java stout." He also brought Shane Stewart, formerly of Crooked Stave, on board. "He's going to bring a whole new level of knowledge to help us with our barrel aging program," says England.
Favorite beers: "I really like stouts and dark beers," England muses. "But I can appreciate all varieties. I try to stretch myself and taste everything that's available. My personal favorite at Eddyline right now is our Jolly Roger Black Lager. I also love Left Hand Brewing's Milk Stout Nitro."
Challenges: "Before we increased production, if we didn't have the beer available, liquor stores would immediately replace us with someone else," says England. "Sure, the craft beer industry is hot, but we're all competing for the same pie. We can try to take away from the Millers, Coors, and Buds of the world, but at the same time, there's only so much we can do."
Opportunities: England believes the recent brewery expansion is going to open more doors. "We have excess capacity for the first time in our history," he explains. "Now we have the opportunity to stretch our wings, experiment, and expand our portfolios with different types of beers."
Additionally, "With all of the consumers saying they want more local products, we're seeing that bars and restaurants that used to serve 80 percent macro are now switching to micro. This means more open draft lines and greater opportunity to get in and sell our craft beer," he concludes.
Needs: In short, Eddyline Brewing needs employees. "We try to hire the best of the best, but it's difficult to find people living up here in the mountains -- especially during the summer. The restaurant struggles every year because there just isn't enough housing for the number of people we need."