Upland Brewing Experiences Growth
Local craft beer is flowing faster than ever in Indiana, and as the makers of “Indiana’s Beer,” we at Upland Brewing Co. are working hard to keep the taps from running dry. Case in point: a ninety ton crane towered over our Bloomington brewery on Tuesday, and a massive 150 barrel (4,650 gallon) bearer of beer brewing potential could be seen suspended in the sunlight from miles around.
“What is this magnificent monolith,” you ask. It’s a new fermentation tank that we’ve christened Gigantor, due to its, well, gigantic size. It is so large that we had to cut a hole in the roof and drop it in with a crane. We’ve done that for smaller tanks before, but what’s special about Gigantor is that it is taller than the brewery and projects through the roof, so we had to have it made with an extra layer of insulation in order to keep the temperature of the beer consistent. It is twice the size of any other tanks currently in service, and increases our total capacity by one-third.
Head brewer Caleb Staton says the idea was the result of “literally out-of-the-box thinking, and we have beer to thank for it. We were getting close to hitting the ceiling on our brewing capacity and wouldn’t be able to make more of our year-around beers than we already were, let alone more of our seasonals and specialties. We were talking about it over a few beers, and someone joked that we should just knock out the ceiling. Everyone laughed, but a few seconds later we realized that it could actually work.” Who says beer isn’t a mind-expanding substance?
To give you some hard numbers, we estimate that we will sell 8,200 bbls (254,200 gallons) of beer in 2010 – a 36% increase from the 6,000 bbls sold in 2009. And 2009 sales weren’t slack either, growing 20% from the 5,000 bbls sold in 2008.
Where is all the beer going? About 2,000 bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and grocery stores in Indiana sell our beer, and another 250 out-of-state. We’re proud of that figure, but there is still a lot of untapped opportunity out there, and we’re not taking our foot off the gas.
Though all of our markets (Indiana, Louisville, KY, and southeastern Wisconsin) have contributed to overall growth, the majority of it is coming from the Indianapolis metro area. Upland’s president, Doug Dayhoff, says, “we owe a lot to the bars and retailers in central Indiana who have helped promote local beers and to the consumers who have begun to recognize that flavorful beer brewed by local companies is better than beer-soda brewed in multi-national factories and sold with advertising gimmicks. And I thank the stars every night for a great team that makes this growth look easy, which it’s not.”
Our Indy Tasting Room on 49th St. and College Ave., which we opened in November, 2009, has also given people the chance to sample some of our beers they might not otherwise think to try, and most of them find something they really like, so they ask for it at bars, restaurants, and liquor stores around the city.
Increased sales have also allowed, and required, us to create new jobs. We hired five people to work at the Tasting Room in 2009, and we hired another five people for our Bloomington location in 2010. Dayhoff says, “we’re never going to be the type of company that single-handedly props up a town’s economy by hiring five-hundred positions, but for a company our size, ten hires in a year-and-a- half is pretty significant.”
Plans for the future? There’s only so much of the ceiling we can knock out before what’s left falls down on us, and we’re just about out of floor space in the brewery. So we’re working on plans to expand the brewery, giving us more room for equipment and storage. Though we’re still in the early stages, we’re hoping to break ground in 2011.
But no matter how big our tanks are or how many of them we have, it’s the beer in them that matters most. Whether we’re brewing eight-hundred barrels or eight-thousand, our mission, first and foremost, is to make unique, high quality, and consistent beer that people will want to haveover and over again.