Grand Lake Brewery finds new recipe for success
By Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
The makers of Wooly Booger, White Cap Wheat, Trail Ridge Red and Plaid Bastard, among others, have brewed up ways to augment beer and bottling production.
The bottling and distribution components of the Grand Lake Brewery are flourishing thanks to an expansion of operations.
Over the summer, a former real-estate office next door to the Grand Avenue microbrewery was transformed into a lagering cellar and packaging room, and Brew Master Eric Kohl, who created the successful brew recipes, says the extra space has increased brewing production by about 50 percent.
Grand Lake Brewery owners Richard and Karen Wood of Golden and Grand Lake, who bought out partners of the business two years ago, invested roughly $20,000 in new packaging.
The colorful cardboard six-pack carriers now are found in liquor store coolers and sold in cases to bars throughout eastern Grand County and in 10 locations on the Front Range.
Boxes for cases boast Grand Lake Brewery’s claim of being the highest microbrewery bottling facility in the United States.
Because of the new packaging alone, one liquor store’s sales of the hometown brew jumped from eight cases a month to 25 cases a week, Kohl said.
“We’re over the moon with how it’s gone,” he said. “We never expected individual account sales to increase so dramatically.”
The microbrewery has been bottling its product since last year, but former six-pack plastic packaging didn’t stand out to consumers as much as the new look, Kohl said.
“We didn’t have very much success until we got into new six-packs,” he said.
Artwork on the new six-packs, created by local artist Danya Anderson, brands scenes found in the Grand Lake area, such as fishing (Wooly Booger beer) and boating (White Cap Wheat).
Labeling, bottling and filling orders takes place in the new addition, which became operational Aug. 5. The addition is attached to the tasting room and brewing/fermenting facility.
The expansion allows for double the cooler space with large storage vessels for aging beer. Freeing up space from fermenting tanks where beer used to age ” about 7 to 10 days ” allows the operation to brew weekly rather than bi-weekly.
The micobrewery can now produce around 1,300 barrels (31 U.S. gallons each) at full capacity annually compared to 400 barrels before, Kohl said.
The Grand Lake Brewery brewed its first batch of beer, Trail Ridge Red, on Dec. 27, 2002.
Kohl has been brewing beer professionally since 1994 and recruited Kenny Grommon to the Grand Lake operation several years ago, a brewing colleague from their employment at a former Fort Collins microbrewery, H.C. Berger.
Grand Lake Brewery business plans are fermenting to construct a separate manufacturing plant off-site.
The Grand Avenue pub would eventually take-over the expanded boardwalk space, Kohl said, but production and bottling may take place in a larger facility in another location of Grand Lake. This would solve the current logistical problem of hand-loading across the boardwalk for distribution.
The business hopes to one day increase its current 7-barrel system to a 15- to 30-barrel system, producing around 5,000 barrels a year.
Even with such upgrades, brewers aim to “not lose touch with the small brewery feel,” Kohl said.
“Even though we’re planning on a larger brewery off-site, we have no intentions of taking the pub away from in-town on the boardwalk,” Kohl said. “We enjoy the clientele we get and we really like the town.”
” To reach Tonya Bina, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.
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