1/7/04: Stoudt's brewer Marc Worona:
I heard rumors of big doings at Stoudt's recently, so I called brewer Marc Worona (who I recently recognized as the Best Local Brewer of 2003), and got the following short interview.
Lew: Marc, I understand you’ve got a major expansion and change going on at Stoudt’s, bringing 12 oz. production in-house.
Marc: Yes, we went ahead and bought a new bottling line and we’ll be doing the 12 oz. bottles here. It’s a double pre-evac line (meaning the bottles are emptied of air/oxygen twice before filling, the industry standard), an Italian line, a Fimer. The German lines were just too much money, and any more, you don’t stay in business making sub-standard machinery; we were pleased with the Italian equipment. It will run about 100 bottles a minute. The line will be fairly automated; we’ve got a case erector, washer-rinser, and case filler. And we got a sterile filtration system, and a dissolved oxygen meter. Of course, that means we’ll be able to do the Pilsner in 12 oz.
You knew that was important to me!
Ha! Yeah, me too. For the time being we’ll continue with the champagne bottles; we’re trying to build up some inventory. The equipment comes in March, we’re hoping to have it up by April. 12 oz. that you can sit on the shelf at the dist and not have to worry about, that’s exciting for us. The big bottles will be phased out, they’re labor-intensive and the bottles are expensive; over $7 for a case. It turned out we were almost the only people buying them; that makes it expensive.
When are we going to see Adamstown-brewed 12 oz. beer on the shelves?
Well, Frederick did one last batch of everything for us, and they really nailed it, I got the samples and they’re great. So we’ll ship that, and sometime this Summer we’ll be switching over and putting out everything, including the Pilsner. You’ll start to see the Fat Dog and Belgians and the IPA in 12 oz. eventually.
We talked to the people at Frederick yesterday. They knew about the project, it’s a small industry. We’d like to stay with them and hope they stay open, for any overflow needs. We helped them through a tough time, and they helped us through an interim period, it was a mutually beneficial relationship. If we can’t keep up with demand, we may need them. We’re on good terms, and we hope they can stay open.
This is fabulous, something we’ve all been waiting for. But...where did you get the room?
We expanded into the beer garden. We’ll probably knock back the tickets on the beer fests a little. We built a refrigerated warehouse back on the hill, we’ll be able to store the beer there. The case-handling stuff comes in two weeks, bottle-handling comes in mid-March. We’re adding some new bright tanks as well. It’s major, and we’re happy.
Over the last two years we’ve spent about a million bucks on equipment. We feel we can do this. We want to maximize what we have. We did some expansions in the past that we maybe shouldn’t have, like the lagering cellar, but now we can use it all. We’ll have a full-service lab on-site, better than some regional brewers I’ve visited. And finally the consistency of flavor will be there between draft and bottle. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here.
Do you think having everything brewed in house will help sales?
We’re hoping it will increase sales, of course, but we’re going to have to bump the prices up. We’ve always been on the lower side, though, so we’ll probably be right where everyone else will be.
While I’ve got you on the line, let me ask you about two scraps of rumor I’ve heard: what’s "Big B," and are you making a barleywine?
Big B is a beer we’re doing for Big Burrito Inc., the people who own the Mad Mex restaurants. They wanted a very hoppy, malty beer. It’s actually similar to the Harvest ale we did, but more hoppy. But now they want it even hoppier, so I think we’re going to make it more like our IPA. And yes, we were planning on a barleywine, a 12-14% American-style barleywine, our answer to the extreme thing. But then the whole bottling issue came up, and that took priority, so the barleywine is back-burner now. This expansion is going to be taking us up to 10,000 bbls. annually in-house, so that’s what we’re focused on.
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