Worthy Brewing Co., the Bend-based brewery created five years ago by Roger Worthington, is planning to double its production this year with the addition of new fermenters and a bright tank, along with other upgrades and hiring of new personnel.
Worthy joins other Bend brewers, including 10 Barrel, Bend Brewing Company and Silver Moon Brewing, in making plans to increase production, sometimes by twice current amounts, to meet thirsty consumers’ demand for craft beer.
“We’ve doubled our sales staff in the last six months; we have a representative in Seattle, and we have twice as many bodies on the street in Oregon as we did this time last year,” said Dustin Kellner, Worthy brewmaster.
Worthy recently added three 240-barrel fermenters and a 120-barrel bright tank, he said. The larger bright tank replaces one half that size.
“This is an exponential jump for us,” Kellner said.
The brewery last year produced 15,000 barrels of beer, Kellner said. The brewery’s production numbers for 2016 were not available on the Oregon Liquor Control Commission monthly beer reports, but for September, the most recent month for which Worthy reported taxable, in-state beer sales, the brewery had produced nearly 9,000 barrels year-to-date.
Kellner said the brewery is on track this year to produce 19,000 barrels with a capacity, thanks to the added tanks and equipment, of 40,000 barrels.
He attributed the demand for Worthy beer to “the fact that people are finally discovering us.”
Consumers are buying more beer in cans, and retailers are reserving more shelf space for canned products, Kellner said. Worthy, which installed its own canning line in January 2016 at the NE Bellevue Drive brewery, responded first by putting its flagship IPA in cans, he said.
“We were a little ahead of our time with cans,” Kellner said, “and how the consumer is responding differently to cans is night and day.”
Data collected by the Brewers Association, a trade group representing craft brewers, shows sales of canned beer increasing faster than the increase in bottle sales. Nationwide in 2016, breweries the size of Worthy sold about 43 percent of their beer in cans, more than twice the amount those breweries as a group sold in cans three years ago. About 17 percent of all beer nationwide is sold in cans, about three times the volume three years ago, according to the Brewers Association.
Craft brewers in 2016 represented 12.3 percent of the market share by volume of the U.S. beer industry, according to a Brewers Association report March 28. Production increased by 6 percent that year, slower than previous years, but still boosted retail sales by 10 percent. Microbreweries and brewpubs, such as Worthy, delivered 90 percent of the growth in craft beer last year, according to the association.
Also, Worthy is poised to start distributing its beer in Santa Rosa, California, through its distributor, Portland-based Columbia Distributing, which purchased the former Mesa Beverage Co., of Santa Rosa, in fall 2015, along with distribution rights in Sonoma County. Columbia is also taking Bend brewer Silver Moon into the same territory.
“Without a rep there, we’re just another entry in a very large book of craft beer options,” Kellner said. “Having someone to talk to a retailer or a bar, asking ‘Have you tried this beer?’ is really crucial.”
Along with the additional tanks and other equipment upgrades, the brewery improved its chiller and carbon dioxide storage systems and is installing a new, 70,000-pound grain silo. The brewery also hired a quality manager, Victoria Chaplin. Chaplin has worked previously at Bridgeport Brewing, Craft Brew Alliance and Full Sail Brewing.
Chaplin’s job is running quality checks on beer and packaging “so we don’t waste time and manpower putting substandard beer in cans or bottles,” Kellner said. Chaplin also has charge of a program to educate everyone involved in the brewing process on what good beer should taste like.
“Something like that has been in place since the beginning,” he said, “but being on it is tough to do without someone having that job.”
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