In the year 2013, Aurora’s Dry Dock Brewing Co. quadrupled its production.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
Yes, from 3,273 barrels (BBLs) in 2012 to 12,000 BBLs in 2013, Dry Dock’s been cranking out beers at about four times their previous rate and all in the span of 365 days. That kind of growth in that time-frame can only be described as explosive and much of Dry Dock’s recent expansion can be attributed to the North Dock, their new 30,000-square-foot production facility. However, monumental and instantaneous growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum; Dry Dock’s been building up to this grand expansion for several years, waiting to strike when the iron’s hot.
In 2005, what was once but a homebrew supply shop started brewing on the side. The brewery was 800-square feet, seated 25 thirsty patrons, and produced 250 BBLs per year. It was essentially a speakeasy. The Dock expanded in 2009 but, even then, the size of the brewery was still modest. It was from these humble beginnings that Dry Dock set the stage for their future dominance. In fact, according to Dry Dock’s Bill Casadei, it’s explicitly because of those humble beginnings that Dry Dock is now enjoying such immense success.
“The biggest impact on our growth and popularity has been quality beer and limited supply,” says Casadei. “In those early years we were making great beer and winning awards at The World Beer Cup and GABF, and although we were starting some limited distribution, we still couldn’t make much beer and topped our production at that brewery at around 3,000 [BBLs per year]. Most of that was consumed in the tasting room and we had little to distribute.”
Demand was high for Dry Dock beer but supply was dismally low. With the accolades rolling in (Dry Dock has been the recipient of 18 GABF medals, the Brewers Association’s Small Brewery of the Year Award, and four World Beer Cups), the popularity of Dry Dock continued to grow and the brewery needed to grow with it.
Enter: North Dock, a secondary location where Dry Dock brews an additional 10,000 BBLs of beer per year, 70% of which is canned for distribution. In 2013 alone, 2,5000,000 cans came out of North Dock, allowing thirsty Coloradoans to pick up a six-pack of Apricot Blonde, Hefeweizen, Amber Ale, and Hop Abomination at their local liquor stores whenever they want. The canning line at Dry Dock operates at a rate of 40 cans per minute and, on average, 6,849 cans of Dry Dock beer were popped open every day in 2013.
What’s next for Dry Dock? According to Casadei, there’s plenty of room to grow into: “We have [three] new fermenters arriving in the next couple weeks that will increase our capacity at North Dock by about 70 percent. We plan to release new products throughout the year and are excited to see our barrel program coming together.”
Avid Dry Dock fans can also expect a small tasting room to be added to North Dock but the original taproom, the South Dock at the corner of Hampden and Chambers, will continue to serve the bulk of its patrons. Dry Dock will also continue to widen its distribution but don’t expect them to fill any out-of-state accounts anytime soon; they’re already having a hell of time just keeping Colorado in good suds.
So, what can we learn from Dry Dock’s success? For one, to paraphrase Field of Dreams, if you brew it, they will come; they brewed tasty beer and the beer geeks came in droves. Dry Dock wasn’t throwing caution to the wind when they built the massive North Dock; they needed the space to keep up with demand. In fact, it would have been a more dangerous move to not quadruple production; too many people wanted Dry Dock beer for the brewery to have stayed solely at the South Dock—beer geeks would have drank them dry in a week.
Secondly, Dry Dock’s expansion is yet another blow against the theory of brewery oversaturation. If the market were truly oversaturated, would we not see interest tapering off or, at the very least, plateauing? The truth is Colorado beer drinkers, despite the number of breweries in the state, are parched. They’re chanting “More beer! More beer! More beer!” and Dry Dock is happy to oblige. That it was necessary for Dry Dock to expand to meet demand suggests there is still a good deal of room left for new, upcoming breweries.
Though impressive, the growth of Dry Dock isn’t an isolated event. In fact, there are many Colorado breweries that have experienced significant, rapid growth. Here’s a run-down of other local brewhouses that went through quick expansions.
Oskar Blues Brewery
–Opened new production facility in Brevard, North Carolina for East Coast distribution. New facility is 30,000 square feet.
New Belgium Brewing
–Will open $20 million, 12 acre brewery compound in Littleton. New brewhouse will be 76,000 square feet, house a 100 BBL brewing system, and will triple Breckenridge’s current production from 52,004 BBL to 120,000 BBL per year. Site will also include visitors center, an event loft, retail space, a BBQ restaurant, and a hop farm.
–Will build new $27 million, 95,922 square foot restaurant and brewery on 5.6 acres in Boulder. Current 25,000 square foot brewery is at capacity. Will increase capacity from 50,000 BBLs a year to 500,000 BBLs.
Great Divide Brewing Co.
–Will open $38 million brewery in River North neighborhood. Will increase production from 32,000 BBLs per year to 250,000 BBLs.
Fort Collins Brewery
Upslope Brewing Company
–Opened additional brewery in Boulder with 2,300 square foot taproom. New facility allowed Upslope to expand by 70%.
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project
Crazy Mountain Brewing Company
Denver Beer Co.
–Will open new 48,000 square feet production warehouse in the Sunnyside neighborhood. It will house a 30 BBL system and increase production by 5,000 BBL per year.
CAUTION: Brewing Company
Renegade Brewing Company
Echo Brewing Co.
Black Shirt Brewing
–Went from glorified homebrewing system to 15 BBL system and six 30 BBL fermenters. They also purchased a canning line.