Casey Kersey flips newly filled kegs at the Sweetwater Brewing Company in Atlanta on Thursday, November 17, 2011. A yearlong, three-phase expansion project will increase annual brewing capacity to 500,000 barrels.
Atlanta's SweetWater Brewing Co. said Tuesday that it expects to complete by this fall a yearlong, three-phase expansion project that will increase its brewing capacity from 100,000 barrels a year to 500,000.
The regional craft brewer began an expansion in July of its 26,000-square-foot facility in Midtown, where the 15-year-old company has been located since 2004. SweetWater bought an adjacent building with plans to grow into a 115,000-square-foot plant that eventually will include 14 new 1,000-barrel fermentation tanks and a new 250-barrel brew house.
The expansion will allow SweetWater to push its distribution boundaries farther in the Southeast. It currently distributes in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. It plans to move deeper into Florida and Tennessee, and move into Virginia.
The project's first phase includes an expanded bottling and packaging hall, a keg line, a quality assurance lab, a machine shop, corporate office space, conference rooms, a tasting area, a rooftop deck and a public events space.
"It's crazy to think that just 15 years ago I could fit everything in my truck and now we are the second-largest brewery in the Southeast." SweetWater founder and owner Freddy Bensch said.
While the beer industry overall has seen sales declines lately, the craft beer market is growing. SweetWater, which said it ranks 27th among the nation's nearly 2,000 established craft brewers, brewed 95,000 barrels last year, up 23 percent over 2010. It expects to sell more than 300,000 barrels by 2017.
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