A new brewery is opening its doors in July with a Lawrenceville taproom and an uncommon business model.
Customers will be able to get classic European-style beers — German lagers, Belgian ales, Irish stouts — at Ironshield Brewing on N. Clayton Street in Lawrenceville. Behind the scenes, staff will be operating a contract brewing system, Big Kettle Brewing, designed to help small brewers scale up production when they don’t have the space or the money to add more capacity to their own site.
“A lot of small craft brewers can’t afford a good can line or a good packaging line,” said owner Glen Sprouse. “We have the ability to virtually duplicate the way they brew their beer. This allows them to scale up without having to go back to the bank and borrow more money as they expand.”
Ironshield Brewing will welcome customers into its taproom and beer garden starting July 11. The space has plenty of room — the taproom is 4,000 square feet, the beer garden is 6,000 square feet and the bar is 45 feet long — which will help customers maintain social distance while still allowing them to have a beer. There will be hand sanitizer available for guests and taproom staff will follow guidelines from the Georgia Department of Public Health to maintain safe operations, Sprouse said.
While the two operations have different names, they are under the same roof and run by owners Sprouse and Dave Rice. They’ll start off with about a dozen employees, but plan on expanding to 60 within seven years as the contract brewing business and Ironshield brand grows, Sprouse said.
Sprouse, a 30-year veteran in the craft beer industry, said he’s seen over and over small breweries with good products “hit a limit” when demand started to increase. They didn’t have enough money to immediately get the equipment they’d need to produce higher volumes of beer. If they couldn’t get a loan or money from investors, they were in a precarious position.
“In business, either you grow or you die,” Sprouse said. “If you can’t keep your spot on the shelf, you’ll be replaced very quickly.”
Big Kettle Brewing will join a small cohort of contract brewers of a similar size — about a dozen in the U.S., Sprouse said — to offer burgeoning businesses an easier option. Big Kettle Brewing’s customer base will likely be made up of breweries from Georgia and other parts of the Southeast, Sprouse said.
The contract brewery will produce a wide variety of beer, as well as a few hard seltzers and a non-alcoholic beer, Sprouse said. For the taproom, Ironshield will focus on classic European styles of beer that are less common among American craft breweries. Instead of hazy New England-style IPAs or fruity sours, Ironshield is keeping it traditional, with recipes that can be hard to produce “authentically,” Sprouse said.
“It’s like the difference between 50s-style rock and roll and classical music,” Sprouse said. “You can do a lot with three chords, but you can’t play Mozart with three chords.”
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