ATLANTA (March 20, 2012) — One of the South’s largest craft breweries is getting even larger. Today, Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing Company officially unveiled a massive expansion project over a year in the making. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta City Mayor Kasim Reed and SweetWater Founder and Big Kahuna Freddy Bensch honored the momentous occasion during a ribbon cutting ceremony alongside several respected dignitaries and VIPs.
The expanded facility is phase one of SweetWater’s three-part construction overhaul project that will quintuple its brewing capacity to nearly 500,000 barrels per year. Throughout its year-round construction, the expansion project created more than 400 jobs and infused an estimated $19 million into the regional economy during a time of economic downturn. Phase two and three will be completed by early this fall and will include installation of 14 new 1,000-barrel fermentation tanks and a new 250-barrel brew house.
Established in 1997, SweetWater Brewery moved in 2004 to its current 26,000-square-foot facility in Midtown Atlanta. In June 2009, the brewery acquired the building adjacent to its headquarters in anticipation of the massive expansion, which would connect the two buildings to collectively share 115,000-square-feet of space. Construction on the expansion project broke ground in July 2011 and operations began in March 2012. The new building is home to an expanded bottling and packaging hall, keg line, quality assurance lab, machine shop, corporate office space, conference rooms, tasting area, a roof top deck and 4,800-square-feet of additional public events space.
SweetWater’s facilities not only house all its brewing and packaging operations but its tours and tastings are a tourist hotspot and local showpiece for metro Atlanta residents. Roughly 2,000 guests visit SweetWater Brewery tours, tastings and events on a weekly basis, bringing more than 100,000 visitors per year through the doors to see how craft beer is made up-close.
“This is an exciting time for our industry as more people develop a taste for craft beer, and we are seeing that demand continue to grow here at SweetWater,” said Bensch. “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, cutting the ribbon with the governor and the mayor on this incredible new facility.”
According to industry estimates from Beer Marketer’s Insights, the craft beer industry saw strong growth in 2011, recording a 15% increase in volume of barrels shipped, compared to a 1.5% decrease in the overall beer industry. In 2011, SweetWater brewed 95,000 barrels, representing a 23% increase over 2010.
Although its distribution footprint only crosses Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, SweetWater Brewing Company remains in the nation’s top 30 craft breweries out of nearly 2,000 established nationwide. Through this expansion, SweetWater’s distribution range will continue to grow, first targeting further reach into Florida and Tennessee with potential to move in Virginia within the first two years of operation.