(Longmont, CO) – 2011 proved to be another gangbusters year for Left Hand Brewing Company. The brewery based out of Boulder County experienced its second year of remarkable growth, knocking planned projections out of the water. Left Hand grew 49.4% in volume just from the previous year, producing 36,830 barrels total in 2011.
The extreme demand experienced by Left Hand in the past two years is reflected industry wide as demonstrated by the annual growth report published by the Brewers Association for U.S. craft brewers.1
Despite large brewer volume decline in 2011, craft brewers have achieved the remarkable feat of finally surpassing the 5% mark for overall volume share in the beer category. “It’s becoming increasingly clear […] that Americans are developing a strong taste for high-quality, small-batch beer from independent brewers,” comments Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association.2 In the last year, the craft beer segment saw a 13.2% growth in volume producing just shy of 11.5 million barrels. Congruently, Left Hand Brewing Company followed suit with 49.4% change and 36.8 thousand barrels.
Left Hand Brewing Company has literally doubled in size within a two year timeframe. What began in 2008 as a humble addition to the brew house & cooler, has surged to a five year $9 million dollar expansion plan, as the brewery races to keep up with increasing sales and demand for more beer. In recent years, the brewery has added no less than six 480 bbl fermenters and an additional 500 bbl bright tank to address the tremendous need for tank space for Left Hand’s most popular beer, Milk Stout. In addition, Left Hand’s fall 2011 introduction of bottled Milk Stout Nitro has added to the fervor for the brand, adding increasing pressure to keep up with demand.
To further overcome these challenges, Left Hand installed a new KHS keg line in summer 2011 to keep up with their draft product, which will allow the brewery to go from 20 kegs/hour to 70 kegs/hour. Now, in the final phase of a 5 year expansion, Left Hand takes on its most anticipated project of installing a new bottling line scheduled for this September 2012. The $3 million dollar project will be a true turning point in efficiency for the brewery, filling over 200 bottles per minute, which will be four times faster than the current system.
However, increasing sales does not just mean superior equipment, but also a swell in brewery staff to meet the everyday challenges of growing pains. Left Hand has experienced a 50% staff increase in just one year, with the number of employees currently at 63 and growing. Not surprisingly, the brewery purchased additional space in March 2011 to house its growing company, bringing the total Left Hand Brewing Company acreage to 5.5 acres.
The brewery is currently on track for another year of 50% growth, estimating to produce almost 60,000 barrels by the end of 2012. Surrounded by new infrastructure, Left Hand’s neighbors are getting used to the ever changing skyline off Boston Avenue in Longmont. “But at the end of the day…” laments Jeff Martin, Packaging Supervisor, “…we’re doing what we love, which is making great beer. And after all, none of this would be possible if we didn’t have that passion and the work ethic to go with it.”
1 The definition of a craft brewer as stated by the Brewers Association: An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional. Small: Annual production of beer less than 6 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition. Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer. Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50 percent of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.