Ghost River Brewing Company halted production on Monday, but not to worry beer-lovers: good things are a'brewin.
The local craft brewery closed this week as work began on plans to double its production capacity over the next three to four months.
Chuck Skypeck, who co-owns Ghost River and the regional chain of Boscos brewpubs with partner Jerry Feinstone, said the expansion will involve adding additional fermentation tanks. Along with the increased production, the downtown brewery will, for the first time, offer some of its beer in six-packs thanks to a new bottling line, which will be installed later this spring.
Skypeck said Golden Ale, the brewery's best selling beer, is the obvious candidate to christen the bottling line this summer.
To prepare the brewery for increased production, additional refrigerated storage space and an extensive drainage system will be installed during the next couple of months, which means the free Saturday tours of the facility will be intermittent until construction is completed.
After expansion, Ghost River should be able to produce approximately 10,000 kegs annually. That's up from 5,000 kegs in 2010. Until then, Ghost River is only available on draft in area bars.
"For the moment, we're planning to continue distributing exclusively here in Memphis. There's clearly a strong local demand for our product. We feel fortunate to have been able to brew at capacity for the last six months or so, and we felt it was the appropriate time to make some changes to meet that demand," Skypeck said.
Skypeck and Feinstone started Boscos, Tennessee's first brewpub, nearly 20 years ago in Memphis. They've since opened branches in Nashville, Little Rock, and Franklin. The pair opened Ghost River in 2007, offering handcrafted beers made with water from the Memphis Sands Aquifer.
"In the past, Boscos has been more conducive to playing around with non-standard styles, like our bottle conditioned series and HopGod Ale," Skypeck said. "But with the additional storage and bottling line, we may be able to introduce some of that experimentation to Ghost River sometime in the future.
"We'll stick with our regular lineup for now," Skypeck continued,"and if everything goes well, we'll start thinking about introducing some more unique styles to our portfolio."
Skypeck said there is also a possibility that Ghost River might eventually apply for a distilling license. That would allow Ghost River to brew beers that are stronger than 6.3 percent alcohol-by-volume.
The national craft beer industry has seen considerable growth over the past few years, according to the Brewers Association, a national organization that supports independent, small American breweries.
Last week, the number of craft breweries in the U.S. exceeded 1,700 for the first time since before Prohibition. As recently as 1980, there were only eight craft breweries in the entire country.
Skypeck, who serves as the brewpub representative to the Brewers Association's board of directors, said that while the Memphis craft beer scene is trailing behind the national trend, the local market for beer brewed by small artisan breweries has been steadily growing.
Said Skypeck: "That we have been selling all the beer we can make for the past six months or so is a clear indication that the number of Memphis craft beer drinkers is on the rise."