Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of Ithaca Week, a weekly magazine produced by the students of the Advanced Multimedia Journalism class at the Roy H. Park School of Communications, Ithaca College.
The 21st Century Library Campaign – Tompkins County Public Library
[fvplayer src=”https://vimeo.com/120846728″ loop=”fale” mobile=”https://vimeo.com/120846728″]
The local microbrewery Bandwagon Brewpub is expecting a tenfold increase in brewing this summer after the opening of a 3500 square foot brewery in Interlaken, NY, increasing its output from 200-300 barrels a year to a projected 2000 barrels a year.
The construction of the brewery is underway as the New York State craft beer market thrives. The number of breweries in N.Y. increased from 95 in 2012 to 149 in 2014, showing a 43.6 percent increase, according to the New York State Brewers Association.
“Right now we brew two barrels at a time. We’d like to get a brewhouse that will brew 15 barrels at a time,” Co-owner and Chief Financial Officer Will Olson said. “If we could do 2000 barrels after we start up there, that would be phenomenal.”
New York State currently ranks third in the country, according to the New York State Brewers Association, in terms of the economic impact of craft beer, an industry that brings the state $2.2 billion per year.
The most significant challenges of opening a brewery are the licensing requirements, and the cost and maintenance of equipment, said Eileen Stout, owner of Rogue’s Harbor Brewing Co. which started brewing in 2011 in Lansing, N.Y. Determination, she said, brought the success of her brewery.
“Just be persistent,” she said. “It takes time…Eventually it will all come together.”
After brewing craft beer downtown since 2009 in the back room of the brewpub on North Cayuga Street, Bandwagon is currently constructing the new facility which has been in the business plan since their opening, said Olson.
But the revamp of the Commons slowed down business in the area, causing funding to suffer and putting the idea for the brewery on hold, said co-owner Michael Johnson.
“Business slowed down,” Johnson said. “That was about when the Commons got torn up, so business slowed down a little bit, and now we’ve finally got the funding again. But that was always the plan, to step into a production brewery.”
Bandwagon hopes to use this increased means of production move to extend their branding, beginning with a local market, Olson said.
“Our initial goal is saturation of the Ithaca market in the bars, on tap and use that by way of events and tastings to get our brand out there in this community,” Olson said.
With the launch of the brewery in summer of 2015, the company will be adding a 1500 square foot tasting room to their facility. Bandwagon hopes this will attract tourists to the brewery and to the Finger Lakes region, which pulled in $2.8 billion in tourist spending in 2013, according to the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance.
“As far as customers at the brewery, we anticipate a lot more of the tourist crowd,” Olson said. “That’s what we anticipate the demographics to be…We would be much more into the Finger Lakes tourism scene and trying to do what we can to drive tourism to this region.”
Tomas Black, a regular Bandwagon customer, said he hopes the expansion will add to the craft beer selection and continue the trend of microbrewery success.
“I think it would be good to have a bigger selection and to have more of an officialized brewpub,” Black said. “Obviously alcohol in this region is a huge economic forcebetween the wineries, breweries and distilleries…and the breweries are finally starting to take off.”
Joining the competition of these breweries will present its challenges, said Stephen Bareford, head brewer.
“Your heart’s in your throat for a few months when you open up a new endeavor and you’ve got everyone’s money sunk into it and everyone’s time,” Bareford said. “You need to make the sales happen.”
Organization of brewing ingredients and administrative materials will cause the successful production and sales, he said.
“I’m worried about supply chains,” Bareford said. “I’m worried about the new system and getting up to where we can make consistent brews with regularity. I’m worried about sourcing enough ingredients, about hop contracts, which you need to do when you’re that size.”
The owners hope the risk of launching the new brewing system will be paid off with customer satisfaction. The increased number of brewing machinery will create time for experimentation, something Bandwagon plans to continue as part of their brand.
“What people are drinking is constantly changing, and that’s kind of the beauty of craft beer,” he said. “People want new things…being able to make new things is key.”
Construction of the new brewhouse will ramp up as the weather gets warmer, leading up to a projected opening in June or July, Johnson said.