Creature Comforts launches first canned beer, aims to double production in 2015
by Kelsey Cochran
Twelve pallets of canned Creature Comforts Brewing Co. beer were loaded onto trucks headed to Athens bars and retail establishments for the first time this week, a dream-come-true for local beer lovers and the first move in the young company’s next phase of growth.
Creature Comforts CEO Chris Herron can’t tell you exactly where you can buy the beer (state laws — some of the most restrictive in the country — prohibit it) but the brewery’s distributor serves accounts like Kroger on Alps Road, 5 Points Bottle Shop and several downtown establishments, he told reporters at a reception before a can launch party Monday.
Of the brewery’s four core offerings, Tropicalia and Athena are the first to hit the shelves, and suggested retail for a six-pack is about $10. Reclamation Rye and Bibo, the brewery’s Czech-style Pilsner will come later.
The canning line — a contraption that fills and tops 40 cans per minute — is a testament to the rapid growth the brewery has seen in its first six months. Already the staff has grown from Herron and co-brewmasters Adam Beauchamp and David Stein in March 2014 to seven full-time employees and 23 combined part-time employees and tour guides.
Draught sales have also continued to climb since the brewery’s first month, which saw 50 barrels out the door, to 230 barrels in October.
“We knew Athens drank, but we didn’t know they drank quite that much,” Herron joked.
Now, with operations aimed at producing about 4,000 barrels per year, brewing capacity will double in early 2015, he said, with future plans to produce up to 20,000 barrels per year.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and we’re still learning very much,” he said. “We’ve run out of beer a couple times here and there, but we’re trying to fix that, and we’re trying to do that through this expansion.”
The brewery’s first expansion, which Herron said would happen around February, would use existing space in the historic 1940s car dealership at Washington and Pulaski streets that houses Creature Comforts, but eventually a second location would be needed.
Herron said he and his partners don’t expect to have to seek out new funding to pay for the ventures; existing investors and loans have covered operating expenses thus far. And while another company with similar sales figures might already be making a profit, he noted that such rapid growth has used what profits the business would be making.
“Last month, October, technically would have been our first profitable month,” he said, “It would have been something like $1,000.”
Still, it’s not a bad problem to have for a company that’s gaining its share of the craft beer market along with ample recognition for quality and style. Tropicalia IPA, was rated the highest year-round offering from a Georgia brewery by Beer Advocate magazine, and the publication named Bibo the 33rd-best Czech-Style Pilsner.
The company also won the 2014 Historic Preservation Award for outstanding rehabilitation from the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation and has earned honors from the Downtown Athens Business Association.