Booming sales prompts Port City Brewing’s expansion

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By Derrick Perkins

Port City Brewing’s line of local craft beers has got tongues wagging, so much so the West End brewery is expanding capacity — again.

Owner Bill Butcher, a native of the city, is waiting for a trio of 120 barrel tanks to finish making their way from Oregon to Alexandria. When they arrive next week, the massive vats will double the brewery’s output, from roughly 100,000 cases of beer a year to 200,000.

The $250,000 investment marks the company’s second growth spurt in as many years. Butcher installed two 90 barrel tanks last year, only to see demand quickly exceed supply. After a few months, he came to a realization: The company needed to expand once more.

“It was pretty much right after we finished installing the tanks,” he said. “Last year we installed the tanks in April and May. In September we realized we needed to order more tanks.”

Butcher opened Port City to rave reviews in February 2011. As one of the only craft breweries in the region — DC Brau opened about the same time while Chocolate City Beer opened later in the year — Butcher enjoyed quick success.

And not even June’s powerful derecho could derail the brewery’s ascent. When a days long power outage transformed a batch of pilsner into something else, Butcher’s team rebranded it as Derecho Common Beer and garnered national attention.

He got more headlines in the fall, when he was invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention. That appearance got him beer orders from across the country.

But the success of Port City Brewing has more to do with the underserved local market, Butcher said. He will host a seminar for other aspiring brewers later this month.

“It’s a couple of different things. It’s the quality of the beer — we’re getting a great reception in the market and that’s a direct result of the experience of our team of brewers and the recipes that they’ve developed,” he said. “This market is still underserved, but fortunately there are more breweries in planning that are going to be opening up.”