Booming sales prompts Port City Brewing’s expansion


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.”



  1. What a great thing for Alexandria and all craft brew enthusiasts to have Bill and his Port City Brewing in our area. Not only are the beers spectacular, they’re fresh. The tasting room has become the go-to place for not only trying the new offerings, but food trucks, live music, and tours of the ever-expanding brewery.

    What the story above doesn’t tell you about Derecho is how Bill put out the emergency call through social media – to come drink reasonably priced beer so the entire tank wouldn’t be wasted when the power to the refirgeration was lost! You’ve never seen so many happy volunteers. Even without A/C, the place was packed.

    As a home brewer, I appreciate Port City’s willingness to discuss beer, fermentation science, commercial production, and to offer advice.

    Port City is also involved in their community. The were a hit at the Ballyshaners’ St. Patrick’s Day
    Parade in Old Town Alexandria; their human six pack was a real crowd pleaser. Everybody in the tasting room and the production area that I’ve encountered is cheerful, helpful, and knowledgable about their craft beers.