ALBANY — When Pretoria Fields Collective General Manager Billy Mann gets an itch, he doesn’t waste time scratching it. Last week, the local craft brewery introduced its first line of canned beer (Skywater Golden Ale) and during an interview talked about expansion into additional markets.
But any expansion would require boosting the small brewery’s output. Two days later, a semi truck loaded with three stainless steel fermentation vats rumbled into the brewery’s loading dock. Those three new vats will effectively double the brewery’s capacity, boosting the number of on-site vats to seven.
Pretoria Fields also added a second brewer, Kevin Hilton, who was formerly the brewer at the Blue Jacket Brewery in Washington, D.C.
Looking around the brew house, a visitor remarked, “That’s a lot of stainless steel.”
“Yes, it is, but isn’t it beautiful?” Pretoria Fields Marketing Director Jennifer Harris said. “What many people don’t know is that it takes almost as long to clean the equipment as it does to brew the beer because they keep it spotless. Sanitation is a huge part of the beer industry, and when they designed this facility they had growth and expansion in mind.”
That’s why the brewery introduced its canned line last week.
“We finally got our canning line in. We’ve been working on it for the past couple of months,” Mann said during an interview with The Herald. “Late last week we finally had all the manufacturers’ representatives to come in and help us with running it. With it being a new piece of equipment, we didn’t want to just jump into it with us not knowing what we were doing.”
A 50-case run of Skywater was the testbed.
“We did a very limited run of Skywater,” Mann said. “The cans were always in our plans. We wanted to have our cans out by the summer; that was always our goal. (The cans ) give us a wider footprint and wider distribution. Right now, we are just in restaurants and bars. The cans will enable us to be in convenience stores, grocery stores and package stores.
“It just broadens our capabilities.”
Harris added that with the new equipment and the addition of Hilton to the mix, the brewery plans to ramp up production with the demand for cans.
”Our new brewer, Kevin, essentially doubles our capacity,” Harris said. “For the first four months, we were operating with only one brewer. Having Kevin Hilton on our team, we can have two brewers functioning, which could mean one brewing in the morning, the other cleaning up at night and getting things set up for in the morning. Kevin got here in March, but now we have the equipment in place to really put him to work.”
Harris said that despite the pivot to cans, the brewery will not disappoint its keg accounts.
“We want to really take care of our local market here,” she said. “So if there is a demand for canned beer, we certainly don’t want to affect that people can drink our beer at places like The Harvest Moon, The Catch, Locos, Buffalo Wild Wings, and all the places they expect to see Pretoria Fields on draft.
“We never want them to go empty, and that’s what is exciting about the new added capacity for us.”