Finding Ways to Stay Quick, Nimble in Production

Old Bust Head Brewing set itself up to do big-batch brewing, and Brewmaster Ike Broaddus went to the 2019 Craft Brewers Conference to see how he could help change that.

The 5,400-barrel output by the Vint Hill Farms, Virginia brewery consists mostly of four core brands being done on a 30-barrel system with 120- and 60-barrel fermentors.

“Over the last year we have really felt increased pressure from the competition, increased pressure from the changes in consumer preferences,” Broaddus said. “We’re making some changes, and we want to get it right.”

A change in the sales department has helped the brewery this spring make strides in the off-premise market with a reduction in SKUs and focusing on core brands, but also getting smaller in taproom production is a key to stay quick and nimble.

“We’ve always had 20 or 25 different products in the taproom and we’ve tried to distribute as many as 10 different SKUs (for package plus draft),” Broaddus said. “To attract consumers we’ve got to put out something new every week or two (in the taproom).”

For OBH, that means looking into adding a 7-barrel system — which would complement its smaller pilot system and production workhorse.

Broaddus shared with Brewer that what he is finding right now is that some of the brewery’s original core brands that had fallen out of favor for a couple of years are now coming back. At the same time, tweaks could be made to appease new consumers as well.

“We have a Czech Pilsner that we’ve done forever, and it’s won awards. But some folks in the team seem to think it’s worn out its welcome and now it’s time to do something else,” he said, adding that this summer the team will experiment with something new in the Light Lager category.

“Something for when a Coors Light drinker walks in the taproom and says ‘I want something like Coors Light,’ we don’t have to point to the water fountain,” he said with a laugh. “We can have something better than that for sure.”

Another aspect of staying quick and nimble that the brewery is exploring is adding a canning line instead of scheduling a mobile canner. Paired with a smaller production run on a seven-barrel system could mean some exclusive runs for taproom consumers and top accounts.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.