The continued rise of Montana’s craft beer industry is not just spawning new breweries. Many established breweries are embracing beer’s popularity with expansion projects, too.
Philipsburg Brewing Company is one of the latest to take on a significant expansion, including a new building, additional equipment and a bottling line. Co-owners Cathy and Nolan Smith purchased the old Silver Springs water bottling plant in Philipsburg and are busy turning the space into additional room for the brewery’s operations.
“The building is really cool,” says Mike Elliot, Head Brewer for Philipsburg Brewing Co. “It has all the old water bottling equipment and a spring that produces 300 gallons per minute of incredibly pure mineral water.
“It was built on the site of the original Philipsburg brewery which dates from the 1870s. The old hop kiln is still onsite and we hope to use it for our barrel-aging program. The water is too hard to brew our normal lineup of beers with, so we will still use Philipsburg municipal water in day-to-day brewing. We do plan to formulate a darker beer that will utilize 100% spring water for seasonal release.”
Philipsburg Brewing has ordered a 50-bbl direct-fire brewhouse from Stainless Assets in Healdsburg, CA that is expected to be shipped to the brewery in the next couple of weeks. The brewhouse will be paired with 50-bbl fermentors the brewery is gathering used from around the country. Initial capacity will be around 4000 bbls per year, a significant increase from the brewery’s current production capacity of about 900 bbls.
The brewery received a $50,000 Growth Through Agriculture grant/loan combination from the Montana Department of Agriculture to put toward the purchase of a new bottling line from Meheen Manufacturing in the Tri-Cities.
“The machine will be filling 16-ounce Alumi-tek bottles from Ball Corp. in Colorado,” says Elliot. “We are very excited about these packages. No one else in Montana is using them and we think that Montanans will really dig them.
“They have all the benefits of cans that everyone is already familiar with – portability, recyclability, safety, quality, etc. – but with the added benefit of a re-closable cap.
“I know that when I’m on the river, the amount of beer I drink is often exceeded by the amount of beer I spill into the bottom of the boat, so I personally will get a lot of value out of these bottles.”
Elliot notes the Growth Through Agriculture grant was invaluable in helping the brewery get the project off the ground. “I think it’s wonderful that these types of programs exist for small businesses like ours,” Elliot says. “In addition to the GTA grant we also were able to secure gap funding through HeadWaters RC&D in Butte. They helped us with the big GTA grant, a small GTA grant for a website, and finally this bridge loan directly through their own organization. Check here for more information.
“They have been cheerleaders for us since we opened and none of the expansion could have happened without their help and support.”
Elliot hopes everything is in place to begin bottling this summer. The brewery’s Tramway Rye PA and Otter Water Summer Pale Ale will be the first to be packaged with others like the Razzu Raspberry Wheat and Haybag Hefeweizen added to the lineup later.