Pallets of hundreds of empty beer cans wait, resting amongst a hum of steady commotion and scattered brewing material. Each sheet is composed of cans stacked one on top of another, layered like a cubic aluminum cake, their copper-orange sheen soon to be filled with Carson’s Backwoods Brewing Company Copperline Amber beer.
The tower of stored empties is a welcomed sight by Backwoods owners, employees and brewers, as well as the colossal fermentation tanks, new whirlpool filter, mash turn, canning belt, brew kettle and centrifuge (spins beer and filters it out while increasing efficiency, volume, turnaround time, and shelf life). It’s all part of the company’s brewing expansion to its new Stevenson location, which will see full operational capacity by the end of the week.
“We were down for two weeks while we were moving everything so, now we all have to play catch up,” explained Backwoods Brewing’s Director of Sales and Marketing Jordan Tanasse.
The brewery is based out of Carson where the family owned and operated business began serving brews and nourishment back in July 2012. This year Backwoods acquired a warehouse space on Stevenson’s waterfront where it will now be conducting the majority of its brewing operation.
“Really all of the brewing is going to be done here (Stevenson). We’re going to maintain a smaller system at the Carson location,” explained Tanasse.
Before expanding to Stevenson, Backwoods would can a minimum of about 80,000 cans for a given brew, “but now they’ve bumped it up to about double that,” said Tanasse. “It makes us really have to plan ahead, and say ‘Okay, we have 160,000 cans total, so we need to make sure that we can get through it all.”
Currently the brewery ships beer to Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Norway, and is looking to expand to Alaska. Next month Backwoods canned brews will be sold in Guam, according to the company’s master brewer.
A shrill beeping echoed through the brewing equipment as a fork lift backed into the warehouse. Brewers, employees, and helping friends weaved between pallets and fermenters, all busied with their own tasks. Kevin Waters, Backwoods Brewing Company founder and master brewer, surveyed the steady flow of progress from the ground floor. “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” he said. “We have room (now). We can walk and breathe and work. It’s weird.”
“It’s like in ‘Stepbrothers’ (the movie), when they move their bunk-beds out and then they had all that floor space, and it made their heads spin,” said Tanasse.
The warehouse space used to hold a few offices before the brewery took over. Now the space is a wide expanse of concrete with an open floor plan accommodating clusters of brewing equipment, pallets of cans, kegs, bags of grain, coils of rubber tubing, and a canning machine.
“If you’d seen the previous place it was basically half of an old grocery store,” Tanasse said. “They took out walls and dug out the floor, took out part of the ceiling to make enough room to put these 40 barrels in.”
“Beforehand the brewers were, you know, moving stuff around to get to stuff and it was just not an efficient use of time,” explained Tanasse, “and now everything is accessible, and we’re going to have better organization.”
Brewer and co-owner Tom Waters added his take on the new space. “Before I used to have to brew one full batch all the way through, and then start the second one, and now after about three hours in to the first batch we can start stacking brews like that, so an additional brew just adds three hours to your day.”
The new space brings a host of possibilities for the future of Backwoods. Tom Waters and Tanasse passed ideas back and forth about maybe opening a tasting room at the warehouse for summer events, or hosting beer-themed events. Anything could happen with the addition of the new brewing space.
“Our minds are kind of thinking, ‘what can we do with the space besides just brewing?’” said Tanasse, who added that things may be a little less spacious once the rest of the fermenters arrive. “As you can see, a lot of the space is taken up, and when all the other fermenters get in here it’s going to be pretty tight.”
One of the biggest perks of moving the brewing side of the business to Stevenson was the ability to acquire a canning line, which saves the brewery time and money. “We used to do canning days, and we’d do like 800 cases of beer, and it would take us 14 hours,” Tanasse noted.
“Having it [the canning line] here and in house we can can whenever we want,” said Tanasse. “We don’t have to schedule it out and cram everything in to one day, so it can be a normal eight-hour work day and we don’t have to worry about long days like that.”
Backwoods Brewing Company’s future holds a lot of beer, like its collection of fermenters, but the expansion won’t mean a new restaurant in Stevenson anytime soon. “We really like the business of Carson, it’s where we’re from,” said Tom Waters, “and there’s not a whole lot going on there so we’d like to keep the business there as long as we can.”