Independence Brewing Marks 10th Year with Expansion, Award

Amy Cartwright

Independence Co-founder and President Amy Cartwright shows off the new brewhouse.

Hot off the heels of a 2014 national Goodfood Award for their Pale Ale, Austin’s Independence Brewing has big changes in the works for their tenth anniversary year.

The apex of these changes is a 10,000 square foot brewhouse expansion which now contains a state of the art 60 barrel JV Northwest brewing system.  In other words, sweet new digs.

With just a few last hook ups needed for the system to become operable, Independence Co-founder and President Amy Cartwright says they hope to be brewing on the new system by February, and plan to brew on both it and their current system concurrently until April when they will decommission the ol’ system after more than 3000 brews. Just in time for Spring, the final brew planned for the old system is a Berliner Weisse.

The new system will allow for efficiency gains, less heavy lifting for the Independence crew and better yields for batches of higher abv beers.

“It’s pretty crazy for our team to stand here and look at the automation of it,” Amy said recently, as she showed the Bitch Beer crew the new system. “It’ll be a major change.”

Stats on the new system:  “The equipment has a 60 barrel batch size and will yield nearly 60 barrels for beers up to 9.5% ABV. The brewery is starting out with two 60 barrel and two 120 barrel fermenters, which will yield a 15,000 barrel capacity with the intention of later adding additional vessels to reach a potential 100,000 barrel capacity.–Press release from Independence

The increased capacity will mean that Independence will soon be able to provide more beer to existing markets like Austin and Houston, and to expand into less tread markets like Dallas-Fort Worth. Cartwright plans for their brews to be available in DFW before the end of 2014.

“We’re thrilled about this huge step forward for our facility, as the new expansion and updated equipment allow us to increase our reach throughout Texas,” Amy said, in a press release announcing the expansion. “Being one of the original breweries in Austin, it’s refreshing to see the local craft beer scene flourishing and we’re excited to be able to play a part in such a supportive and creative industry.”

Along with the new system, Independence’s expansion also includes a new waste water tank that will give the brewery the ability to regulate the PH of water before it leaves the brewery and heads to the city’s water treatment plant. Amy affectionately refers to the project’s current state as a “giant pit,” but the pit and the tank it holds will soon be buried under the brewhouse floor.

Amy and her husband, Brewer Rob Cartwright, were inspired to install this waste water solution in the new brewhouse by larger craft beer industry leaders.

“Ken Grossman is my hero,” Amy said, crediting the Sierra Nevada founder as one of her major inspirations in the sustainability and brewing arena.

While Austin does not require breweries to pre-treat the PH of their water before it leaves the brewery, the impacts of growing breweries in other parts of the country have caused issues with their respective cities. A waste water panel led by Stone Brewing Co. at the Craft Brewers Conference a few years back was  incredibly enlightening for Amy.

“This is not mandatory,” She said. “We just want to be ahead of the game.”

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Independence plans to be brewing on the new system by February. (Bonus points if you spotted the tiny child in this photo)

The new brewhouse will usher in both challenges and opportunities. One challenge is that a new bottling line will be required to keep up with the brewery’s rising output, but it will not arrive until later this year. Rather than investing in a hoard of new kegs to fill the temporary void, the Cartwrights have decided to partner with a mobile canning company, a rising trend in the craft beer world, to can some select Independence brews in the interim. The first Independence beer to be released in a can will be White Rabbit, a witbier they first released on draft in 2013. Popular Independence mainstays like Stash IPA will also have a heyday in cans.

Though the new brewhouse has been Independence’s primary goal, there are other changes in the works for the brewery.

“We plan on making some changes to the taproom to make it a little bit nicer,” Amy said.

Visitors can get an early peek at Independence’s new expansion January 30 at the Good Food Awards Texas Tasting. Hosted at the brewery, the event brings together the Texas breweries and food producers whose recipes were selected from more than 1,450 national entrants for the Good Food Awards. If the award winning status of these goodies isn’t enough to excite you, check out the menu below:

  • Confituras – Pickled Blueberries
  • Garden Dreams Houston – Peaches and Dream
  • Independence Brewing – Convict Hill Stout and Independence Pale
  • Jester King – Atrial Rubicite & RU-55 Barrel-Aged Sour Red
  • Letelier Food Co. – Apricot Sage Chicken Liver Pate
  • The Jelly Queens – Blood Orange Marmalade
  • Pogue Mahone Pickles – Dill & Garlic Pickles
  • Pure Luck Farm and Dairy – Hopelessly Bleu
  • TRACE, Chef Lawrence – Cappacola, snack stick, Lardo, Spanish-style Chorizo

Tickets for the event can be purchased in advance through Eventbrite, and will go to benefit the Sustainable Food Center.

After that, Independence fans will be able to check out the space at the brewery’s monthly First Saturday event, the next of which is scheduled for February 1, and at Friday happy hour tours beginning February 7.

-Caroline

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