ABITA SPRINGS, Louisiana — Abita Brewing is beginning the expansion of its visitor center and office spaces, the last phase of a $15 million renovation of the property in Abita Springs that began earlier this year.
Besides increasing its beer-brewing capacity, New Orleans CityBusiness reported (http://bit.ly/1sUw5XU) the expansion will allow Abita to expand its brewery tours, which the company uses as its primary marketing tool.
At 5,800 square feet, the new visitor center will be double the size of the previous one. Abita CEO David Blossman said the company is working to increase the number of visitors it receives each year, from 30,000 to 70,000 within three years.
"From our standpoint, that is the best marketing we could do," he said.
The brewery expansion added 200 barrels of capacity to the company's 100-barrel facility and a new cellar space with room for a dozen 800-barrel tanks.
Abita is capable now of brewing 900,000 barrels of beer a year, but that doesn't mean it will brew that many. Output is based on the size of cellar space used to store the beer.
The current cellar space can produce 400,000 barrels annually and can be expanded if demand continues to grow, Blossman said.
Abita's sales growth has averaged about 15 percent per year for the past five years, he said.
Its place in the brewing world falls between the smaller, grassroots brewers that have increasingly popped up in Louisiana in recent years and large national brewers like Miller, Budweiser and Coors.
"They're kind of one of those interesting places in the market, it's kind of the brewers no-man's land, where they're nothing compared to Bud or Miller or Coors..but they're so much bigger than Tin Roof or Nola.or Narley Barley.Abita brews more than all the other breweries combined," said Jay Ducate, the host of Bites and Booze radio show which follows the craft brew scene in Louisiana.
Blossman said the company doesn't base its goals on market share as compared to other brewers and is more interested in sustained growth, rather than explosive growth.
The company is also exploring other products, including soft drinks.
The demand for Abita's root beer has been growing, Blossman said, and the Covington facility expansion will allow it to produce more, along with other soda flavors currently in development.
Abita's newer beers, including its Macchiato Expresso Milk Stout, Bourbon Street Imperial Stout and Strawgator, have continued to produce successful sales, he said.
Information from: New Orleans CityBusiness, http://www.neworleanscitybusiness.com