Riverhead’s Crooked Ladder Brewing Co. will soon increase the volume of ales, stouts and porters flowing out of the downtown brewery nearly two-fold, the latest sign of the flourishing local craft beer market.
Three 10-foot tall stainless steel fermentors traveled all the way from Washington state and were rolled into the Riverhead facility on Friday morning where they will soon pump out even more batches of signature brews Gypsy Red American red ale and Downtown Brown nut brown ale.
The West Main Street brewery’s max beer output was previously 1,800 barrels (that’s 3,600 large kegs) a year, according to brewer Stevie Czelatka.
Now with seven total fermentors, Crooked Ladder can pump out about 3,000 barrels in that time.
“It’s almost doubling our capacity,” said Duffy Griffiths, who owns Crooked Ladder along with brothers Stephen and David Wirth. “It allows us to be more creative and do different beers and it lets us be more aggressive.”
Each fermentor, which were made by the Wasington-based Marks Design and Metal Works and cost about $12,000 a piece, yields about 15 barrels of beer, Griffiths said. He expects to have the containers hooked up to a refrigeration system and functional by Monday.
Three more fermentors means the beer makers can venture into new brews while still making their core beers because they can generate more batches at a time. The company expects to offer new varieties soon. Be on the lookout for an American wheat and a peach wheat flowing through the brewery’s draughts within the coming weeks.
To make beer, grain is first put into a vessel known as mash tun, where it is broken down into sugar, Czelatka explained.
“Basically it acts like a giant coffee filter,” he said.
Then it is placed into a kettle where flavor sources like hops are added and it is boiled down to a mixture known as wort. The wort is then moved to the fermentors, where it spends at least 10 days.
Finally, the beer flows through a filter into a brite tank where it is carbonated.
Crooked Ladder’s kegs are then stored in their Riverhead warehouse, (Griffiths keeps the exact location a secret).
“With any brewery you have a honeymoon period (after the launch),” said Crooked Ladder sales manager Nate Payne. “But customers have continued to reorder our kegs. That’s the biggest compliment.”
“And (the new fermentors) makes the tasting room that much cooler.”
Crooked Ladder Brewing Co. is located at 70 West Main St. in Riverhead.