In 2010, there were less than 2,000 craft breweries in the U.S.
Just seven years later, that number has more than tripled, surpassing 6,000 breweries in 2017, according to data from the Brewer’s Association.
With more breweries comes the need for more capacity to keep pace with consumer’s relentless thirst for craft beer.
Rhode Island natives Devin Kelly and Jeremy Duffy, both former “beer guys,” quickly caught on to this trend a few years ago, and launched Isle Brewers Guild to help mid- to large-sized craft brewers expand their capacity, sales and distribution.
Not only does the site provide the necessary equipment, but the Isle team will also help its partners with the overall production process.
“We have brewing partners across the country. You want to be where your brewers are.”
“With the growth in the industry, it’s hard to keep up with all of the demand and still be innovative and creative,” Kelly told Rhode Island Inno. “We take some of that burden off of them by helping them promote their brands so they still have time to create new flavors and do other new things.”
The 130,000 square-foot space situated in Pawtucket, with its high, wooden ceilings, brick walls and factory-like atmosphere, has an initial brewing capacity of 60,000 beer barrels, but can get as high as 150,000 beer barrels.
Isle Brewers Guild is currently the fifth-largest brewer in New England.
Partners in the space include recognizable brands such as Narragansett, who is headquartered in the building, Newburyport Brewing Company, Devil’s Purse Brewing Company, Farmer Willie’s Ginger Beer and Great North Aleworks.
Kelly said Isle Brewers Guild is 100 percent dedicated to working with its partners and is not looking to launch its own brand.
Brewing operations among the five companies in the space take up about 75,000 square feet of the building, he said.
Another 22,000 square feet of space is being turned into a food and beverage campus that already includes a taproom and beer garden, and will include additional restaurants in the future.
“It’s rare to be that close to the tanks [that brew the beer], and we are maintaining that with a brewer’s bar and ancillary space,” said Kelly, who formerly worked as a vice president of global brands for Stella Artois.
Business at Isle Brewer’s Guild is doing well, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
In 2015, Kelly and Duffy initially had a building in Providence locked down, but right before closing, a massive mill fire burned the building to the ground.
In need of a partner, Pawtucket stepped up, and Kelly said Mayor Donald Grebien and his team have been extremely helpful, going as far as to ask how they can be of assistance.
The city, an old mill town, is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, said Kelly, with cool loft apartments and more breweries popping up, creating a vibrant community.
Looking ahead, Kelly said he thinks he and Duffy will add a few more brewers, hopefully getting up to eight or nine this year.
“That won’t put us at capacity, but it will reach our plan in terms of our growth ambition,” he said, adding that he expects the company’s workforce to expand from 20 right now to 30 within the next year. “It’s important we do it well rather than continuing to add new brewers.”
Long term, however, Kelly and Duffy definitely have plans for expansion, but with a new building and possibly in a new part of the country, such as the Midwest.
“We have brewing partners across the country,” said Kelly. “You want to be where your brewers are.”
Editor’s Note: Isle Brewers Guild is a Rhode Island Inno 50 on Fire finalist. Read the whole story on the awards event here.