Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. is expanding — again.
Two giant stainless steel fermenters capable of holding 90 barrels each were delivered and installed Thursday at the Akron brewery. Another three are expected at the end of September.
The new equipment will allow the regional brewer to dramatically boost its capacity, expand its reach in New York state, and start distributing in West Virginia and Illinois. Thirsty Dog is now available in 13 states.
“People are buying our beer,” head brewer Tim Rastetter said about the need for more fermenters.
Co-owner John Najeway called it an early Christmas gift for beer drinkers who enjoy the brewery’s holiday beer, 12 Dogs of Christmas. The brewery will be able to produce more of the popular seasonal ale, he said.
The 14-foot, conical fermenters were custom-made by Silver State Stainless of Nevada. Workers had to squeeze them into place — there was less than an inch of room available on each side in some areas as they were hauled through the brewery.
The privately owned Thirsty Dog produced nearly 9,000 barrels of beer last year, expects to do about 17,000 this year and will have the ability to brew as many as 27,000 next year, Najeway said. He declined to release specific sales figures.
The brewery is the third-largest craft brewer in Ohio, behind only Samuel Adams in Cincinnati and Great Lakes in Cleveland.
Thirsty Dog now brews seven days a week and runs two shifts. It has 30 full- and part-time workers, including eight full-time brewers.
The company has been in growth mode since it opened in the former Burkhardt Brewing Co. facility on Grant Street in mid-2007. That growth has coincided with the increasing popularity of craft beer.
The craft industry has experienced double-digit growth for years. Dollar sales rose by 15 percent last year, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group based in Boulder, Colo.
Thirsty Dog has been able to grow because of the local Akron-Canton-Cleveland market embracing its beer, Najeway said. That market accounts for 40 percent of the brewery’s sales, he said.
With the addition of the fermenters, Thirsty Dog is running out of space at its current site, Najeway said. The brewery recently expanded into the third floor and added a room to age sour beers.