Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. is outgrowing its building in Akron and is exploring the possibility of moving — even taking its production brewery and tasting room to neighboring Medina County or Cuyahoga County.
“I’d hate to leave this space at the end of the day, but I’ve got a business that’s growing and adding employees every month, and I need to have the space to accommodate it all,” co-owner John Najeway said Thursday. “We’ve got to make a decision in the next couple of months.”
Thirsty Dog is housed inside a former Burkhardt Brewing Co. building on Grant Street near the University of Akron.
The brewery is in the process of another expansion, adding three 90-barrel fermenters. The equipment is scheduled to arrive by truck next week.
“We’re reaching that point that when we do this expansion we’re out of space,” Najeway said. “We need to secure space around us … We don’t want to end up landlocked. We want to continue to grow.”
One of the biggest issues: There’s no room for a packaging line because of all the tanks the brewery has added over the years.
Thirsty Dog occupies about 30,000 square feet, which includes four floors of one building and space in a nearby building.
The brewery needs 45,000 to 60,000 square feet, Najeway said.
The private company, which employs about 40 workers, also needs to upgrade its brewhouse, and that is part of the reason for expanding, he said. The 15-barrel brewing system is working seven days a week, as the company produces about 40 different brands and distributes in 14 states.
Najeway declined to disclose company revenue. But the brewery will boost its capacity to 24,000 barrels a year with the new fermenters, making it one of the largest craft breweries in the state.
He said he has met with Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic to talk about the matter, and the city is working with the company on ways to grow its current footprint or relocate elsewhere in the community.
But Najeway added that he is looking at potential locations in Medina County, Cuyahoga County and Cuyahoga Falls.
Brent Hendren, economic development specialist for the city of Akron, said city officials and Najeway are discussing Thirsty Dog’s space crunch.
“We [city officials and Najeway] have recently identified possible solutions that we’re further exploring,” he said.
He declined to provide specifics.
“We certainly want them to stay in Akron,” Hendren said. “We appreciate them being here. It’s a great company … they’re employing people in the city of Akron … It’s one more thing that shows the diversity of business — that Akron can boast of, [saying], ‘We can not only do rubber and polymers.’ ”
Thirsty Dog customers who showed up at the tasting room Thursday, shortly after its 4 p.m. opening, also want the brewery to stay in Akron.
“It would be devastating” if Thirsty Dog left, said Paul Wilson, 58, an engineer who lives in Tallmadge and works in Akron. “This is my local brewery. It’s so convenient … and having good, quality beer, a brewery in your hometown gives it identity. … I take pride in the fact they’re local, and they’re brewing some pretty good beer.”
Wilson came Thursday to refill his growler — a large glass jug used to transport draft beer. The tasting room offers $2 off the regular growler price for each fill Thursdays.
At the tasting room, he met co-workers from the nearby Bridgestone Technical Center, who also don’t like the idea of Thirsty Dog relocating.
“It’s close to work. … [It’s] in a historic area,” Bridgestone chemist Steven Reynolds, 42, who lives in Wadsworth, said in noting the brewery’s location in the former Burkhardt Brewing Co. building.
Mark McEwen, 52, who works in technical support at Bridgestone and lives in New Franklin, said the Thirsty Dog has strong ties with the Akron area.
“They put on a lot of functions, fundraisers here, that have to do with the area.”
Thirsty Dog makes such brands as Old Leghumper, 12 Dogs of Christmas, Raspberry Ale and Cerberus. The brewery has enjoyed a run of positive publicity this year.
Its bourbon barrel-aged Siberian Night Imperial Stout won bronze this year at the World Beer Cup, and the brewery was named “USA Brewery of the Year” at the third annual New York International Beer Competition.
Thirsty Dog isn’t the only Ohio brewery running out of room. Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland has talked for years about being squeezed in its Ohio City neighborhood.
Thirsty Dog has been a major supporter of the community. It has sponsored the Blues & Brews beer festival in town for years, most recently at Lock 3 downtown. And last year, it inked an exclusive deal to sell its beer inside the Akron Art Museum.
Asked what the odds are that the company will remain in Akron, Najeway responded: “I don’t know at this point.”
“My heart’s in Akron,” he added.
“My other shareholders come from Cuyahoga County.”