Rivertown Brewing to open new major $2.7 million facility in Monroe

MONROE, Ohio -- In a major course change, Rivertown Brewing is set to pick up shop and move much of its production out of Lockland.

Rivertown owner Jason Roeper plans to open a new brewpub and production facility in Monroe.

Roeper said the six-year-old company has outgrown its existing space and needs to move to expand.

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The new facility will be built in Butler County, to the northweast of the intersection of Salzman Road and Ohio 63. It will take up about 31,600 square-feet and include a production space, restaurant and taproom. They hope to open some time in 2017.

The new facility will be built from the ground up by the Cincinnati Commercial Construction Company. Roeper said he was eyeing a parcel of land that included highway proximity for easy customer access.

“We will have another taproom with a full bar license there. We’ll have liquor, wine and outside beer there,” Roeper said. “We’re putting in a full kitchen there too. As well as a gift shop -- all the usual refinements.”

Roeper equated their growth to that of Oskar Blues from Colorado.

“Their original facility is still there in Lyons. They didn’t start in Longmont,” Roeper said. “It’s the same kind of idea and concept with the two locations.”

The company currently produces about 15,000 barrels of beer per year -- or about 207,000 cases of beer. The expansion will allow them to increase that production to about 150,000 barrels per year.

Roeper told the paper he hopes they can start construction in the spring of 2016.

“Our business continues to grow 27 percent a year,” Roeper told the Journal-News. “We can’t continue to stay here, it’s going to landlock ourselves.”

Just the building and the land is about a $2.7 million investment on Rivertown’s part. They are getting a 5-year abatement as part of their deal with the City of Monroe.

“Monroe was just really excited about bringing us in. They kept coming to us and saying, ‘We want you here,’” Roeper said.

A lot of Rivertown’s business comes from the northern areas of Cincinnati market, and the move allows them better access to the Dayton market as well. Roeper said an added benefit is that it gets them close to the Cincinnati Mills shopping area. They will also be able to get signs approved from ODOT on the highway to highlight their location.

The decision to move their expansion elsewhere is partially over the most essential ingredient in beer -- water.

As Rivertown was planning for the expansion of its current facility, they started to run estimates on an overhaul of their sewage system and it got pricey fast.

“When we got our last estimate in, …. It came in just shy of $1 million. At that point we were just done,” Roeper said.

One of the reasons the brewery needed to overhaul its water and sewer system was due to looming surcharges form the Metro Sewer District. The agency plans on charging breweries more for the wastewater they produce.

After looking at how much the equipment upgrades and surcharges would cost, Roeper said they determined that it just wouldn’t be cost effect to put the expanded facility in Lockland and Hamilton County.

“Monroe just made the most attractive offer. The water quality was a big draw as well, with Hamilton winning multiple awards for water quality,” Roeper said.

The Rivertown founder and owner wanted to emphasize that the current facility is not closing.

"We’ll be making it a small-batch, test facility and keeping the taproom open. It’ll give us the ability to make special one-off beers,” Roeper said.

As for the current facility, their current 30 bbl. (barrel) brewhouse will stay, as well as much of their fermenter space and kegging equipment.

Rivertown will also add a kitchen facility to the Lockland location. They hope to open their own in-house food option with a focus on BBQ in about five months or so. Their current food vendor, Cleo’s BBQ, will help guide the process as a consultant.

“Basically, we were getting overwhelmed with event and birthday requests,” Roeper said. “We needed to up our game in that regard.”

The brewery’s high-speed bottling line will be moved to the new facility once it is built, as well as its grain silo and two 100 bbl. fermenters. Much of their barrel-aging program will be moved to the new space too.

The new venture will feature a 50 bbl. four-vessel brewhouse with a maximum daily production of 300 bbls. per day. Roeper plans on adding four 200 bbl. fermenters and six 100 bbl. fermenters, as well as a 100 bbl. brite tank and 200 bbl. brite tank.

That would give him an initial fermenting capacity of about 1,400 bbls. Rivertown expects to produce about 40,000 bbls. in the first year of the facility’s operation.

The new facility will also get upgrades to the manufacturing equipment. Roeper said they will add more automated equipment to their bottling and packaging line.

The new additions and new facility will mean a bump in employment. Rivertown aims to employee 55-65 full-time employees and 10-20 part-time employees once the construction is complete.

Something that won’t be changing is Rivertown’s dedication to bottles.

“Cans are a great option for short-time storage and for places you can take bottles. But 50 percent of our product is sours, so that doesn’t really work for us,” Roeper. “We are playing around with doing some aluminum bottles to circumvent some of those issues.”

Some of those aluminum bottles will feature a new line of Brett-fermented IPAs they are working on. The aluminum bottles work with Rivertown’s existing bottling line as well.

Earlier, Rivertown completed a major taproom expansion at its Lockland facility and planned a further, major overhaul of the entire building. The brewery owners went as far to say they were working with Lockland city leaders to make the industrial space they currently reside in a craft product maker enclave.

However, Roeper has said from the start that they never intended to have the Lockland space have a taproom when they opened as the law at the time did not allow for it. Once taproom laws in the Buckeye State were relaxed, Rivertown made do with the space they had to open a taproom.

Rivertown beers are distributed in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Florida and the Virgin Islands. The beer is also readily available at grocery stores, craft beer shops and liquor stores.

For the latest Cincinnati beer news and entertainment, go to wcpo.com/beer or follow Jesse on Twitter at @wcpojesse .

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