Blank Slate Brewing's fifth year is gearing up to be a big one.
The East End brewery will begin its fifth year of production in May and look at tripling its current fermentation space this summer. Blank Slate also will release two styles in cans, a first for the brewery, this summer. Fork in the Road, Blank Slate's signature amber India ale, will be canned year-round, and Out & About, a gose, will be canned for the summertime.
“Depending on demand, we may add others,” said founder and head brewer Scott LaFollette. “One of the great things about the way we’re doing it is we can do small runs. It allows us to be flexible, which is in keeping with our philosophy.”
What he means by that is the way Blank Slate’s cans are being prepped. Instead of each beer receiving its own can and design, Blank Slate will have a universal can with unique labels that will be applied after canning. The labels, in addition to containing information about each specific beer, also will have a different texture than the rest of the can. They will be applied by machines, reducing the time that would be spent applying them by hand.
“It’s a hybrid design. Ei8ht Ball is doing something very similar,” LaFollette said. “The label is fully integrated into the design from the start and looks like it was supposed to be there. We are only allowing ourselves a small portion to use. With the texture, we want to accentuate the label.”
There isn’t a set date on when canning will begin. Even once the cans are in, LaFollette said, Blank Slate wants to ensure it has the process down before releasing them.
“I’d rather do it right than quick,” he said.
Stagnaro will distribute the cans, and for now, the cans will be exclusive to Hamilton County.
“We want to expand our territory out a little bit, fill out the Cincinnati side first,” LaFollette said.
The fermentation increase will put production at around 2,000 to 2,400 barrels, LaFollette said. Last year, Blank Slate produced 760 barrels of beer. This also will lead to increases in staff, even with a full-time brewer recently hired. Another brewer and some packaging workers will be added as production grows.
“We were a one-man operation for the first year, then a two-man operation for three years,” LaFollette said. “We are slowly doing our part to add back to the economy.”
Once the expansion, taking place at the current facility on Airport Road, is done, the brewery will be maxed out on space, but it still will be able to build within that space for a few years.
Given the size constraints, the taproom, which seats 45, will remain the same size. The brewery was designed before taprooms were legal in Ohio, so Blank Slate added its taproom after the fact. With the increase in the brewing facilities, though, there isn’t room left to expand the taproom.
“Our big plan was to be a small producer with niche stuff,” LaFollette said. “MadTree and Rhinegeist have really changed the game. They weren’t around when we opened. We have to grow to account for the fact we’re not the only one doing that anymore.”