Five years after Chuckanut Brewery opened a location at the Port of Skagit, it is ready to expand.
The expansion will include a new bottling and canning facility, more cooler space, a loading dock, and a larger parking lot, said co-owner Mari Kemper.
She said the expansion will roughly double the brewery’s footprint, allowing it to increase production from about 4,000 barrels to 8,000 barrels a year.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the brewery had to switch gears and start canning and bottling more beer for people to consume at home. Kemper said the brewery ran out of storage space, and has had difficulty keeping up with demand.
“Right now we can’t keep up with demand with almost anything,” she said.
With the addition of more canning and bottling equipment, the brewery will be able to sell more beer in grocery stores. A loading dock will allow space for two trucks to load products.
Kemper said the brewery hopes to employ up to 35 people over the next five years, more than double the number of employees it has now.
She said the brewery routinely hires interns and staff who are graduates of Skagit Valley College’s Craft Brewing Academy.
Chuckanut Brewery expects to spend about $2.5 million on the expansion.
The port was recently awarded a $72,000 grant and $408,000 loan from the Community Economic Revitalization Board to support the project. The state funds go to local governments for infrastructure improvements to support private business growth.
Port spokesperson Linda Tyler said in an email the port will use the funds to “bring in Port-owned infrastructure such as utilities, site work, excavation and infill, asphalt and concrete sidewalks and curbs, in order to provide Chuckanut Brewery with a pad-ready site to build their facility expansion.”
Brewing industry veterans Mari Kemper and husband Will Kemper founded Chuckanut Brewery in 2008 in Bellingham. The brewery specializes in German-style beers such as lagers and pilsners, and operates its main production facility at the port.
Kemper said unique features of the brewery include its computerized brewing equipment and a German device that gives natural carbonation to beers. The brewery uses locally grown and malted grains in some of its beers.
After the brewing process, the brewery provides its spent grains to a local rancher to use as animal feed, helping reduce waste.
Kemper said in the future, the brewery would like to add a larger beer garden, though that is not part of the current expansion plans. She anticipates more customers as Amazon’s planned facility opens just a few minutes away.