The next Colonial Ale cold one cracked open in the Greater Lehigh Valley may very well have been brewed in the wide-open spaces of Breinigsville, where about 700 workers in a brewery whip up dozens of varieties of Sam Adams beer by the barrel.
There’s no end in sight, said beer meister and Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch, who is absolutely bubbly over his operations in Pennsylvania. He said the brewery is looking for more workers.
“The Lehigh Valley is a great location for us for many different reasons,” he said. “Open space, clean water, major transportation arteries and the region’s close-knit community are just a few examples.”
Boston Beer arrived at the facility off Interstate 78 about a decade ago.
“Since [then], we’ve invested millions of dollars in renovating and expanding our brewery and brewing capabilities, including installing a $20-million canning line, expanding our brew house and warehouse space and adding tanks for fermentation as well as a special barrel room for aging our beers in wood,” Koch said.
As a result, he said, his company has hired more people and hired local service providers and contractors to support those projects.
Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, said Koch is a classic entrepreneur who has brought well-paying jobs to the region.
“He had a vision and created something really special,” Iannelli said.
Koch turned around what could have been a vacant brewery.
“He’s very creative,” Iannelli said. The old brewery, Iannelli said, could have potentially been vacant and unused. Now it employs hundreds.
HOTBED FOR BEER
Brewing beer has a long tradition in the Lehigh Valley, dating to the 1850s.
The area is only about an hour from Philadelphia, a city Koch calls a beer-loving one that is recognized as the birthplace of “Craft Beer Week.”
Koch said the Pennsylvania craft beer scene is booming and the region is home to two of the leading craft breweries in the nation, Yuengling and Sam Adams, and many other craft breweries that help propel the industry forward, such as Weyerbacher and Sly Fox.
Koch’s Boston Beer Co. bought the old Schaefer brewery from Diageo in 2008 for $55 million and began a multiyear process of restoring the historic brewery with plans to increase production to more than 2 million barrels annually.
The Upper Macungie Township brewery complements Boston Beer’s other operations in Boston and Ohio.
Koch said his company owns about 76 acres in Breinigsville, consisting of two parcels with about 1 million square feet of brewery and warehouse space.
Koch said his company does not disclose specifics regarding capital investment projects on an individual brewery basis.
But, he said, capital spending this year is estimated at between $40 million and $60 million, which includes additional investments in his breweries.
And the company continues to hire workers.