The talk around North Texas used to be of what new breweries are opening this month. Now it's all about what local breweries are building and expanding and by how much, and how far ahead of their growth curves and expectations they find themselves.
Lakewood Brewing held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week with the big-scissor-wielding Mayor of Garland and other city officials to formally dedicate its new brewing facility. The new digs are are three stories and 14,000 square feet of brewing awesomeness, built adjacent and abut to their original facility (which they are keeping for packaging, labs and office space, by the way). Just marking their fourth year in business this week, owner Wim Bens says his original business plan didn't expect this expansion until after their seventh year.
Behind the red edifice that is the new entry lies a 2,000-square-foot taproom in front of high windows looking out into a forest of stainless steel fermentors. Sixteen new taps sit atop a bartop fashioned from a single piece of finished Canadian white oak, with ample room for tables and stools and even a dedicated gift shop. The space is open at the top with staff offices on the second floor overlooking the taproom, including a glass-walled lair for Bens to lord over it all like a cheesy Bond villain.
The improvements are also more than simply cosmetic and capacity. The addition of a pricey centrifuge system to replace their previous diatomaceous (DME) filtration is already showing results in improving the flavor of their beers. Lakewood has also leased yet another building on the opposite side that is now dedicated to climate-controlled barrel aging, and soon will house the start of their sour brewing program and keep everything clean and separate from their commercial production.
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And it keeps getting better: Behind the leased barrel-house is an unpaved, unimproved space that will eventually be built out into a beer garden with outside tables and taps and a permanent stage for bands to play, with all the imposing barbed-wire fencing between lots coming down. The accidental discovery of a commercial print shop located directly behind the brewery not only meant bringing that outsourced vendor even closer, it also allows shared access to their ample parking on the next street over in the same industrial park. It would not be incorrect to say Lakewood is no longer just a brewery but now is a whole brewing complex.
There is still some finishing work yet to do, small issues like decor and signage and logistics of patron walkways and food truck spaces. A few tanks have yet to be moved over, and a new canning line sits boxed on the brewery floor that should be operational within a few weeks. The taproom is now open with regular hours and will softly take over the Saturday tours until their official Grand Opening celebration on April 4. Early access that day is a ticketed event but entry is free to everyone after 5pm.
It may take Lakewood many, many more years to max out their new space -- 100,000 barrels annually is doable -- and that would put them up into Saint Arnold brewing territory. But with the rising popularity of local craft beer around North Texas, I wouldn't bet against it.