Seattle’s award-winning brewery heads east
To help address the growing popularity of its beers on the opposite coast, Ghostfish Brewing planned to open a brewery in Upstate New York, about 60 miles west of Buffalo. We shared the original story in the spring of 2022. The plan has come to fruition. The Seattle-based company recently cut the ribbon on its second production facility (pictured above). The new brewery will focus on meeting the increasing demand for Ghostfish beers east of the Mississippi River.
“The demand for our products continues to grow leaps and bounds,” said Brian Thiel, the Co-Founder/Managing Partner of Ghostfish Brewing. “While we desire to control our growth, we are also committed to remaining a leader in the gluten-free category of craft beer. Discussions are ongoing amongst the ownership to determine the best ways to increase our capacity in order to keep pace with demand.”
Ghostfish Brewing is the nation’s most-decorated gluten-free brewery. At this year’s Great American Beer Festival, the most ballyhooed beer competition in the nation, the Seattle-based brewery brought home two of the three medals in the gluten-free category. It’s not the only time the brewery landed a doubleheader: the company did it in 2015 when it was a GABF rookie. Ghostfish Brewing is also the largest producer of gluten-free beer in the nation and currently distributes its products to 19 states.
As reported last year, the company planned to expand its operations to the other side of the nation where its beers were gaining favor thousands of miles away from the brewery in places like New York and Massachusetts. Transporting beer from Seattle to Boston is logistically challenging for a brewery of Ghostfish’s size, so opening a second brewery made sense. (Read more about that part of the story below.)
The new Ghostfish Brewing location is a production facility and distribution center in the town of Westfield in Upstate New York — no taproom or pub. The paint is still drying at the new facility, but the brewery has already produced and sold over 2,000 cases of its gluten-free beers.
Theil says, “Plans for opening a few retail locations throughout New York state are on the horizon.”
published, spring 2022
Last year, Ghostfish Brewing produced about 5,000 barrels of beer at its one and only brewery, which is in Seattle. That’s the brewery’s maximum capacity and it’s a problem unto itself, one the company hopes to remedy in the near future. Another problem, if you consider it a problem at all, the company’s beers have gained popularity with beer drinkers 3,000 miles away in places like New York and Massachusetts. This presents an uncommon set of logistics.
Most Washington-brewed beers never leave the state. Like the beers it brews, Ghostfish Brewing is a bit different. The company’s gluten-free beers are available in nearly 20 states across the country. Away from the taproom in Seattle, only about 20%-30% of its beer stays in Washington. In fact, Massachusetts is poised to overtake Oregon as the second-largest consumer of Ghostfish beers.
Some breweries may consider contract brewing to remedy this kind of logistical problem, finding an appropriately located brewery to produce beers on its behalf and to its specifications. However, for Ghostfish Brewing that isn’t an option. The nature of the beer dictates that it is produced in an entirely gluten-free facility. That means it can never produce “regular” beer. It is a commitment made by very, very few breweries.
As for Ghostfish’s new, gluten-free brewery in New York, it will initially have the capacity to produce 3,500 barrels per year. It will focus on supplying the company’s core beers. In addition to logistical advantages, the facility in New York presents an economical edge for a production brewery, one that should facilitate affordable growth at that location.
Seattle expansion plans?
In addition to the new brewery in New York, the company is currently considering moving production to a warehouse space located outside the city, somewhere in the Seattle area, where it can build a larger brewery.
The move would not impact the brewery and taproom in Seattle, where both the beer and the food are absolutely gluten-free. It would, however, free up the Seattle location to focus on products beyond its core offerings, spawning more new, innovative beers.