Wey•er•bach•er (wī′ • әr • bӓk′ • әr), n. the original spelling of the Weirback family name used by the first immigrants from Germany about 200 years ago. The spelling has morphed slightly over time, but we thought the original was best for the brewery.
Phonetically that’s “wy-er-bock-er” or “why-er-bock-er”
How it came to be
Weyerbacher Brewing Company was founded in 1995 by Dan and Sue Weirback.
In the beginning, I was an avid homebrewer and big fan of the blossoming new craft beers that were hitting the market. One weekend in late 1993 while vacationing in Vermont, Sue and I toured the Long Trail brewery, back when it was in the basement of an old mill. I was looking for a new business to get into but it was Sue who suggested we start thinking about starting our own brewery.
Nearly two years later, Weyerbacher Brewing Company was born in a livery stable in downtown Easton, PA. Launched in August of 1995, the original concept was to make some mainstream microbrews, like a Pale Ale and ESB. Boy did we take a wrong turn! In 1997 we brewed our first big beer, Raspberry Imperial Stout, which happened to be one of Dan’s favorite homebrew recipes. As hard as it was to get people to care about another “Pale Ale” in a sea of pale ales, people seemed to stand up and take notice of Raspberry Imperial Stout. The following year we brewed Blithering Idiot Barleywine and began brewing Belgian beers as well, like our Merry Monks’ Ale (originally called “Belgian Style Tripel”). This was the time when our path was set. “Let’s make full-flavored high-quality brews for a discerning customer.” We haven’t looked back.
From 1998 to 2001, we also ran a brewpub at the same site. It was a great vehicle for getting the beer into the hands and mouths of a greater number of people. Cozy, friendly, and warm, it was a fantastic success, but that success came at a cost. As a struggling small company with limited personnel, it became difficult to run two different businesses at the same time. I was brewing from early morning to mid-day and running the kitchen for the afternoon and evening. The retail sales were beginning to pick up steam and it was clear that we would soon outgrow the space we were in, which was only about 4500 sq. ft. We made the decision to move to a larger, more modern facility at the end of 2001. Sadly, for our many loyal customers, that meant the end of the pub as well. Once we settled into the new place, and were no longer in the restaurant business, we could concentrate on improving the quality and constancy of our brews and our packaging.
The building itself was not just bigger, but much more conducive to producing beer. By that I mean that it was a whole lot easier to move two thousand pound pallets of beer around than in a two-story barn. We have since expanded further and now have nearly 20000 sq. ft. of space with plans on expanding. We have also expanded our sales territory substantially to 18 states including most of the Atlantic coast states in addition to Ohio, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
Our new facility, also allowed for growth and improvement in our equipment. Our 10bbl brewhouse required a tremendous amount of labor to produce the quantity of beer we needed. With the end of 2005, we welcomed our new 25bbl brewhouse which we purchased from our friends at Victory Brewing Company. It is a fantastic brewhouse. The increase in quality was astounding. It helped us produce cleaner tasting beers while doubling our output. That’s a nice combination.
From day 1, we used a small bottling line called a “Meheen”. It worked great when we were small, but our workloads got larger and larger and the hours got longer and longer. By the summer of 2007, the bottling guys were coming in at 7am and were working until 7, 8, or “until”. This was about to cause a revolt! It was clear that a change had to be made. Bottling lines are expensive! We were not sure if we could make it happen, but while searching the web for equipment listings I came across an old 1976 Krones rotary filler in Canada that was in our price range. Chris Lampe, our Production Manager, and I were on a plane to Winnipeg by the end of the week. The machine had sat unused for 3 years or so but was in fabulous condition. While discussing the lineage of the machine, it was discovered that a former employee of Krones, Peter Markl, had started a company refurbishing and updating these old lines and this machine was one of his babies. The machine was quickly purchased and was moved to our plant. Lampe and his crew got the machine in place, replaced gaskets, and made enough adjustments to get it working. We thought it would be a good idea to have the guy responsible for the rebirth, so we flew Peter in from Germany a few weeks later to make some tweaks and replace a few more parts that had the machine running like a cheetah. Our top speeds on the Meheen were at around 100 cases per hour and this machine was doing nearly 250 cases per hour. Now that’s improvement.
We have also upgraded the brewhouse with a new 40bbl boiling kettle and a 40bbl whirlpool. These two vessels allow us to make 40bbls of beer at a time rather than 20bbls. We are continually trying to add new equipment and new people to the organization to help us continue to make great flavorful beers!
In the future, we will strive to keep the spirit of creativity and our passion for flavor the focus that drives us.