Last year, Taylor decided it was time to go big and invested over $4,000,000 to build a brand new state-of-the-art brewing and bottling facility on Clifton Avenue near 23rd Avenue North and Charlotte. Originally, plans called for nice offices and a fancy tasting room, but ever the pragmatist Taylor decided if he was going to spend money, it had better go toward making better beer. Eventually he opened a 15,000-square-foot building that is primarily a manufacturing facility, so it's not that conducive to groups of tourists getting in the way of the brewing and bottling process.
But when you've got something that cool, it's only natural to want to share it with people. So Taylor agreed to sell a number of tours and tastings on Groupon. Apparently, there were more than a few folks interested in what they had going on in that building, because 2,400 of the Groupons were snatched up in no time. It might have had something to do with the incredibly generous deal that Blackstone offered. For $20, Groupon purchasers bought tours for two people, a tasting of all of Blackstone's offerings including the rare Belgian-Style Tripel, a commemorative pint glass, a four-pack of Blackstone's four flagship brews and a coupon good for another tasting at the brewpub. Yeah, I can see why 2,400 people might want in on that deal.
Since they can only take 20 people at a time during the tour and they have to work around the all-important production schedule of the brewery, Taylor will now be giving these tours for the next, oh I don't know, hundred weekends. So if you were lucky enough to snag one of those Groupons, you're in for a treat. If not, hopefully they'll have a chance to open the tours to the public after they get through the backlog and Kent takes a well-deserved vacation.
Taylor is a really enthusiastic tour guide, and it's easy to tell that he loves his work. His desire to make the kind of beer he likes is the centerpiece of every decision made in the building. Kent loves ales, so guess what? They make ales. He's not fond of the sulfur characteristics of lagers, so don't expect to see any of those coming from Blackstone any time soon. Taylor wanted to try to buy all American-made equipment, and he did manage to buy a used bottling line from Magic Hat. But no American manufacturer that he examined could maintain the degree of precision he wanted in the control of the boil during the brewing process, so Taylor bought the best German gear available.
Rather than buy the biggest tanks to maximize production, Blackstone believes in making smaller batches more often to provide fresher beer. Storage is the cheapest part of the brewing process, and the building was designed to easily add more brewing equipment to expand production in the future. There is ample space behind the building for more storage to be constructed if they need it. In fact, thanks to some contract brewing that they are doing for Schlafly, the new facility is already running at close to capacity.
Now that Blackstone's beers are being bottled for sale in Kroger, Publix and Harris Teeter, they expect that expansion is in their near future plans. Once the tour reached the tasting, it became apparent why sales are growing so quickly. Taylor is passionate about his product, and it shows through in the beer. As he led the group through the flight of four beers, teaching us all what to look for when tasting, he stopped several times to lean against the podium and exclaim, "Man, I really love this beer."