Leaders at West Sixth Brewing knew that one day the Lexington company would expand; co-founder Ben Self just didn't realize it would be so soon.
Sales of beer made in the brewery in the former Rainbo bread factory at West Sixth and Jefferson Streets have grown from 2,000 barrels in 2012, the brewery's first year, to almost 7,000 barrels in 2013, he said.
"We were brewing from 7 a.m. to midnight," Self said. So he and the other folks at West Sixth took a deep breath and expanded the brewery by 13,000 square feet into the middle section of the Bread Box, as the building is now known.
The company is adding a 40-barrel "brewhouse," up from the current 15-barrel capacity; six 80-barrel fermenting tanks; and a 1,200-square-foot cooler that will triple capacity, co-founder Joe Kuosman said.
"This expansion will position us for continued growth over the next few years," said Brady Barlow, another co-founder.
"Lexington has been really supportive for the brewery," Self said. "From Day One, they've been thirsty for more local beer."
West Sixth is giving it to them: The brewery is adding another permanent member to its canned lineup. Lemongrass American Wheat will join West Sixth Amber and its IPA.
"Sometime over the next month, we'll begin canning our newest beer, the Lemongrass American Wheat," said Robin Sither, another co-founder. "This American wheat is brewed with Sorachi Ace hops and nearly 6 pounds of fresh lemongrass in each 15-barrel batch. The Sorachi Ace hop, which originated out of Japan, has a very unique flavor that we believe complements the lemongrass perfectly. It's a craft beer drinker's wheat."
The can design — by local artist Brian Turner of Cricket Press — resembles West Sixth's IPA can but in teal and yellow.
"Ever since we introduced the West Sixth Amber in cans last year, we've heard time and time again that our fans want more options in a can," Self said. "Obviously printing 200,000 cans of a new design is a big undertaking, but we're excited to offer it."
The Lemongrass American Wheat will be rolled out on draft and in cans over the next six weeks throughout Kentucky and in Cincinnati.
The expansion also will free up opportunities to make more small-batch and experimental beers, such as Snakes in a Barrel, an imperial stout aged in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels, and more seasonal releases, Self said.
West Sixth's Christmas Ale sold out in two days, he said, so the company plans to offer more seasonal releases this year.
Despite the surprising success, Self said West Sixth plans to stay small enough to remain community-focused, with events such as "Sixth for a Cause," which highlights local non-profits, and weekly running and yoga clubs.
On Thursday, a Sixth for a Cause event in Cincinnati, "Hops for Hippos," will raise money for the Cincinnati Zoo.