Alltech’s craft brewing operation is booming, with sales up 17 percent in 2015, according to founder Pearse Lyons, who addressed those attending the brewing and distilling session of the annual global Alltech conference Monday.
The company is operating a new larger brew house at the Lexington headquarters on Cross Street as well as the smaller one it is replacing.
But Alltech plans to refurbish that brew house and move it to Puebla, Mexico, to make its two Mexican-style beers, Pico de Orizaba Clara and Pico de Orizaba Negra. They plan to open that new brewery in 2017.
That follows Alltech’s strategy in other countries. Buying small breweries in Britain and Ireland has given the Kentucky-based company a path for distribution, Lyons said.
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The Mexican brewery will be at least Alltech’s sixth, following Lexington, one already operating in Bowling Green with Western Kentucky University, one under construction in Pikeville, and two overseas.
The Lexington brewery is exploring other options and is working on a “hard” or alcoholic tea that will be aged in barrels just like the popular ale, Lyons said.
One thing they are unlikely to do anytime soon: a sour beer, a type popular with other craft breweries.
“I hate sour beer,” Lyons said.
But, he said, his son, Mark Lyons, who spearheading Alltech’s operations in China, “loves them. So you may have to wait for the passing of the mantle for that.”
Pearse Lyons said he does not see any chance that Alltech, which is actually a global animal feed supplements company, will sell off the beer and spirits segment.
“It’s part and parcel of our image,” Lyons said. Mark Lyons and Patrick Lin, who sells Alltech’s beer in China, said that Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale plays a key role in the company’s promotional events. Chinese really enjoy American holiday celebrations, Lin said — particularly the Kentucky Derby, which has become quite popular there.
Alltech also plans to expand into China, Mark Lyons said.
“Certainly we will have a brewery in Asia, possibly in China,” Mark Lyons said. But the regulatory environment is becoming more challenging with the Anheuser-Busch/SAB Miller merger, which will have global consequences.