Booming Brews: Champion taps into mass production

Posted on May 12, 2014 by

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It’s only been about a year-and-a-half since Hunter Smith first opened the doors of the Champion Brewing Co. Tap Room in Downtown Charlottesville, but the buzz of the business has led to rapid growth in size, brewing capacity, and personnel.

hunter smithChampion, which first opened its doors in December 2012, has grown from a neighborhood brewpub to a full-scale mass production company. One of the ways Smith, president and head brewer, has grown his business is by reaching out to other local businesses and breweries for collaboration projects.

Smith, an avid music fan, has even brewed beers inspired by some of his favorite bands, such as NOFX, Against Me!, and The Hold Steady. The Hold Steady even stopped by the downtown brewery during a recent tour to sample some of the Positive Jam brewed in their honor.

However, one of the biggest business accomplishments for Smith and Champion is the new Belmont production facility, aka The Missile Factory, in the Woolen Mills neighborhood. Smith said the lease on the new facility started in September with the brewing and fermenting tanks moving in by February.

Fittingly, Champion’s flagship beer, Missile IPA, was the first beer brewed at the new brewery location. It will also be the first beer canned at the production facility.

Smith recently answered some questions about the brewery’s growth and other milestones for Champion.

How does the brewing capacity at the new site compare to the original location? How big is the space?

The brewing capacity is exactly a 10x replica of our Tap Room brewery, but our production volume will be closer to 20x our annual volume. It’s approximately 10,000 square feet of brewery and office space.
missile factory

The Missile IPA is the flagship beer for Champion and the first beer you brewed at the new production facility. How big of a batch did you brew and when will it be in stores?

We have brewed over 500 barrels of Missile (IPA) and (Killer) Kolsch already! Kegs are already in the market and we’ll be rolling cans out Memorial Day weekend.
missile ipa

What other beers will be canned or bottled and when will they hit store shelves?

We will also be canning the Stickin’ In My (Rye) IPA NoFX collab later in the year.

Where can people find these brews?

Cans and kegs will be available all over the state and in D.C . shortly.

Can you briefly describe some of the personnel changes that have occurred since the brewery first opened?

When we first opened, it was just myself, my wife (Danielle), her brother Jonathan (Richards), and Drew (Carroll). Now we have 4 additional employees, with Sean (Chandler), John (Lindsey), Levi (Duncan), and Josh (Skinner), having doubled our staff. It has been remarkable growth and it’s about all we can handle! It has been great to keep our intimate and crew-focused atmosphere while growing so quickly.
missile factory kegs

You’ve done a lot of collaborations with local businesses and even bands. Are there any special collaborations on the horizon? How have bands reacted to the beers you’ve made?

The bands we work with really love the beers and can’t get enough of them! We have several more collaborations planned throughout the year, including another seasonal beer with Tucker Yoder from The Clifton Inn and a collab beer with Richmond thrash legends Municipal Waste.

What are you most excited about as far as what you’ve been able to accomplish?

I’m most excited about the reaction to our beer! To be able to have a hard time making enough for everyone and to go from a Tap Room into a production brewery within our first year is really more success than we could have hoped for.

Which beer is your favorite?

I don’t want to seem corny or like I’m dodging the question but I don’t think I can pick a favorite beer. I really love Missile, and I’ve really enjoyed all the double IPAs we’ve done.

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