August 26, 2014

Turlock craft beer maker plans $10 million expansion

Dust Bowl Brewing Co. is planning a major expansion that would more than quadruple its production capacity in a new Turlock facility.

Dust Bowl Brewing Co. is planning a major expansion that would more than quadruple its production capacity in a new Turlock facility.

The locally owned craft beer maker expects to invest $10 million on the Fulkerth Road project.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Brett Tate, 52, who founded Dust Bowl five years ago. “It will set us up to be a regional brewery.”

If all goes as planned, construction will start in November, and the 30,000-square-foot complex will open next summer. Before that can happen, Turlock’s Planning Commission must approve Dust Bowl’s permit application at its Nov. 6 meeting.

What’s proposed is more than just a brewing and bottling facility. It would include a retail visitors center and tasting room, with a large open patio and business office.

Dust Bowl’s popular downtown Turlock restaurant on West Main Street, the Tap Room, will remain unchanged.

Last summer, Tate and his partner, Brett Honore, purchased 5.4 acres of open commercial land near Fulkerth Road and Dianne Drive, west of Highway 99. Initially only about half of that $500,000 parcel would be developed, leaving room for future expansions.

The brewery’s production now is packed into a 2,100-square-foot warehouse on Spengler Way, which Tate purchased in late 2008.

“We’re at capacity there now,” Tate said. That industrial-like location “is not a place for the public,” he said, so it’s not suited to meet his company’s expansion plans.

Dust Bowl produces about 4,000 barrels of beer annually, which is 124,000 gallons. The new brewery could produce 17,000 barrels (527,000 gallons) to start, and grow from there.

“As production increases, we definitely will have more jobs available,” assured Tate, noting that his company has eight to 10 people working in its brewery. “That amount could double, mostly in the sales and packaging areas.”

An additional 25 to 30 employees would continue to work at the Dust Bowl’s restaurant.

The new production location would be visible from the highway, which should make it a convenient attraction.

The tasting room would enable visitors to sample Dust Bowl’s many brews.

“We’ve made close to 50 beer varieties over the years, some of which are seasonal and others were one-offs,” said Tate, explaining that customers like that diversity of flavors.

Tate launched the company during the Great Recession.

“It definitely was a calculated risk,” Tate recalled. Besides the bad economy, he said, “craft beer hadn’t taken hold in the Valley yet, like it had elsewhere.”

That’s changed. Tate said his business is booming, with the Tap Room attracting more than 100,000 visitors per year.

“It’s been a huge success in downtown Turlock,” Tate said.

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