by Nancy Stiles
O'Fallon Brewery (26 West Industrial Drive, St. Charles; 636-474-2337) has become the latest local craft brewer to announce a massive expansion project, following similar news from Urban Chestnut and 4 Hands Brewing Co. O'Fallon owner Jim Gorczyca tells Gut Check he hopes the project will lead to a larger presence in the St. Louis community.
"We want customers to come in and get the feeling of what O'Fallon's all about, meet the brewers and and connect with our brand," he says.
After leaving Anheuser-Busch, Gorczyca bought O'Fallon Brewery in 2011 from the husband-and-wife team who founded it in 2000. Since then, its business model has changed considerably, which Gorczyca says has put O'Fallon back on the map and doubled its sales since 2011. The draft is produced on-site, but currently O'Fallon partners with a brewery in Wisconsin for packaging. The expansion, Gorczyca says, will move all operations to St. Louis, reducing transportation costs and centralizing all operations locally.
Right now the 8,000-square-foot brewery sits in the middle of an industrial park -- "not a real attractive place for people to visit," Gorczyca admits. He wants to keep the brewery in O'Fallon if possible, but says the team is casting a pretty wide net as far as potential locations. O'Fallon wants to expand its ranks as well, from 10 employees to as many as 30 or 40 who will staff a tasting room and retail component.
"We aspire to be considered a strong regional player here in the heartland, but we're out of space. We couldn't do more [here] even if we wanted to," Gorczyca says. "Brewpubs benefit from being able to sell pilot or test batches over the bar to customers and get feedback. That's harder for us to do."
Gorczyca says the O'Fallon brewers test among themselves and with their distributors, but having a bar would allow them to get feedback on how to tweak test batches of new brews. O'Fallon Brewery plans to secure a location and financing by the end of the year, build in 2014 and be open by early 2015.
For now, look for O'Fallon's newest beer, 10 Day IPA, which Gorczyca compares to Double Jack by Firestone Walker, "but even better." There will be a limited amount of draft and packages, but look for it next week in liquor stores and groceries with a large craft-beer selections.