FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. For much of this year, thirsty residents waited patiently for the latest brewing addition in this northern Arizona gateway to the Grand Canyon. Mother Road Brewing expected to come online in spring, then summer, then October.
The first pallet of kegs didnt roll onto the truck until the end of November, headed for Satchmos BBQ.
Flagstaffians love their local beer.
The area now supports the Lumberyard Brewing Co.Flagstaff Brewing Co., Beaver Street Brewery, Mogollon Brewing, Cosmic Distributing Inc., and other regional brews from Oak Creek Brewery in Sedona and Grand Canyon Brewing in Williams.
Mother Road, which sits on the original Route 66, eventually plans to sell its microbrews all along the historic highway. In contrast to many of the breweries in town, Mother Road doesnt sell food and it serves beer on site in the tasting room only from 3 to 7 p.m. each day.
Urs Riner and Michael Marquess and more than a dozen co-owners spent about $500,000 transforming the building from crumbling drywall, bundles of piping and loose wires into a state-of-the-art brewery. For most of the last century, the building was a laundromat.
Theyre starting small, with beer sold at Satchmos, Pizzicletta, Diablo Burger and Monsoon on the Rim.
At the moment, theyre sticking to kegs, but theyve already purchased a small bottling machine that will allow them to sell six-packs and 22-ounce bottles in local stores.
We just wanna make sure weve got enough beer, said Michael Marquess, chief beer officer.
The pair thinks their business is positioned to grow quickly in the coming years.
Although beer sales overall are essentially flat across the country, sales of craft beer grew by 15 percent in the first half of 2011.
The big three are all in decline, Marquess said, but the craft market is still on the rise.
They plan to expand in six months by distributing to other restaurants and stores across the region. In the first year, they expect to sell 700 barrels of beer, which is about 1,400 kegs. They expect that output to double each year for their first three years.
Mother Road isnt shy about praising their competitors and thinks theres more than enough room for all the beer in town.
Were not going to knock anyone local off the shelves, Marquess said. People here are very loyal to their breweries. We all have our favorite beers.
He adds that some days, he likes to drink his competitors beers and others hell stick to his own products.
Even though its only been open a few weeks, the business has strong name recognition in town. It used Facebook and Twitter, as well as a company blog, to allow residents to track their progress. On opening night, the former laundromat was filled to capacity.
We went through a lot of effort to create that buzz, Riner said. The pair opened up the brewery for ArtWalk for months before they actually came online, serving free beer they made in orange Gatorade containers.
Even during the times in production when we were ready to pull our hair out, we still opened the doors to anyone to come by, Riner said. Its really given ownership to a lot of people who will sit at these stools. This is really Flagstaffs brewery.