Ale Asylum on Tuesday finally began bottling beer made at its new brewery, more than two months after the $8 million facility opened on Madison's North Side.
Employees had been working 100-hour weeks to bring Ale Asylum's bottling system on line while beer brewed at the new brewery waited in tanks, co-founder Otto Dilba said.
The bottleneck has led to some liquor and grocery stores to run out of some Ale Asylum beers — a shortage that Dilba said would be resolved "within days" now that the bottling machine is running. The shortages were mostly in the Madison area because that's where Ale Asylum's packaged sales are the highest, Dilba said. Kegging operations were not affected.
"We're working very closely with our distributors to get the product out to the market as fast as we can," he said.
The bottling system, which can fill 277 bottles a minute, covers 8,000 square feet of the new brewery — roughly the size of the previous Ale Asylum facility on Kinsman Boulevard. It was purchased for $800,000 from SweetWater Brewing Co. in Atlanta.
Dilba described the problem with the bottling system as different parts of the complex machine not working together.
"The sheer volume of different apparatus that have to talk to each other is amazing," Dilba said.
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Even as the problems with the bottling system stretched into weeks, Dilba said, the company never considered contract brewing.
"As painful as it is, we'd rather have a bit of a shortage in the market than brew and bottle somewhere else," he said.
It'll be clear when Hopalicious, Mad Town Nut Brown, Ambergeddon and other beer bottled at the new brewery hits the market, Dilba said, as it will be in longneck bottles rather than the squatter "heritage" bottles Ale Asylum has used until now.
Dilba said the problem is not a long-term one that would affect quality or supply in the future, adding that the company appreciates beer drinkers' patience.
Ale Asylum managers expected there would be glitches in opening the new brewery, Dilba said, but they just didn't expect they would be of this magnitude.
"We knew that there would be issues, and we knew where some of our hardest work needed to go into," he said. "(But) it's definitely the unknown unknowns. Thank goodness it's that and not something systemic that was the issue."