By Karl Henkel
The popularity of Rust Belt Brewing Co. has grown so much since the brewery’s debut in late 2008 that its owners say it is time to expand.
Ken Blair, Daniel McCarthy and Nick Rosich, founders and owners of the Youngstown-based microbrewery, have launched a campaign to raise $30,000 to outsource some of its production to a contract brewer, revamp its human-intensive bottling process and expand into new markets.
The owners say if the campaign can raise those funds by April 14, they will move forward with their expansion plans.
Those interested in donating to the campaign can do so by visiting http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1411104243/craft-brewery-expansion-project.
“Kickstarter is an unorthodox way to raise funding, but we thought we would give it a try,” Blair said via email.
The brewery has struggled to meet rising demand for its product, especially after it introduced four of its beers — the Irish Red Ale,
Blast Furnace Blond Ale, Coke Oven Stout and Old Man Hopper’s IPA — in six-packs late last year.
Beer was previously available in 22-ounce bottles; the switch to standard 12-ounce bottles doubled labor time, including labeling and boxing, which still is done by hand.
Rust Belt had increased its total volume output from Year 2 to Year 3, from 400 barrels to about 600, at its facility inside the historic B&O Train Station.
Initial orders for six-packs tripled demand late last year.
Demand continues to grow.
Stores with local locations such as Marc’s, Bottom Dollar Food and Giant Eagle carry Rust Belt products. Heidelberg Distributing Co., Ohio’s largest craft-beer distributor, also picked up Rust Belt products last year.
Blair said that Heidelberg plans to place an additional order of approximately 800 cases should Rust Belt meet its goal. The distributor, which orders about 100 for the Akron-Cleveland area presently, plans to expand toward Columbus and Cincinnati once Rust Belt can supply the inventory, Blair said.