The city's largest craft brewery issued the last call for free public tours on July 21st — at least for the foreseeable future.
For years, Ghost River Brewery has offered tours of its downtown facility, complete with beer samples, every Saturday. But the local demand for more beer has led the brewery to install new equipment and increase their production schedule.
"With last year's bottling expansion and the addition of a new tank this week, we're going to a seven-day-a-week work schedule, so that's why we've suspended our tours," said Ghost River master brewer Chuck Skypeck.
Before, workers did brew on Saturday tour days, but those were often half-days. Now, Skypeck said Saturday will become a full production day.
A new tank, large enough to make 100 kegs of beer every two weeks, was delivered recently. Skypeck expects to have the tank up and running within the week.
Currently, Ghost River produces about 300 kegs of beer every two weeks, and this new tank increases production to 400 kegs.
Although the operation expanded to offer its Ghost River Golden in bottles last summer, Skypeck said this latest expansion will not mean more variety in the bottling market. Instead, they'll be using the extra tank to brew more beer for kegs to be sold in restaurants or for people who rent kegs for parties and special events.
"We can have a batch of Copperhead Red come out every two weeks and a batch of Ghost River Pale every two weeks, but before the next one comes out, those are gone. It's not to our advantage to introduce more labels and packaging when we can't keep up with what we have," Skypeck said. "I'd love to get more product in a bottle, but all we'd be doing is creating more product lines to run out of."
In other words, Ghost River Brewery can't seem to make enough beer to meet the ever-growing demand. That's why Skypeck also said Ghost River has no plans to branch into other markets anytime soon.
Skypeck attended the Music City Brewers Festival in Nashville recently, and he said patron after patron asked him when Ghost River would begin offering their beer in Nashville.
"Shipping beer is not like shipping loaves of bread or any other food commodity. Since we're producing alcohol, there are all kinds of compliance issues in every state and every city," Skypeck said. "That makes it difficult for a small company like us to go into other markets."
Skypeck also has strong feelings about Memphis beer staying local.
"I've always felt like beer is a fresh local product, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to ship beer around the country. It loses flavor, so I don't have a burning desire to conquer the world with my beer," he said.
With the latest expansion, local bars that carry Ghost River may have better luck keeping it in stock. As for tourists and locals looking to sample Ghost River on a free tour, there may still be hope for the future.
"We may eventually try to compress the production schedule and get that tour back," Skypeck said. "But in the short term, I think we need to make sure we're meeting our first priority, which is brewing beer."