Only in a county with roughly 160 operating brewhouses could Belching Beaver Brewery fly under the radar the way they have over the past seven years. Few local beer fans know it, but it is a big-time operation; the 99th largest U.S. brewery by volume, in fact, according to owner Tom Vogel. This was accomplished with zero investors and accumulation of very little debt compared to many of the North San Diego County business’ industry contemporaries. And they’re not done growing—not by a long shot.
Belching Beaver recently acquired 24,000 square feet of additional space catty-corner to the company’s Oceanside headquarters. This brings the Oceanside campus to just under 49,000 square feet total. The new space will primarily be designated for beer packaging and manufacturing a line of Belching Beaver-branded hard seltzers.
“[Belching Beaver Brewery Tavern and Grill brewer] Thomas Peters brought hard seltzers up a while back. We are always looking for fun, new things to do,” says Belching Beaver owner Tom Vogel. “Hard seltzers are doing well in the market. Having the extra square-footage and an extra canning line gives us ample room and ability to get into new product lines.”
Belching Beaver’s seltzers will be made with fresh fruit. The initial edition, which was recently produced by head brewer Troy Smith, will incorporate mangoes and oranges. Future varieties will draw on acai berries, blueberries and raspberries. Vogel and company have decided to go with neon packaging for a fresh look that will diversify the seltzers from Belching Beaver’s beers at market.
In other news, the company has struck a deal with the owners of Ensenada’s famous party-spot Hussong’s Cantina to revitalize its brand by brewing its official beer. A mutual friend connected Vogel with Hussong’s ownership team, who came over and tried Belching Beaver’s award-winning Buenos Tiempos Mexican-style lager. It won them over and a deal was struck. This project is of particular significance to Vogel, who used to frequent Mexico—and Hussong’s—during his days as a college student at San Diego State University.
Mexico isn’t the only international arena Belching Beaver is playing in. In recent months, it began distributing its beer in Japan and Canada. Already, the company has taken first place in the Dark Beer category at the Japan Brewers Cup and Best Specialty Beer, Best of U.S.A. and Best of Show at the Canadian International Beer Awards for its Peanut Butter Milk Stout. The company is on target to finish the year having produced 40,000 to 45,000 barrels of beer, with the two new international territories receiving around 8,000 case-equivalents.