GREAT FALLS — Since the launch of the Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company almost three years ago, business has been steadily on the rise. The company with a constant eye on efficiency decided now was as good a time as ever to expand. “We started realizing, hey, we’re not able to make enough beer for what orders are coming in,” said owner Jeremiah Johnson. “Last summer we ended up not being able to fulfill all of our orders.”
The latest additions to the Great Falls-based business include two new 60-barrel fermenters. It brings the total to eight. They’ve also added a second hot liquor tank, allowing them to do more every day. “in the past we would be in a situation where maybe if we brewed a batch of beer and cleaned one tank we would be out of hot water for the day,” said Johnson.
The brewing company also added a new canning line. Before they could can 30 beers a minute, and a 60-barrel batch took a day, maybe longer. The new model has dramatically increased production. “Our new line does 96 beers a minute, it’s impact is immediate,” said Johnson. “If we run that line four days a week for four hours a day, we’re going to be able to can about 80,000 cans per week.”
With Mountain Man Scotch Ale leading the way, the company's seven canned beer products account for about 70 percent of sales. The products are sold in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. Mackenzie River Pizza Company, with stores in 10 states, has exclusive rights to Jeremiah Johnson’s Driftwood Amber Ale. Jeremiah Johnson also owns and operates a neighborhood pub in Couer D’Alene, Idaho.
Johnson is excited about plans for even more expansion in the future. “We’re opening a small batch brewing location where we’ll do about two thousand barrels a year,” said Johnson. “It will be all seasonal beers, experimental beers, one-offs. We’ll kind of get crazy over there and do different things. So it will supplement our core brand.” Johnson won’t say where the new location is but expects it to be open in the fall.
The company is on pace to produce 10,000 barrels, or enough beer to fill 20,000 kegs this year. Johnson says they could reach 12,000 barrels and have the infrastructure to up that number to 15,000 barrels.
Johnson says Covid-19 helped boost the company’s package sales, but also presented some challenges. “There’s been an aluminum can shortage that’s impacted us tremendously,” said Johnson. “We’ve had to find alternatives to our traditional printed cans.”
Johnson remains optimistic. He says the supply chain are loosening up and keg sales have increased just in the last month.