MURPHYSBORO — Big Muddy Brewing in Murphysboro is getting a little bit bigger.
Owner Chuck Stuhrenberg has recently purchased two adjacent lots, totaling 9 acres, in the city’s industrial park with plans to add a canning line in March. The new lots will be used to grow barley and wheat for use in his products.
“I hope, in the long run, it’s not only going to save us money, but be better for the environment,” Stuhrenberg said. “The whole trend right now is going local for all your supplies and we’re going to try and grow organically as possible.
“We’ll be incorporating a certain percentage of that grain into every brew that we do on location and will no longer have to ship grain from Canada.”
Big Muddy Brewing has also added a 2,500 square foot storage building that is engineered to accommodate 60-barrel fermenters, opposed to the four 30-barrel and one 15-barrel fermenters that occupy the main facility. The 60-barrel fermenters will greatly increase the business’s capacity when fully utilized.
“A year ago, we had all 15-barrel fermenters,” Stuhrenberg said. “We’ve almost doubled our capacity.”
Since Big Muddy Brewing opened in 2009, Jackson County has seen a sharp increase in interest in the craft beer market. Von Jacob Winery and Brewery, Scratch Brewery and Little Egypt Brewing are all located in the area.
“When I first started, there were no other breweries in Southern Illinois,” Stuhrenberg said. “Since we’ve opened, we’ve got three other breweries and Jackson County probably has the highest number of breweries per capita in the nation.”
Big Muddy Brewing has also been a key sponsor of the Big Muddy Monster Brewfest, which celebrated its fourth year in existence in October 2013 and features a craft brew festival that drew over 50 breweries and more than 200 craft beers last year.
“The big advantage of being local is that you’re keeping the money local,” Stuhrenberg said. “If you’re buying from a retailer, who’s buying from a local brewer, that money’s not going out of the country like 90 percent of beer profit.”
As far as plans for his canning line, Stuhrenberg is hoping to begin selling 16-ounce cans of Galaxy India Pale Ale in March using hops from Australia. It will come in four-packs so that everything will be 100 percent recyclable.
“There will no longer be cardboard for our retailers to deal with,” Stuhrenberg said. “You can even drop the plastic snap tops off at retailers and we’ll reuse those.”
For Southern Illinois Liquor Mart Manager Chad Mathis, the connection with Big Muddy Brewing has been a profitable one. Mathis has worked with Stuhrenberg on a variety of projects, including developing different varieties of bourbon barrel aged beer.
“It’s cool to come out and go through the whole process,” he said. “Milling, hopping, fermentation, tasting and it’s nice to have a hands-on experience too.”
In terms of market trends for 2014, Stuhrenberg said he expects continued growth in the craft beer industry.
“Last year, we were up over 100 percent from the year before,” he said. “If we can keep managing the rapid growth, that’s the most important thing.”
You can visit this brewery, and many more here in Southern Illinois! Check out this link to find local breweries! http://southernmostillinois.com/places-to-visit/attractions/breweries/