“We were really banking on having a successful spring – outdoor seating, a full calendar of events, food trucks – to have that all go away was really hard, but we were determined to keep the business alive and we’re proud of our team for what we’ve accomplished.”
– Laura Lacy, Attic Brewing
CAN-Do! Todd and Laura Lacy tell us how they keep the beer flowing after COVID shuts their doors barely 8 weeks after opening. We get a peek behind the scenes of their brewery’s new canning operation and find out how they’re delivering a little taste of normalcy while we’ve all been sheltering in place. (BONUS: Live beer canning footage begins at 12:18 in video below.)
- I got started brewing when Laura bought me a homebrew kit for my 30th birthday. We were living on Duval Street in Germantown at the time, in an Attic apartment, which is where our name came from. Ever since then we’ve talked about opening our own brewery but never thought we’d actually do it until about 4 years ago.
- When we started canning, we did about 800 cans that first week. Now we average somewhere between 2500 and 3000 cans a week going out of the brewery.
- We’ve got some stuff that we’re working on for Philly beer week (1st week in June) which would have been our first Philly beer week with the taproom open. But we’re brewing some cool releases for that week to continue the excitement of Philly beer week, even though we all can’t be together to celebrate it.
(Transcript from May 12 interview. Please note: If you’d like to order beer, delivery areas and beer varieties change regularly. For the latest, visit Attic’s website)
The Local 0:00
Hi, this is Steve Fillmore with Local Live, where we spotlight cool community stuff in our neighborhood. We’re here today with Todd and Laura Lacy of Attic Brewing. Thank you guys both for being here to speak with us.
Todd Lacy 0:14
Laura Lacy 0:15
Hi. Thanks for having us.
The Local 0:17
So how are things at the brewery today?
Things are going well. So we opened on January 17 and then closed on March 17. So we’re coming up to almost being closed longer than we’ve been open. But we’ve quickly transitioned into canning beer. We have the team behind us getting some beer into cans for customers, and we’ll start getting orders out tomorrow.
The Local 0:47
Just to take a step back. For anyone who’s not familiar with Attic Brewery, and I don’t know anyone who isn’t, but if you could give us just sort of a little snapshot of how you got started here in Germantown.
We had lived here in Germantown, and saw that there was an opportunity to open a brewery. Breweries were popping up all over the city, but none here in our neighborhood. So back in 2016, we started working on a plan to open a brewery and then took us a little while, but we just opened on January 17.
We have a 3000 square foot tap room, which was really cool when it was open. But we have lots of beer have 14 taps, and we brew everything here on site. We’ve got, you know, a really nice support from our neighbors and craft beer lovers all over the city. Some really good feedback on our beer with what we’ve been putting out so far.
And we’re just looking forward to continuing to get our beer through the rest of 2020 and hopefully get the tap room back up and open as soon as possible.
The Local 2:03
Just to take a step back then. This idea has been in the works for a while. I saw in 2010 was when you started homebrewing in Germantown?
Yeah, that’s when I started to homebrew for the first time. Laura bought me a homebrew kit for my 30th birthday. We were brewing on Duval Street in Germantown. We had an Attic apartment – that’s where the name came from – and enjoyed it. And ever since then we’ve talked about opening our own brewery. Never thought we’d actually do it til about four years ago.
The Local 2:35
Okay. So once you got the homebrew kit, how long did it take you before you thought wow, this could be something we could do “for real”, so to speak?
Yes, six, seven years ago.
I think it was, he was always brewing for fun — not really with the intent to ever sell the beer. We had homebrew competitions that we would host with other friends that brewed beer at home.
But I think it was more when we decided that to open a brewery that Todd really started crafting these recipes and improving the quality of the beer. He taught me how to homebrew. And then we started working with maltsters and learning more about hops and yeast and water profiles to really start making those beers into something great.
And most of the first 10 or 12 years that we brewed were all homebrew recipes that we had scaled up. So we had brewed them many times and had a lot of good feedback as we were sampling the beers all over the neighborhood.
The Local 3:54
That’s great and just to fast forward to now where you get everything just in place…and then all of a sudden we get hit with this. So take us through how you pivot to get to the canning and to get your online presence ramped up. How big of a switch was that?
So as the news was coming out about the virus spreading, like most people we really didn’t feel like we had the best information to make decisions on whether or not to stay open.
We had a group of some other brewery owners in the city and we’d be texting each other throughout the day. So right there around mid-March we were still open. We were taking precautions to clean and sanitize, but when March 16th came around and we all had to close.
We just started asking ourselves what are we going to do? How are we going to can the beer? We immediately started looking to purchase the canning equipment and found that there are 7000 breweries, over 7000 breweries who all were trying to get the same equipment. All trying to get their hands on cans. And so we had about two weeks of delay between getting the equipment but we were still able to do the growler fills.
And then it turns out I ordered the wrong size canner so that set us back a little bit — but it was also a blessing in disguise. We were originally going to do the crowlers (32 ounce cans), but ended up getting a machine that could only do 16 ounce cans.
We’re really grateful, Tess and Bill from Triple Bottom Brewing had some 16 ounce cans they weren’t using. And so as soon as the machine arrived, the next day we were canning into 16 ounce cans. Went to Staples, got some paper labels that we were printing out on the printer and just started pumping out cans. We did about 800 cans the first week, and now we average somewhere between 2500 and 3000 cans a week going out of the brewery.
There isn’t a delay getting cans because the stock is back in the country, but now we’re looking (for better canning equipment). What we have now is we can each beer individually with a hand seamer, and we’re looking at purchasing that better equipment but there are long delays. It takes a little bit longer to make that equipment and there’s not as many manufacturers here in the US.
(7:02) Yeah, it’s been really, really wild. But I’m really proud of our team and proud of ourselves to be able to pivot so quickly. We were only open for eight weeks. We were of course, completely strapped for cash. You know, we were really banking on having a really successful March and April with the warmer weather, having outdoor seating, we had a full calendar of events, food trucks, and to have that all go away.
It was really hard, but I think because we were still in that mindset of pushing to get open (we just thought) “Okay, I guess we got to keep going and get back into the routine of the 14 hour days and just keeping the business alive.”
The Local 7:49
It’s really amazing because it also makes you more nimble. We’ve been talking to businesses that already had some kind of delivery function like pizza places. They just simply amped up, you guys had to actually go in a completely different direction. This probably was in your future somewhere. But now all of a sudden it’s here a little faster is what it seems like with the canning.
I said so many times we are not planning on canning our beer. I probably said it hundreds of times. We were really focused on this environmental sustainability. Didn’t want the trash that comes with canning. Recycling has been up and down in this city. And so we were really not focused on it.
And now we will can our beer, probably forever. That it’s just going to be part of our business and there’s no way to know what this is going to look like for the next few months or the next year. And so having that takeout availability is just another secure source of income for us.
The Local 8:58
Todd, to turn to you for just a moment. I read that you were a park ranger at one point. So obviously there’s a love of nature there. There’s a love of the, of the planet. I assume that’s a lot of what you bring to this operation as well.
Yeah, I’m actually still working at the park with the Park Service.
The Local 9:20
Okay, so time outdoors.
Yeah, a lot of teleworking now so more inside stuff. But it definitely comes from that. One of our favorite things to do when we went on vacation was visit breweries, of course, but also to go to national parks. Environmental sustainability is definitely top for us.
The Local 9:41
So to turn to the cans. What are you canning these days? What are the varieties?
We have a pretty good variety of different styles. Our most popular beer, of course are the IPAs, especially the hazy New England style IPAs. We have a new one we just put out last week called Dividing Delta. It’s very juicy, hazy. It’s good. But we’re also finding that our more traditional styles are pretty popular too, like the German Pilsner that we put out a couple weeks ago. Gtown Strutter has really taken off and been popular.
The Local 10:30
Yeah, we got we got one of those here. (Holds up can.)
We also put out a Maibock, a German strong lager, which has been pretty popular too. It’s nice seeing people go in for other styles besides just IPAs, but definitely the IPAs are the most popular.
The Local 10:50
Yeah, I like that you offer a full spectrum. I’m a fan of more towards the malty side of things. Pilsners are definitely in my wheelhouse. Your Libertad lager is pretty amazing too. Those are the beers that I enjoy but if I want to dip my toe into the IPA side of things, I certainly can do that. So it’s great that there’s the whole variety. Let’s take a look at the canning line. Is that running right now?
Yeah, we can show you our process for canning.
The Local 11:26
That would be great.
We’re gonna put our masks that when we get close to our staff here. (11:47) I’m gonna take you behind here. As you can see our whole tap room has been transformed into a little production/canning space and kind of a hub for all of our deliveries and orders. So the bar that everyone used to enjoy their beer on is now covered with printers and laptops.
The Local 12:10
It’s a good reuse of the space.
I know. Right? So I have Brandon here with me and he’s gonna walk us through canning a beer.
The Local 12:22
Thank you, Brandon.
Okay, so we start with the 16 ounce cans. We hand label them all with a blank label and then we can it right from the draft system. So the cans are all rinsed. He pre-rinsed all those cans. We fill them from the bottom — that helps reduce the oxidation of the beer and helps keep it fresh. You get the can nice and full. And it comes in two pieces — you have the can and the lid. And it goes on to our machine there where it gets sealed and then we give it a quick rinse off and then label it with what style beer it is.
The Local 13:20
That is great. That’s fun to watch. I’ve never watched a beer get can before. So pretty cool.
Yeah, we do about three cans per minute when we’re really knocking them out. So you can imagine after doing 12,000 cans, we spend a lot of time canning the beer.
The Local 13:38
To say the least. Yeah. So you’ve got the delivery option. You also mentioned that your most popular way of people getting the beers is to walk up to the brewery there in Germantown, correct?
You still place your order online and then you would just select “pick up”. Because we can all the beers fresh, we don’t have a big stock of beer on hand. So we ask everyone to just place your order online.
If you place it before 2PM, we’ll have it ready for either pick up or we’ll have it delivered to you for free. And you can pick from the styles. The best thing is we do it in a 16 ounce cans and sell them individually. So you can easily mix and match or just get, you know, one or two cans if you want.
You can pick up, just drive up, we do “no contact”. So you can either call and we’ll bring it to your car or you can walk up and we’ll just hand you the bag. But delivery is also an option. We’re happy to do the delivery for free in any of the northwest neighborhoods. Wednesday through Saturday, we do delivery from 2-7PM. But if you order by 2PM we’ll have it delivered to you that day. And we rotate the neighborhoods (we deliver to) every week. This week it’s North Philly Conshohocken, Plymouth Meeting, Brewerytown, Fishtown, Northern Liberties, Willow Grove.
The Local 15:20
That’s quite an quite an area to cover.
Yep. Because we did our WeFunder campaign, having those 307 investors is really paying off for us. We have a bunch of them who live in Conshohocken, so that delivery usually takes about three or four hours.
The Local 15:41
Any new beer varieties you’ll be introducing?
Another IPA course. This week, we’re gonna brew a couple more classic styles like our Cat Boss Approved West Coast IPA. That’s gonna be back on tap soon.
We’ve got some stuff that we’re working on. Philly Beer Week is the first week of June. Which would’ve have been our first Philly Beer Week with the taproom open. But we’re brewing some cool stuff and working on some cool releases for that week to just continue the excitement of it even though we all can’t be together to celebrate it. So we’ve got some stuff in the works.
The Local 16:28
Well, fingers crossed. We’ll see how that goes. But thank you for making time for us. We appreciate it.
Oh, we really appreciate it. Cheers. Have a great day.
The Local 16:41
You too, thanks. Once again, this has been Todd and Laura Lacey from Attic Brewing. If anyone watching this knows someone who owns a local business that could use some love, please email The Local
In the meantime, stop by the Attic and pick yourself up at least a mix pack. We have and I’ll show that one again (holds can of beer up). That is the Gtown Strutter. And we’ve been through the other three cans so we’ll have to be back to hit you guys up again.
Take care guys.