Startup reinforces Lincoln as brewing equipment mecca


Startup reinforces Lincoln as brewing equipment mecca Matt Rennerfeldt and Jon Marco helped Norland International start up its beer brewing equipment business a couple of years ago, but instead of sticking around to watch American Beer Equipment grow into one of the largest companies of its kind, they decided to strike out on their own.Water Purification Equipment A year ago, the two formed Alpha Brewing Operations, and just like their former employer, they are seeing rapid growth thanks to a boom in craft brewing.

"The business has just exploded," said Marco, the company's vice president.According to data from the Brewers Association, craft beer sales were up 17.6 percent last year while overall beer sales were relatively flat.Marco said an average of two new craft breweries are opening every day around the world, and Alpha, despite being in existence just a year, is getting in on a significant amount of that business. Rennerfeldt said the company, which has an 11,000-square-foot operation tucked into an industrial area off of 56th Street and Fletcher Avenue in northeast Lincoln, is producing three complete brewery systems a month, at an average price of $275,000 apiece.

Based on their business plan, they've blown past projections for their first year and already are exceeding the level of business they expected in year three.They've grown from two employees to 10 and already are looking at a physical expansion, hoping to buy the building in which they currently lease space so they can more than double their production area. Nine of those employees work in Lincoln and most are former employees of American Beer Equipment. The one employee who's not in Lincoln works in China.That's where Alpha has all its tanks fabricated. Having a dedicated employee there full time ensures they are of the right quality, Marco and Rennerfeldt say.

Once the tanks arrive in Lincoln, Alpha employees add the "guts," electrical wiring, motors, dials and valves. They also customize each tank with neon green handles and knobs on each tank -- the colors of their logo. "People think that's just a cool factor -- no one else does that," Rennerfeldt said.Being a startup company also adds a cool factor, and it's an element that to some degree helps Alpha land business without having much of a track record."I thought, 'we're a startup company, they're a startup company, I feel good about this,'" said Jon Cross, who is opening Call to Arms Brewing Company in Denver. Cross, who has extended family from Lincoln and is a Husker fan, said he originally looked at tanks from American Brewing Equipment, but once he found out about Alpha, he took a look at what they had to offer and was sold.




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