HiJinx Brewing Company Finds New Home In Allentown Business Incubator
By Colin McEvoy on November 24, 2014
When Curt Keck first started the HiJinx Brewing Company, he was making beer from a 55-gallon brewing system out of his 400-square-foot garage in South Whitehall Township. Now, two years later, the company boasts a 10-barrel, 310-gallon system in a 4,000–square-foot space that includes room for 15 fermenters, with a tasting room where customers can sample the beers and purchase growlers.
The HiJinx Brewing Company has found a new home at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, an Allentown-based business incubator operated by the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC). It is one of several businesses to open or announce plans to open at the 905 Harrison Street building in the past year, along with a new meadery and one of the Lehigh Valley’s first distilleries.
“We are excited to be able to grow the company and offer our beers to enthusiasts outside of the Lehigh Valley,” Keck said.
More than 200 people attended the grand opening and ribbon-cutting of HiJinx Brewing Company’s new space on Friday, November 21. The company now has the capacity to produce up to 750 barrels of beer a year, compared to 40 barrels annually when it first began two years ago. HiJinx beers could already be found in about a dozen Lehigh Valley bars or restaurants, but the new capacity means they are starting to appear in such places as Philadelphia, Reading and the Poconos. The company hopes to expand throughout all of Pennsylvania and other northeastern states over the next several months.
The grand opening also means another exciting business for the 64,000-square-foot Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, which is dedicated primarily to manufacturing start-ups. The Colony Meadery began operations in late 2013, becoming the Lehigh Valley’s first producer of mead, an alcohol drink also known as “honey wine” because it is fermented from honey. County Seat Spirits, one of the region’s first distilleries, plans to open by early 2015 and will manufactured aged and un-aged whiskeys, vodka, gin and rum.
But beyond the alcoholic beverage industry, the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center has seen the opening of several innovative companies in the past year, including Gonzo Pockets, which produces specialized mesh for lacrosse stick heads using an inventive new rubberized coating, and Zzyzx Polymers, which uses a revolutionary mixing technology to create plastic compounds. Other companies had already long been thriving at Bridgeworks, such as ColdEdge Technologies, JH Plastics, MTS Ventures and Polymer Contours.
“Our goal is to create an environment that allows our entrepreneurs to focus on starting their companies, and we try to eliminate as many hurdles as we can in that process,” said Anthony Durante, AEDC program manager. “In addition to making mentorship and training immediately available to help the founders accelerate their growth process, we want them to be able to focus on fitting out their space and launching their business. They shoudln’t have to worry about things like electricity, Internet, phone service and basic utilities.”
Founded in 1989 in the refurbished former Mack Trucks Plant 4A, the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center provides resources to help start-ups move through the launch profess to self-sustaining profitability, then graduate into another suitable site elsewhere in the Lehigh Valley. In the case of the HiJinx Brewing Company, the AEDC program had been assisting with the fit-out process since March, which included installing floor drains, bringing utility services into the space, building a bar for the tasting area and installing the brewing system.
Keck and co-founder Chris Becker, now the company’s COO, first met through the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers Club. Both were already accomplished, award-winning brewers, and Keck had previously learned how to run a production brewery by working at two different Lehigh Valley breweries.
HiJinx Brewing Company makes a wide variety of beers including Pitch Penny Ale, an English-style bitter with a mix of malts and hops; Kung Fu Gnome, a Belgian-style ale brewed with Jasmine flowers; Barista’s Choice Coffee Porter, which is brewed with custom-roasted coffee from the Northampton-based Taylor Roasted Coffee House; and Steal Your Face Stout, a malty Imperial Stout with flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, dried fruit and sweet alcohol.
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