MESA -- There's a simple reason why Chandler's SanTan Brewing Company decided to build a brand new brewing facility — and it's one that appears to be a good sign for progress of this particular East Valley beverage business.
"It was like fitting 10 pounds into a five-pound sack," said SanTan owner and head brewer Anthony Canecchia.
The new space near Warner Road and Arizona Avenue will allow SanTan to nearly triple its output, from 14,000 barrels of beer annually to 40,000.
The brewery opened in 2007 when the concept was still fairly new to the East Valley, save for one or two pioneers in neighboring cities. Now it's preparing to christen its new facility in April or May, depending on how quickly they can get the doors open.
SanTan's original location at 8 S. San Marcos Place will continue to serve customers food and signature brews, and the new facility will free up the old brewing center on that site to create new flavors in limited editions and to try new ideas, Canecchia said.
"It allows us to start getting as creative as we want to be in our downtown location," Canecchia said. "It will allow us to start do the beers we always wanted to brew but have never been able to because of production."
Canecchia said the brewery's current retail production will move to the new facility, where the company can expand its market outside of a tightly local distribution ring.
"Ninety percent of what we produce is sold and consumed within 50 miles of the brewery in just a few weeks' time," Canecchia said.
Canecchia said the growth of SanTan is a "good sign" of the economy's slow recovery; the new brewing center is occupying an industrial space that was built in 2008 but never gained a resident as the economy tanked that year.
Canecchia said craft beer is on it way up because of the "buy local" campaigns and that it has stronger more unique flavors than the large national breweries that distribute across the country.
"'Buy local' is a nice marketing term but it's also a reality," Canecchia said. "People are buying local, drinking local, making local."
Canecchia, who has been brewing beer since 1992 and doing it professionally since 1995, said SanTan has 125 employees and will 25 more positions for the new facility, including labor jobs but he is also looking for a quality control supervisor and other experienced positions.
Canecchia said he believes beer consumers' demands for stronger and new flavors are driving the market and for this reason, he said that fellow breweries are not his competitors and in fact, he said, "II always say if you don't drink our beer, drink craft beer."
That's because Canecchia believes craft breweries are actually colleagues and are working together to take market share from the national brands.
He points out that national brands sell 30 million cases of beer in the Valley alone annually where SanTan sold about 140,000 cases.
"We've got a big pie to keep chopping away at," Canecchia said.
Canecchia said he's glad the new facility is also in Chandler.
"It was very important to us to be able to stay in Chandler. We worked very hard to make sure we found a building inside Chandler," Canecchia said. "I was joking every time we would go look at a building in Tempe, Mesa, Avondale or Gilbert, I thought I was cheating on Chandler. The city has been so supportive."