PHOTOS: How Summit will double beer production

Bottoms up! St. Paul’s Summit Brewing Co. took delivery of four 18,600-gallon stainless steel fermentation tanks today.

By July, Summit will install a dozen of the new 45-foot-tall vessels, allowing the brewery to double its beer-making capacity.

Under its original plan, Summit wouldn’t have even broken ground on the 7,600 square foot addition until June, but in 2012 it nearly maxed out the 120,000 barrel capacity of its brewery.

“We were not able to fill orders, and in fact we had to cut back on production brews of certain things like our Oktoberfest and our Summer Ale,” president Mark Stutrud said.

The $13 million privately financed expansion is the largest capital investment the company has made since it moved to its current location in 1998.

The new fermentation “cellar” (which is actually above ground) will be highly automated to the point that Summit has added only one additional brewer to operate the equipment.

Selling all that extra beer, on the other hand, will take more bodies, Stutrud said. The company’s budget calls for adding 5 new positions in sales and marketing this year.

Summit produced 113,000 barrels of beer last year, behind August Schell Brewing in New Ulm, which produced more than 130,000. Schell’s is also planning a big expansion this summer, which will boost its production capacity to 250,000 barrels.