Valley brewer expands line to bottle sales

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Laht Neppur's Court Ruppenthal with his first three in house bottled brews. March 12, 2012

WALLA WALLA -- Laht Neppur brewer Matt Black was on a new mission at the end of last year to build outside sales of the Waitsburg brewery's beers.

"The more tap handles you have out there, the more people see your beer," he said at a table in the brewery's downtown Walla Walla Ale House.

And that applies to bottled beer as well.

Now the brewery has those, too, with its first bottling of three brews in 22-ounce bottles. The cost to consumers is $4.60 a bottle. They're also available by a case of 12.

The latest step in Black's and founder Court Ruppenthal's business strategy took place at the end of February. In roughly a week's time, they bottled 240 cases of beer -- a mix of Peach Hefeweizen, Strawberry Cream Ale and India Pale Ale -- for individual sale with the help of a mobile bottling unit.

Now fans can get it on tap, in a keg, a growler or a bottle.

More than just a convenience for Laht Neppur loyalists to pack in their own refrigerators, the new containers are also a vehicle for the 5-year-old company to expand into other markets and, eventually, maybe even retail shelves.

"We've set it all up to go down that road," Black said.

Ruppenthal, the original brewmaster, who continues at the helm of the business, said bottling was the next logical direction for the operation.

Ruppenthal said he'd ultimately like to be able to offer the beers in cans. Most ideally, a warehouse for canning would be the next step in the growth of the business that sprung from a home brewery.

"I wasn't really looking to build an empire of beers," said Ruppenthal, a graduate of Walla Walla Community College's Enology & Viticulture program -- where he and Black met as students.

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