SanTan Brewing Company not only survived the recession but thrived in it, and the Chandler brewery showed off its latest reward this week.

SanTan officially unveiled its 35,551-square-foot distribution facility, 495 E. Warner Road, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday evening. The facility is a long way from the kitchen table of owner and brew master Anthony Canecchia’s father, where the company first was hatched.

Tribune Video: SanTan Brewing Company's new facility

“I didn’t know it would turn into this,” Canecchia said. “This is what happens when you plan well and your community supports you. We built SanTan in the worst economy in 80 years. Literally, four months after we opened the recession started.”

SanTan last year was rated the country’s 14th fastest growing craft brewery by The New Yorker, after the company upped its production from 5,800 barrels in 2011 to 10,500 in 2012. SanTan maxed out its downtown Chandler facility earlier this year before it moved production to the new plant.

The new $6 million facility — with 15 new employees since March and 10 more expected by the end of the year — is currently running at a 16,000-barrels-per-year pace. SanTan could brew 40,000 barrels at the new plant, with plenty of room for future expansion.

“It means at some point soon we’ll be begin exporting Arizona’s favorite craft beer out of state,” Canecchia said.

Canecchia hopes that expanded distribution — and bringing tax dollars back to Arizona — begins sometime next year. The biggest hurdle, among several, he said is quality control.

“We’re very fortunate that we currently sell our beer within 70 miles of our brewery and usually within three or four weeks. That will change when we go out of market and shelf life will become important,” Canecchia said.

As his company searched for an expansion facility Canecchia said it felt like cheating every time it looked beyond Chandler’s borders.

“It was important to us to keep our investment and our money in Chandler,” he said, which drew a smile from Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny.

“SanTan is a true success story in Chandler and a true entrepreneurial success in the U.S.,” Tibshraeny said.

SanTan, rated as one of the 10 best breweries in the Phoenix area and earlier this year named the Chandler Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, has canned its four core beers — Devil’s Ale, HefeWeizen Wheat, Epicenter Amber Ale and HopShock I.P.A. — for two years and recently became the first brewery in Arizona to can its seasonal offerings.

SanTan opened its downtown Chandler brewery/restaurant, 8 South San Marcos Place, in 2007 with 27 employees. The company now employees 135 people and recently completed a $4 million addition to the downtown facility.

Canecchia said he hopes to continue to grow barrel production by 50 percent each year, and work with the Arizona Brewer’s Guild to increase the allowable state limit of 40,000 barrels before SanTan reaches that mark.

As for SanTan’s original brewery, it will still be used for specialty batches and limited releases.

“We’re going to use it as a creative outlet for our brewers, including myself,” Canecchia said. “Basically, we’ll treat the public like a laboratory down there and do a lot of (research and development).”

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