October 16, 2018

Wachusett Brewing Co. expansion could double production

Wachusett Brewing President Christian McMahan

Wachusett Brewing Co. is planning an expansion that could nearly double the brewery's production and help attract more customers to the Westminster-based facility. In an interview with WBJ, President Christian McMahan spoke about the expansion plans he called the "campus project."

How long have you guys been working on these plans?

We've done things in piecemeal over the last few years, so in the last six months or so, we took a step back to think about the long term vision we have for this space and everything that's required to take it where we want to go from a brewery capacity standpoint and retail space. We thought through what we'll need for the next few years.

How will production be impacted by the project?

Last year we did 70,000 barrels and this year we hope to do about 80,000. The brew house was really sold out from April to August and we couldn't make a drop of more beer than we did. Our new plans will increase capacity up to 130,000 barrels which we hope will be enough over the next few years.

What kind of equipment is being added?

We're adding new fermentation tanks and installing a new canning line. It's not a massive overhaul, but just some really smart equipment decisions to make us more efficient and better for the next couple years.

We've been in the same building since 1994 and we've slowly been adding equipment. This is just us doing a well thought out plan.

When is the project expected to be completed?

We're hoping to get it all on by the spring. Our goal is to really break ground over the winter and be up and running by March 2019.

Will the Brew Yard be touched as part of the project?

We're expanding the Brew Yard itself into a more permanent space. We hope next spring we'll have the indoor brew yard and tented version become a more permanent space along with the outdoor area.

The brewery has grown a ton in recent years. Is the brewery becoming more of a destination?

There's a theory out there that the retail business takes away from the distribution business, but what we're learning here is quite the opposite. Our growth in North Central Massachusetts in the towns and cities surrounding is double the rest of Worcester County and surrounding markets.

The Brew Yard has really been the best marketing tool for our distribution business. We continue to grow and be one of the rare breweries that's been around for 24 years and is still brewing and learning the new business model of how our distribution and retail businesses work together.

Wachusett is behind only Boston Beer Co. and Harpoon in state craft beer production. Could you guys one day top those two?

There's plenty of it for all of us and we're still able to support local breweries we work with. There's no competition among us with each other. There's still a lot of beer being sold.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.

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