With Site Approval, Wachusett Moves Ahead on Expansion
WESTMINSTER -- Gearing up for its 25th anniversary, Wachusett Brewing Company has a long-term vision in town that involves expanding its facility to welcome more guests and increase beer production by up to 500,000 cases a year.
“It’s a more well-thought out plan for how the facility runs,” said President Christian McMahan.
The Planning Board unanimously approved the brewery’s site plan for expansion at its Tuesday meeting.
Wachusett Brewing looks to install four 800-barrel fermentation tanks purchased from Seattle, he said. They would be located in the back of the property near existing tanks.
A concrete foundation would need to be installed to stand the tanks up and electrical and drainage work would need to be completed, McMahan said.
The brewery produced about 70,000 barrels of beer last year, he said, and is expected to brew 80,000 by the end of December.
Wachusett is the second largest brewery in the state behind Harpoon Brewery in Boston and was named one of the top 50 craft breweries in the country by the Brewers Association, McMahan said.
Expansion plans have been nicknamed the “campus project” because it also includes improvements for Wachusett’s Brew Yard, he said. The outdoor area opened last year and has attracted visitors from beyond the region.
There would be more outdoor seating and a post-and-beam structure would be put in to make the tent area more permanent, McMahan said, which would help the brewery host functions there.
Currently, the area houses rows of picnic tables, a stage for live music, and a food truck that serves pretzels, sandwiches and other appetizers.
A 50-by-40-foot structure would be added to a front corner of the brewery to house tanks, according to Wachusett’s site plan.
He said other needs like storage would help the facility run better.
McMahan said they’re hoping to have the expansion done by mid to late spring in 2019. Wachusett is working on getting local permits and lining up contractors so that construction can begin, he said.
The brewery wanted to present expansion plans to the board as one vision so that it wouldn’t have to come back every six months when someone had a new idea, McMahan said.
“I don’t think they’re done yet,” said Town Planner Stephen Wallace.
He said the town has had a good relationship with Wachusett.
“We’re happy to help them stay in town,” Wallace said. “They’ve been our fastest growing business in town.”
Another factor for Wachusett’s expansion is parking.
The brewery has been working with the Board of Selectmen on an agreement that would allow them to use town land across the street as a parking area.
Selectmen said during an August meeting that a zoning amendment may be needed to allow that use.
The brewery, which opened in Westminster in 1994, started out as an operation in a former business center.
Founder Ned LaFortune grew up in town and worked on his father’s farm, McMahan said. People in Westminster have worked at the brewery over the years and feel an emotional connection to it.
“It’s something people in North Central Mass take pride in,” he said.
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