At last, Notch Brewing founder Chris Lohring will have his very own brewery.
Lohring, who launched the session-minded Notch as a contract craft brand in 2010, today signed a lease for a 6,000 sq. ft. research & development facility on the outskirts of Boston.
Located at 283 Derby Street in downtown Salem, Mass., a coastal town 40 minutes north of Boston, the new brewery will feature 5,000 sq. ft. of brewery and taproom space as well as a 1,000 sq. ft. for an outdoor beer garden.
Lohring actually began his search last year and had negotiated leases on multiple locations, but all of those deals fell through.
The newly leased Notch brewery in Salem will feature a 10-barrel brewhouse that will be used primarily as a proving ground for new product introductions, Lohring said. Consumer favorites could eventually come to life in larger quantities at Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, Conn. or Mercury Brewing in Ipswich, Mass., the company’s current contract brewing partners.
“The whole intent is for us to focus on multiple iterations of certain styles and graduate what has been successful to Two Roads for larger production runs,” he said.
The brewery will also lean toward production of low alcohol lagers and feature both open and closed fermentation vessels, Lohring said. It and will initially be capable of producing 2,000 barrels annually, an amount that could eventually be scaled to 5,000 barrels and beyond.
Most of the beer will be packaged in kegs, for now, but Lohring said he also hopes to utilize a mobile canning company to package limited release offerings like the ones found in the company’s Single Series.
Specific investment figures were not disclosed, but Lohring said Notch secured a loan from MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency, and raised additional capital by selling equity to new and existing investors.
The project will cost more than $1 million, he said.
“It was more expensive than I imagined. Stainless certainly isn’t getting any cheaper,” he said.
Coinciding with the launch of its first brewing location, Notch will also look to expand distribution throughout New England and hire additional sales representatives, Lohring said. The brand is currently only sold in Massachusetts and Maine, but Lohring said he’s already planning to launch in New Hampshire as well as a “few” more southern states.
“Our story is really rooted in session beer and producing in other people’s facilities,” he said. “That story is hard to tell. This gives us a home and it gives us an easier selling story. Once we solidify our Salem brewery, we will look to expand.”
Notch’s space is a much less ambitious build out than the newly launched Lord Hobo Brewing, which opened its doors in nearby Woburn, Mass. last month. Led by famed Northeast publican Daniel Lanigan, the 47,000 sq. ft. brewery is already capable of producing 20,000 barrels of beer annually.
A handful of other Boston-area craft players are also bringing additional capacity online. Framingham-based Jack’s Abby will move into a 67,000 sq. ft. facility later this year and immediately increase brewing capacity to 50,000 barrels; Boston’s Trillium Brewing is building out a second, 16,000 sq. ft. location in Canton, Mass. that will eventually be capable of producing 35,000 barrels annually; Upstart Castle Island Brewing also plans to open later this year in a 20,000 sq. ft. space in Norwood, Mass. that will be capable of brewing more than 45,000 barrels annually.
Lohring, however, said he is content with a smaller footprint and continuing to scale via contract production.
“I have been patient with this project,” said Lohring. “Some people are jumping in right now and building a lot of capacity and taking on a lot of debt. That scares the hell out of me and I don’t want to be involved in that game.”
Taking that approach comes with a “high degree of risk” that Lohring said he’s not willing to take.
“I have been through a shakeout before. Maybe that clouds my decision making, but it has made me more conservative,” he added.
Indeed, 22 years ago Lohring signed a lease for what would become the Tremont Brewery in Charlestown, Mass., the beer company he co-founded and would eventually sell to Shipyard Brewing in 2005.
Notch will sell more than 5,000 barrels of beer in 2015, Lohring said.