Trillium Brewing co-owner Jean-Claude Tetreault is one step closer to realizing his dream of owning a true farmhouse brewery in New England.
The Boston-based beermaker today announced plans to expand with a second production facility in Canton, Mass., about 18 miles south of the company’s tiny, 2,300 sq. ft. outpost in the up-and-coming Fort Point neighborhood of Boston.
Trillium — one of only three breweries located in the city of Boston — last month signed a 10-year lease agreement on the new 16,000 sq. ft. property, and will immediately be able to ramp up production and finally expand its market presence to hundreds of retailers, both on-premise and off.
The project, which is being financed with a combination of bank loans (from Bank of America) and cash flow, is still awaiting federal and state approvals, Tetreault said.
Slated to open at the end of 2015, Trillium Brewing Canton will initially feature a 30-barrel DME brewing system and six 90-barrel fermentation tanks, giving the company enough space to brew upwards of 10,000 barrels annually. That production capacity, Tetreault said, is capable of being scaled to about 35,000 barrels with the addition of 24 90-barrel fermenters.
The company will continue packaging in 750 mL bottles and kegs, and will install a second bottling machine to keep pace with the increasing production.
It’s a comparatively massive upgrade for Trillium, which is currently limited to about 1,500 barrels of annual production. Lines for special releases and growler fills routinely extends around the block, and the company has had trouble brewing enough beer to sell at its own retail shop, where it enjoys its highest profit margins.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand how we’re able to fit a brewery into the tiny little space that we are in,” he said. “It really does take a brewery of a certain scale to be a sustainable business. We can only keep up this pace for so long until something cracks, whether that is personal, financial or whatever it might be. We are working hard to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
The company’s new location in Canton will give it plenty of room to “stretch out,” both on the production floor and in more than 4,000 sq. ft. of planned retail space, Tetreault said.
The expansion will also ease the workload at Trillium’s current facility in Fort Point, which will be converted into Tetreault’s personal test-kitchen and used as a space for experimenting with new recipes, wild ales and barrel-aged offerings.
Something that won’t change, however, is a self-distribution model and Tetreault’s somewhat idealistic vision of how Trillium beers are presented in the marketplace. For better or worse, supply and demand has dictated much of Trillium’s distribution and retail strategies to date – the company sells most of its beer out of the Fort Point retail shop.
Except for a few select bottle shops and beer-centric watering holes, retailers in the greater-Boston area that have asked to carry Trillium beers have been placed on a waiting list.
That’s in part because Tetreault is incredibly particular when it comes to freshness.
“The last beer we sell, for most of the batches of beer we make right now, is maybe about two weeks old,” Tetreault told Brewbound Session attendees in May. “I know that we can’t maintain that when we go to 100 barrel fermenters, but how close can we get to that?”
Product availability will improve, he said, but the goal of working with beer-savvy retailers who understand the importance of proper refrigeration and can help deliver the same drinking experience that Trillium customers currently enjoy, will remain a top priority.
Nonetheless, Tetreault still views the expansion in Canton as somewhat of a necessary stepping stone on his way to building a true farmhouse brewery in New England.
“The brewery version of what you’d probably envision a winery to be,” he described. “A farmhouse brewery, some farmland, a rather expansive barrel cellar and a large event space. This is ultimately our end vision of what Trillium will eventually become, but we have to get to a reasonable level of volume production to be able to build it.”
It’s a vision that could be executed sooner than some might think.
“It’s certainly going to be within the next five years,” he said.