Be Hoppy IPA is coming to Rhode Island.
Worcester, Massachusetts-headquartered Wormtown Brewery announced today that it would expand its distribution footprint to Rhode Island and fill out its Massachusetts footprint in 2017.
Beginning April 3, Wormtown will send kegs outside its home state for the first time, partnering with Anheuser-Busch house McLaughlin & Moran Co. for distribution throughout Rhode Island.
“My team has been working aggressively to bring this brand to the Ocean State for two years now,” McLaughlin & Moran president Terry Moran said in a press release. “Our retailers, consumers and our craft team have been waiting for this announcement, and we are excited to bring these award-winning beers to market.”
Wormtown managing partner David Fields told Brewbound that his company will start with draft beer in Rhode Island, since that’s how the brewery’s brand was built up in Massachusetts. About 80 percent of the company’s business this year is expected to be sold on draft. Last year, Wormtown filled 23,256 kegs.
Initially, the new house will have about 28 accounts and be focused on Be Hoppy, with some seasonal brews and Bottle Rocket pale ale coming online over the summer, Fields told Brewbound in an email.
Opening up Rhode Island also provides Fields with the opportunity to visit his wife and son in the state; they stay there during the summer months.
“I have roots down there,” he said. “I can become the quality control guy down in Rhode Island this summer. This industry has its benefits, so I can visit my family all summer long.”
Additionally, beginning today, Wormtown will begin self-distributing a limited amount of 6-pack bottles and 16 oz. cans of Be Hoppy to the Metrowest and 495 North areas of Massachusetts. Fields said the territory covers about 20 towns from Natick west to Southborough and 495 North to Acton and the Boxborough area. Later this year, Wormtown will deliver packaged beer of its Blonde Cougar summer seasonal and Bottle Rocket to the area. The company had previously only offered draft beer in the market.
Fields said Wormtown is targeting about 50 accounts in the area.
“We think that’s about all we can handle for self-distribution in the area right now,” he said, because demand for more packaged beer in Boston, Cape Cod, North Shore and Worcester County has grown.
The company has committed to growing its available packaged beer by 100 percent this year with a goal of making it 25 percent of the total business, Fields said. (In 2015, the company packaged about 15,000 cases of beer; that figure jumped to 140,000 cases in 2016.)
To help meet that demand, Wormtown is currently undergoing a nearly $2 million expansion of its production facility that will push its maximum capacity to 37,000 barrels annually, up from its current run rate of 23,000, Fields said.
However, Wormtown will be able to push that number even further with the addition of four brite beer tanks and four fermentation tanks, with a goal of producing about 27,000 to 30,000 barrels this year.
“We’re trying to get out in front of our capacity and building extra,” Fields said.
“Every month we send over 500 half-barrels to city of Boston,” he added. “That’s more than we used to ship in 2014 in a month for the entire state.”
Also coming online in May will be a new 8,500 sq. ft. packaging hall at its existing location aimed at making its bottling and kegging efforts more efficient, he said.
“Once the packaging hall is online, we will be able to bottle 20 times a month,” Fields said. “Right now, we’re only able to do so four times a month.”
Meanwhile, Wormtown will continue to work with mobile canner Iron Heart Canning four times a month to package its beer in aluminum.
Earlier this year, Wormtown built a $200,000, 4,000 sq. ft. offsite draft beer cooler at R & M Leasing in Oxford, Massachusetts, where it had previously stored its packaging and unfilled growlers. That went online in January.
This all comes as Wormtown prepares to celebrate its seventh anniversary on March 17 with a birthday beer release along with racked beers and a couple of barrel-aged releases, Fields said.