In an effort to bolster sales of its beer at on- and off-premise retail accounts, Westminster, Massachusetts-based Wachusett Brewing Company is leaning into a taproom expansion strategy within its home state.
The company today announced it would take over the former John Harvard’s Ale House located in the heart of Cambridge’s Harvard Square.
According to Brewbound, Wachusett president Christian McMahan said the move is designed to help introduce the brand to more consumers, and drive additional sales throughout the greater Boston area.
“This is about supporting our distributed beer business,” he said. “We’ve had a ton of success over the last two years with our City Hall pop-up, and we’ve had our eyes on a longer-term opportunity.”
According to McMahan, sales in the immediate region surrounding Wachusett’s Westminster headquarters are 12 percent higher since the company expanded an on-site taproom and opened its outdoor “Brew Yard.”
The company also saw sales accelerate throughout Boston after it opened a pop-up beer garden at City Hall Plaza.
Now, Wachusett is hoping that a more permanent physical presence in Cambridge – as well as a previously announced taproom in Worcester – will help it continue to grow statewide sales at a time when more than 180 breweries are operating across the commonwealth, according to the Massachusetts Brewers Guild.
The Brewers Association, which represents the interests of small U.S. breweries, ranked Wachusett as the 43rd largest craft beer producer in 2018. The company sold approximately 70,000 barrels of beer and hard seltzer last year and grew 8 percent.
According to McMahan, Wachusett expects total production to be up 2 to 3 percent by the end of summer as it works to supply the increased demand for its fruit-infused beers (blueberry, watermelon, and strawberry) and recently reformulated Nauti hard seltzers, which now account for about 18 percent of total output.
“We are just now getting out of the weeds and trying to keep up with orders,” he said. “We have a lot going on, and we are trying to manage as much production and manufacturing as possible.”
As it works to fill demand, the 25-year-old-company company has also begun preparing for fall openings in Cambridge and Worcester.
In Cambridge, where Wachusett has signed an initial two-year lease agreement, it will establish a dedicated sour beer production facility and brew on a pre-existing 15-barrel brewhouse. The location also featured five 15-barrel brite tanks and four 15-barrel fermenters.
Meanwhile, in Worcester, where the company will occupy about 3,000 sq. ft. of space in the forthcoming Worcester Public Market, the exact specifications of the brewing setup are still being determined. Nevertheless, McMahan said the brewhouse would range in size from 1 barrel to 10 barrels.
Wachusett is also looking into the feasibility of adding “two-to-three” more Massachusetts taprooms in 2020 and 2021, McMahan added.
“At one point over the last six months, we were negotiating on 10 possible locations at one time,” he said. “We are getting opportunities sent to us on a weekly basis, but it’s important not to get over your skis.”
McMahan said Wachusett’s cost of expanding in Cambridge and Worcester has been reduced because the locations are smaller and more developed. At the former John Harvard’s location, for example, it will take advantage of brewing equipment that was already on-site.
The company has also kept costs low by buying used brewing equipment. In addition to purchasing multiple small brewhouses over the years, Wachusett bought four 800-barrel fermentation tanks and two 400-barrel brite beer tanks from the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, Washington, that closed in 2017, McMahan said. It also purchased tanks from New York’s Old Saratoga Brewery, which shuttered last year.
“We buy stuff, sit on it and know that we will use it someday,” he said.
Additional information about the company’s expansion in Cambridge is included in the press release below.
Wachusett Brewing Company Announces New Cambridge Location in Iconic Harvard Square
Fresh of the recent news of its new Worcester, MA location, Wachusett Brewing Company announces it’s now adding a 3rd brewing and tap room facility in Cambridge, MA to be opened in fall of 2019. The location at 33 Dunster Street, near the heart of Harvard Square, was formerly the home of longtime brewpub pioneer John Harvard’s. The taproom will have a 15bbl brewhouse, 16 rotating beers on tap, live entertainment, and a full kitchen with a focus on creative flatbreads.
“We are thrilled to be moving into Cambridge,” said Wachusett President Christian McMahan. “As the Wachusett brand continues to grow, we have been looking for new and interesting ways to reach the next generation of craft beer drinkers and believe this location is ideal for us as we continue to evolve the brand into the future,” McMahan concluded.
“This one is exciting,” said Ned LaFortune, Founder/CEO of Wachusett Brewing Company. “We are going to focus this brewhouse on creating a world-class sour beer program as well as some other really interesting and unique styles that I have wanted to do for a very long time,” LaFortune concluded.
Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said, “We are delighted Wachusett Brewing is coming to the Square. Their pioneering spirit is fresh, fun and unique. We eagerly anticipate their opening and look forward to partnering with them in our many festivals and community-wide events.”
Wachusett Brewing Company will continue to produce the majority of its beer portfolio at its original location in Westminster, MA while utilizing the new Worcester and Cambridge facilities for smaller batch production styles.
For more information about Wachusett Brewing Company, visit www.wachusettbrew.com