Whiskey distillery plans addition

MIDDLEBURY — The owners of the Appalachian Gap Distillery are proposing to triple its 2,000-square-foot headquarters at 88 Mainelli Road in Middlebury’s industrial park. The addition would give the growing business additional warehouse space to house its whiskey barrels, more room for grain storage and a larger tasting room, and would allow for installation of a bottling line.
The additional space will help the distillery ramp up production of its growing line of whiskey, rum and tequila — spirits that are growing in popularity.
“We’re trying to gear ourselves up to the point where we’re doing 250 cases per month  — that’s the target,” said Lars Hubbard, who along with business partner Chuck Burkins are the driving forces behind an Appalachian Gap Distillery that is currently generating 50 to 100 cases monthly.
The distillery currently occupies roughly 2,000 square feet within the Friday Group LLC’s headquarters, an architectural software services company led by Hubbard and Burkins. The duo have long shared an interest in spirits and decided in 2012 to establish the distillery, with the idea of sourcing the rye, barley and other raw ingredients from local farms.
App Gap’s products are currently available throughout Vermont and in Australia. The company is currently exploring other markets outside the Green Mountain State. The distillery currently makes Snowfall Whiskey, made from corn, barley and rye mash; Kaffevan, a coffee liqueur; Kaffekask, a liqueur distilled from corn and barley with coffee; Mosquito Fleet, a premium sipping rum; and most recently Monarch, a tequila-like spirit fashioned from blue agave from Mexico and Vermont maple syrup.
Also in the works: A gin and a brandy.
Hubbard explained that App Gap is now experiencing some growing pains.
“The problem we are actually having with capacity is that we are putting whiskey into barrels and we are quickly running out of places to put the barrels,” Hubbard said. “We just got in a shipment of 30 new barrels that we are going to start filling up, and hopefully this fall we will start buying barrels from the Adirondack Barrel Cooperage in New York.
“My basic plan is to have somewhere between 40 and 60 cases of each of our products sitting in storage at one time so we can ship it out whenever we need to,” he added.
Here are the ingredients of App Gap’s proposed 6,000-square-foot expansion plan:
•  A 2,048-square-foot steel building to store the barrels.
•  A 1,750-square-foot storage space.
•  Approximately 1,000 square feet for bottling.
•  Around 400 square feet for grain milling.
•  Approximately 400 square feet for retail and an expanded tasting room.
“It’s a little tight in there right now when you get more than 10 people in there,” Hubbard said of the tasting room.
Appalachian Gap Distillery is currently sourcing its grain through a company called Country Malt Group, which has a Champlain, N.Y., division. Hubbard believes most of the grain now used at the distillery comes from the plains of Canada.
That won’t always be the case, however.
The distillery has signed a letter of intent with an Addison farm to provide rye, corn and possibly barley — which along with water are the essential ingredients of the liquors. He said he could not yet reveal the name of the farm.
App Gap is also testing barley at Peterson’s Quality Malt in Ferrisburgh, to see if that local company could be a provider of raw products.
“The idea is to get as many things from as close to us as we possibly can” Hubbard said.
Staying local and minimizing expenses is how App Gap intends to remain financially viable as it takes on the substantial financial commitment for its expansion project. The distillery does not officially employ anyone at this point. Friday Group workers share in App Gap responsibilities.
“The plan is that once we get into the black, we ramp up from there and have official employees,” Hubbard said.
Middlebury’s Development Review Board has given conceptual approval to the App Gap project, which Hubbard would like to see completed well before the end of the year.
Hubbard is pleased with the way the distillery is progressing.
“I was fairly confident we’d succeed,” he said. “I think the way that I have structured things is such that we will be viable and sustainable, which is the most important thing.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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