Otter Creek to become Vt.’s biggest brewer thanks to new brew house
MIDDLEBURY — Otter Creek Brewing this month will begin construction on a nearly 8,000-square-foot addition at its Exchange Street headquarters that will house a state-of-the-art, fully automated 120-barrel brew house that is expected to make OCB the largest brewery (by volume) in the state.
Gov. Peter Shumlin and OCB founder Lawrence Miller — now Vermont’s chief of health care reform — were among the statewide dignitaries present on Monday, Oct. 5, at a kick-off event and tour of the brewing company’s ever growing facilities. Indeed, OCB has come a long way since Miller established it in 1991 as a one-person operation in a small rented space near Middlebury’s industrial park.
“We’re very excited,” OCB President and CEO Daniel Fulham said in an interview with the Independent. “There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we are excited to get shovels into the ground.”
Once installed, the new brew house will give OCB the capacity to produce more than 200,000 barrels of its award-winning beer each year, up from the current 65,000 barrels it can currently manufacture. Fulham said 200,000 barrels translates to around 2 million cases of beer. Otter Creek Brewing currently manufactures more than three dozen varieties of beer under the Otter Creek Brewing, Wolaver’s and Shed brands. The company currently employs around 60 full-time workers, according to Fulham, who expects that number to ramp up in the near future after the new brew house comes on line.
This is just the first in a three-phased expansion/renovation plan for OCB’s Middlebury headquarters.
Phase II will involve expansion of the company’s retail, restaurant and pub areas. The restaurant and pub have become an increasingly popular place for locals and visitors to grab a beer and various food selections, including sandwiches and lunch specials.
Phase III, to be launched in 2017 at the earliest, calls for growing the company’s warehousing and packaging hall.
All of this growth is designed to help OCB better respond to what has been a steady demand for its products, currently available for sale in 14 states plus the District of Columbia. Fulham anticipates that by the end of this year business will have grown by almost 20 percent in 2015.
“We look at it as part of an organic growth strategy,” Fulham said. “We want to grow deeper in the footprint we have, but when you are evaluating new markets, one of the key points is being able to supply. This is part of a long-term plan.”
The new brew house will be equipped with specially designed, stainless steel brewing vessels made in Germany by BrauKon — a world leader in the manufacture of beer making equipment. This particular project and the two phases to follow represent a multi-million-dollar investment by the company into its Middlebury facilities.
“Basically, think of the brew team — instead of up and down ladders — think of them in a control room actually watching the dosing and the beer move through the brewing cycle,” Fulham said of how the new brew house technology will streamline OCB operations.
Otter Creek Brewing will continue to maintain and operate its current 40-barrel brew house, using it to process smaller, special batches and to ensure additional capacity, Fulham explained. The company is currently brewing seven days per week with its current brew house, but Fulham believes OCB will be able to pare back to a five-day-per-week schedule after the new infrastructure is installed.
“We’d love to be able to dial it back, because we will be able to do some bigger batches,” he said.
A HOST OF dignitaries on Monday break ground for a new brew house at Otter Creek Brewing’s Exchange Street plant in Middlebury. The company looks to become the biggest brewer (by volume) in Vermont. From right to left are Otter Creek CEO Daniel Fulham, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Congressman Peter Welch and Otter Creek founder Lawrence Miller, among others.
Independent photo by Trent Campbell
Assuming cooperative weather and a smooth construction schedule, Fulham believes the new brew house will be operating by next April.
Shumlin is pleased to see the growth at OCB.
“This is just wonderful news for Otter Creek, Middlebury and Vermont,” he said through an emailed response to the Addison Independent prior to Monday’s event. “The microbrew revolution in this state has been fascinating to watch over the past few years. It has led to the expansion of jobs, tourism, downtown development and worldwide recognition for our little state.
“Otter Creek has been leading that revolution since the beginning, and I congratulate them on taking this next step.
“For the town of Middlebury, this just adds to the economic growth we’ve seen in the town in general and more specifically on Exchange Street. It seems like every week there is something new and exciting happening on Exchange Street. This is great news and I can’t wait for the kickoff.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].