Westminster, MA – The Wachusett Brewing Company is the second largest packaging brewer in Massachusetts. Wachusett Ales have been available in kegs since 1994, 12-ounce bottles since 1996, 22-ounce bottles as of 2010, and will be available in 12-ounce cans starting in 2012. The company’s recent expansion includes the acquisition of a distribution warehouse, Rolec fermenters up to 425 barrels, and a substantially expanded QA/QC laboratory. The company has taken control of all of its outgoing and some incoming freight by purchasing tractors, reefer trailers, and dry freight trailers. Wachusett is in the process of forming a division that will focus on contract canning and will likely add bulk beer hauling services in 2012. Greater capacity and brewhouse modifications will allow the addition of full contract brewing, bottling, and canning in 2013.
There currently are no brewers in New England that offer contract brewing services that include canning. Wachusett Brewery President & Founder Ned LaFortune commented “we bought the line so we could make Wachusett brands available in cans, but also to offer unique services to other brewers and cider makers.” We are offering canning services for 200 barrel batch sizes so that more northeast craft brewers will have the opportunity to get their brands into cans. This batch size will allow brewers to keep fresher inventories in their respective markets than the batch sizes offered by larger contract canning breweries. “In our opinion, even more importantly, we will not pasteurize any craft beer we partner with, which is a substantial flavor benefit. Combined with full laboratory, bulk beer hauling services, and competitive freight to northeast wholesalers, we have simplified communication and logistics.”
Mr. LaFortune explained a refocusing of the company’s strengths saying “we are engineers and scientists that are backed by qualified trades’ people. Mark O’Connor of O’Connor Company has been a consultant to us for several years. Mark is the most talented design and build guy we know.” O’Connor Company is responsible for the re-commissioning of the canning line and all is on schedule for the release of Wachusett Blueberry and Green Monsta IPA cans in early May. “Between our passion for building and Mark’s abilities to make everything work with quality of the beer paramount, we have a winning team.”
The filler is a Crown Uniblend 60 valve matched with an Angelus 120L seamer. The line will be capable of running 800 cans per minute, but Wachusett expects to run it at about half that speed, which is still fast for any craft brewery. Co-Founder and Operations Director Kevin Buckler added “we know several brewers that run Crown/Angelus lines and found out that they are often run at slower than design speeds to minimize the long term maintenance. We expect this line to be trouble free for several years. We decided to make the commitment to such a large line so that we could put several Wachusett brands into cans and get into contract containerizing.”
Matching state of the art analytical laboratory services specific to canned beer quality was essential for Wachusett to prove they are the best choice for high quality demands of craft brewers. All quality is proven in a qualified laboratory.
Mr. LaFortune adds “We have been closely watching the success of the craft can market over the past five years. When we saw the craft market leaders make an initial investment in equipment and soon after expand their canning capabilities, we wanted to take action as soon as we possibly could. Our wholesalers have made the market opportunities clear for the Wachusett brands and other craft canned beers as well. We expect to open new markets in the future with draft and cans.”
Wachusett Brewer David Howard, a year round New Hampshire surfer, adds “we will be taking the quality of our draft and bottled beer and adding the highly portable and recyclable aluminum can. The beer in cans will be exactly the same beer we put in the other containers. We want Wachusett fans to be able to enjoy our beer anywhere without limitations – at the beach, on their boats, in a pack while fishing, or on the golf course. In addition to providing our customers with an excellent product, cans give us this versatility. ” “The cans will be supplied by Crown Beverage Container of Lawrence, MA, which makes them our closest supplier. The carbon footprint of working locally is greatly reduced. Also, the fact that we can ship out hundreds of cases more per trailerload further reduces our freight footprint.”
2011 was a banner year for Wachusett Green Monsta IPA sales in Fenway Park. The sales team has been in discussions about having Monsta cans available in Fenway this year in addition to draft.
Finally, Wachusett has expanded its distribution into Vermont and will be selling in New Hampshire as soon as final approvals are in place. Mr. LaFortune remarks “it took us 18 years to finally get our beer just 10 miles north of Westminster, over the border into New Hampshire. We are very excited about the reception by our northern neighbors and several of us at the brewery spend a lot of time there.” “Add up all the opportunities ahead of us and it looks like 2012 is going to be the biggest year of expansion in company history.”