WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Brewing Company is aiming to expand, with plans for a new 250-person venue for live music, private receptions, and – of course – can-release parties for new beers.
With their eyes set on expanding production capabilities while catering towards larger crowds and private functions, owners John and Michelle Savard have purchased a 3-acre plot of land directly north of the brewery with plans to build a 5,000-square-foot event venue by the spring of 2020.
The summer land purchase is a sign the brewery is further expanding its roots in midtown Wilmington, only three months after the Savards purchased the current building from its previous leasers.
The venue is set to have a 3,000-square-feet room with a capacity of 250 people. Along with 56 additional parking spaces, the extra space will allow for large-scale events like brewery anniversaries, live music, can-release parties, wedding receptions, and other private parties.
“All this being the idea that we’re going to renovate our current space eventually so that our taproom will be a little bigger and we’ll have more space for brewing,” Michelle said.
According to her husband John, current events like a recent charity fundraiser have been held in the back warehouse where they store kegs, supplies, and equipment. This limited the brewery’s capability to host larger events as well as to expand brewery production.
Eyes on the Triangle
The wooden floor of the warehouse will eventually be ripped out and replaced by concrete, allowing the area to be used as an extension of the adjacent 30-barrel brewhouse.
With an estimated 3,000-square-feet of additional brewing space, John said he hopes to reach 5,000 to 5,500 barrels in annual production while eyeing distribution to the Triangle area. Their current capacity is 3,500 barrels per year.
“When you get to that level, Wilmington is just not big enough for that kind of production and sales within the city,” John said.
Although craft beer shops and bars from as far away as Charlotte currently order their cans, John expects these sort of sales to eventually plateau with the additional brewing capacity. He has an eye on the Triangle area for future distribution while staying focused on the local market.
For now, the four-year-old brewery makes no keg deliveries beyond Wilmington, a strategy the Savards attribute to their focus on local craft beer bottle shops, businesses “that will represent our beer better and take care of our beer better” than larger shops like grocery stores.
“We’re happy that we’re in smaller places — niche places where people appreciate it, and they look at the ‘canned on’ date and they want the freshest beer from the brewery,” Michelle said. “That’s where we want to keep it at.”
Currently, they distribute cans to the following craft beer-focused bottle shops and bars: Lighthouse, Cape Fear, Fermental, Hey Beer, Session Beer Market, and Brewer’s Kettle. Local restaurants, bars, and even Whole Foods Market and Lowes Foods serve their beer on draft.
Meanwhile, the purchase of their current building has allowed the Savards to make repairs and re-designs without gaining permission from their former landlords. In particular, a leaky roof during a year with record rainfalls can now be resolved on their own, although expensively, giving them more control to protect expensive brewing equipment.
“We had to push them to either fix [the roof] or sell it to us,” John said.
“The building is worth a lot more to us, obviously,” Michelle added. “We figured we might as well own it.”
The new building will only cover a fifth of the adjacent plot of property, allowing space for future projects: one they have in mind is a rope swing bridge going over a stream with picnic tables on the other side.
The new building will also have an outdoor patio with garage doors for open-aired space during the summer and on “those random nice days in November,” according to John.
Ultimately the new property will allow the company to grow as it sees fit.
“When we closed on the property it was a weight off our shoulders — we know what our next phase is going to be, and we can expand at our own pace,” John said.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com