WILMINGTON — With eyes on the Raleigh and Charlotte markets, Wilmington’s New Anthem Beer Project has finished its first test batches as it shifts a majority of its beer production to a new 15,000-square-foot facility in the South Front District.
The old Capps Industrial Supply building also features a 3,000-square-foot taproom overlooking South Front Street, which co-owner and head brewer Aaron Skiles expects to open by the end of the month.
As the craft beer industry continues to grow in Wilmington and the outlying region – there’s even a brewery coming to downtown Burgaw – Skiles believes there’s still plenty of room to expand the brewery’s local reach while gearing up for the state’s two largest markets.
“In the Triangle they tend to circle up and they like their products, whether it’s Durham or Raleigh,” Skiles said. “But they’ve been receptive to us and some other breweries around town. Obviously, the marketplaces in both the Triangle and the Charlotte-Mecklenberg greater areas are 10 times the size we are. It makes sense to try and sell more beer there.”
The new 30-barrel brewhouse, tied with Wilmington Brewing Company as the city’s two largest, is expected to produce 3,500 to 5,000 barrels a year. It all starts with an elevated 4-vessel “brewdeck,” which, compared to the 2-vessel system in the original brewhouse on Dock Street, allows for greater temperature control and simultaneous double batches.
Being able to separately mash, rinse, brew in a kettle, and send to a whirlpool vessel gives Skiles’ team the ability to serialize the process and cut brewing time in half. All this translates to a big increase in production.
“It allows us to be able to scale our production, to get even bigger tanks in this [brewhouse],” Skiles said, pointing to a row of ten 30-barrel fermenter tanks lining the north wall of a warehouse-like room that houses the new production facility. The room’s high ceilings, he said, means one day he can bring in 90- or 120-barrel tanks.
“We could get a 120-barrel fermenter, brew the same beer four times in a row, and have the production that we would get in a month at Dock Street,” Skiles said.
After the beer finishes fermenting in the tanks, it will be kegged or packaged in a new canning line system that brewer Harrison Parker was unloading from three large crates on Friday morning. This will give the brewery greater economy and control of a canning operation that, until now, was contracted to a mobile canning company – and one that was put on hold for several weeks as the brewery shifted its “clean beer production” to South Front Street.
Even before the expansion, New Anthem had canned a large portion of its beers for a small, 10-barrel brewery. Now, in the middle of a staging room between the brewhouse and taproom, sits an industrial cooler, 60 feet long and 17 feet tall, to house kegs and cans before shipping them out to restaurants and bottle shops throughout Wilmington, Raleigh, and Charlotte.
Next to the cooler is 2,000 square feet of space where Skiles plans to ramp up his barrel-aging production, using bourbon barrels, rum barrels, tequila barrels and other types of spirits.
Ultimately, the large scale of the brewhouse is a product of Skiles’ intent to grow into larger and larger production levels over time.
“It’s all about scalability,” he said. “To make a cooler twice the size of what we normally need, and thus twice the price of the cooler we could’ve [used], and to buy extra tanks, extra vessels – we don’t need to make beer faster now, but when we do, it’s easier and more cost-effective to do it now than to add something later.”
Meanwhile, the downtown location will be used as an experimental brew station, where Skiles will take mixed fermentations and brew sours and alternative beers while testing wild yeast production. Where the new facility gives him the space to churn out production of New Anthem’s popular beers, with a strong focus on India Pale Ales, the original brewhouse gives him a small, controllable space to further motivate his creative instincts.
“We can grow with the beers that actually have stability in the marketplace and we can experiment, do fun stuff down there in a much smaller volume,” Skiles said.
Skiles plans to open the new taproom later in August with a grand opening in mid-October. The room is lined with huge windows overlooking South Front Street and has a high, vaulted ceiling.
Skiles said the aesthetics are a change-up from the downtown taproom, with a light, airy atmosphere complimented by 14-foot long tables made of white oak and an original cement floor from when the building was an industrial supply store.
A large electronic menu screen hangs over the bar, and behind it sits a cooler where customers can see what’s in stock, including cans and bottles.
It’s also better suited for live music, Skiles said, and he plans to bring in larger bands than the two-piece shows that often play downtown.
The brewery is the latest addition to an increasingly popular South Front District, which now includes Satellite Bar next door, Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria, Love Lydia Bakery, and the Second Glass wine bar. Skiles said a new restaurant and specialty retail shop could potentially share the space with New Anthem, which rents the renovated space from Tribute Companies.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815