Details on the Alchemist Brewery, Opening in Stowe This July
UPDATE, June 30: The Alchemist Stowe Brewery and Visitor’s Center is now open.
When your flagship is consistently named among the best beers in the world, it can be hard to meet demand as a small brewery. The Alchemist has a lot of experience with this, thanks to the citrusy, piney Heady Topper. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
In case you need a refresher, the Alchemist began as a brewpub in downtown Waterbury, Vermont, where co-owner and brewer John Kimmich introduced Heady Topper in 2004. The double IPA was always a crowd favorite, and it was the first beer Kimmich and his wife and business partner, Jen, released when they opened their new, 15-barrel brewhouse and cannery across town. The production brewery was in the works already—and was just about to open—when the brewpub was decimated by an historic hurricane on August 28, 2011.
It’s hard to say whether the cult of Heady Topper would have grown so strong had the brewpub ever returned, but after Hurricane Irene, the Kimmiches opted not to rebuild. Instead, they refocused on brewing Heady Topper, packaging it in sleek, silver, 16-ounce cans—and they created something of a monster.
“From the very first canning run of Heady Topper we have experienced a level of support and growth that none of us could have predicted,” the Kimmiches wrote on their website in November 2013. “In an effort to stay ahead of the curve we have made the difficult decision to close our retail shop and self-guided tour area.”
They soon followed up to say they were building a larger production facility and visitors’ center in nearby Stowe, Vt., and Jen Kimmich announced yesterday that it will open in July.
“We really just miss the connection with the community. We’re excited to see people again,” she said.
Their fans are excited, too—since the Alchemist shared the blog post on Facebook yesterday morning, it’s racked up nearly 4,000 “likes.” That’s precisely why Kimmich hasn’t been posting construction updates more often.
“We’ve really been trying to lay low for the past couple years. We haven’t been hyping up the brewery or anything … when we can’t meet demand as it is,” she said.
The Stowe facility, a 16,000-square foot building on four acres, should relieve some of that. Or, start to. It’s a 30-barrel brewing system, which will be up and running in about two weeks, Kimmich anticipates, producing Focal Banger, an American IPA, and rotating, seasonal beers. The Waterbury facility will remain in operation, dedicated solely to brewing Heady Topper, and housing the Alchemist’s distribution arm.
The new brewery will start by producing about 180 barrels of beer per week, Kimmich says. That translates to about 9,000 barrels per year—just slightly less than the 10,000 barrels they made in Waterbury this year. It’s built to grow, too. High, arched ceilings allow for taller tanks, and utilities were overbuilt to eventually accommodate more production.
But that doesn’t mean a sudden influx of Alchemist beer in the Boston area, or even beyond the brewery’s current, 30-mile distribution radius in Vermont.
“When we talk about expansion, we’re always talking in terms of our local market and our own visitors’ center,” Kimmich said. “We’re looking at little bumps [in production] so that we can really service our community and the people that come to our brewery.”
Once the Stowe facility opens this summer, Heady Topper, Focal Banger, and a special release will be available every Tuesday-Saturday in the retail cooler, plus samples will be for sale on draft. The 2,000-square foot retail space won’t offer full pints or any food, but it will have standing room and places for guests to put their beer down. Plus, it’ll have a projected mural of the canning line in action, drawn by New England artist Andrew Mullen and animated by Trevor Carmick of the blog Beer Labels in Motion.
“We’ve been working hard on our displays and artwork, and we’re really excited,” Kimmich said. That includes something of a brewers’ eden:
“We’re going to have different varieties of malts growing, a cherry orchard, different varieties of hops,” she said. The cherries will supplement the fruit the Alchemist gets every year for Petit Mutant, a wild brettanomyces beer, and if the malts and hops prove prolific, they could go into beers, too. But the agriculture is meant to be educational, Kimmich said.
“It will take a while for all this stuff to get established, but we have a vision,” she said. “We see continued increases in beer tourism, and we’re doing the best we can to ramp up production in a way that meets demand, but that also doesn’t go against our own values.”
The Alchemist, opening July 2016 on Cottage Club Road in Stowe, Vt., Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., alchemistbeer.com.