BRATTLEBORO — Like the foam on a freshly poured India Pale Ale that rises up and over the top of the glass, Whetstone Station Brewery has expanded beyond its limited space on Bridge Street overlooking the Connecticut River.
And with the demand for craft beer and its role in a burgeoning tourist industry also expanding, it seemed like a good time for Whetstone to increase its brewing capacity.
Whetstone unveiled its new brewery and tasting room at 39 Frost St. Sunday with an open house, tours of the new facility, lawn games, food from its Rollin' 'Stone Food Truck and, of course, freshly brewed beer.
"People come to Vermont to explore the beer, and they come to Brattleboro to try our beer," said James Branagan, Whetstone brewer and operations manager. "We have our own house-brewed beer on tap, and it's a beautiful thing."
Branagan and fellow brewer Connor Busch have been making their signature Whetstoner IPA, Big Stoner double-IPA, Penguin Vermont porter and other craft brews since 2012. Those beers have shared the tap list at the brewery/restaurant with others from around the state and around the country. But, as Branagan said, the location at the site of the old Riverview Cafe was "hemmed in" by the Whetstone Brook, the Connecticut River, the train tracks and by Bridge Street.
"We couldn't really expand our brewery," Branagan said. "We were running out of our own beer left and right. We couldn't make enough of it because our brewery was too small. We'd have big gaps where there was no Whetstone beer on tap, but we'd have everybody else's beer on tap.
Now we're trying to mitigate that. We can make four and a half times as much beer as we used to."
Branagan said the new facility will allow the brewery to expand from a 4.2-barrel system to a 15-barrel system (one barrel is equivalent to 31 gallons). "It takes six hours to make three barrels. It also takes six hours to make 15 barrels," Branagan said. "So if you scale up, you're saving a whole lot of money.
"We're trying to never have any gaps in our house beer, and we're trying to expand our tap line (at the restaurant)," Branagan said. "So instead of having just four lines, we're trying to go to eight or even 10."
Branagan and Whetstone co-owner David Hiler have applied for an entertainment license with the town of Brattleboro to hold music events outside at the new location every Sunday this summer from noon to 4 p.m., as well as occasional indoor events with acoustic music that will end no later than 10 p.m. In the winter, the taproom/tasting room will officially open for tastings, tours and beer to go.
"It's not going to be a bar," Branagan said. "It's going to be a place where you can have a taste and get some beer to go, just like Hermit Thrush (a brewery on High Street in Brattleboro that specializes in sour beers). We might have some special events where we do full pours."
Of course, the brewery's original location — with its newly renovated Bier Garten that offers stunning views of the Connecticut River and Wantastiquet Mountain — remains open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.