With most of their brands growing significantly with local beer drinkers this year, Night Shift Brewery announced late last week that they plan a major expansion at their Everett brewery immediately and an even larger expansion into Philadelphia in 2020.
Night Shift has been growing at such a rapid pace over the last two years in particular that volume and brewhouse space has been a major issue for them, and now they’ve unveiled their plan to take them to the next level of production.
First and foremost, that plan includes a huge brewhouse expansion at their Everett home on Santilli Highway.
“In Everett, we are expanding and upgrading our brewing system from the 20 barrel brewery we started with in Everett and upgrading it to a 60 barrel system and it’s going to really change how much we can produce here,” said Michael Oxton, co-founder of Night Shift. “It will give us a lot more volume in Everett.”
A barrel is around 30 gallons, and the new Everett system will mean a 50 percent increase in production here.
That, he said, will mean more availability locally on tap and more beer in liquor stores, as the company has not been able to keep up with demand for several years – producing as fast as they can.
“We’re going to produce about 30,000 barrels with the new system,” he said. “It will be about a 50 percent increase in what we’re producing in Everett right now.”
He said that expansion was achieved by re-purposing storage space at the brewery and converting that unused space into a new brewhouse with significantly more space than before – though it does put them at the end of the expansion rope in their Everett building.
That’s why the second piece of their expansion includes building out a huge brewhouse and tap room in Philadelphia.
Oxton said his two partners, Rob Burns and Mike O’Mara, are from Philadelphia, so part of the story there is a return to home with their award-winning product.
Still, another piece is slowly creeping into a new Northeast market.
“The plan is to start building a huge production facility and tap room in the Philadelphia area,” he said. “We are hoping to open it as soon as we can in 2020 and ultimately build something that could produce a lot of volume and a new market for us to expand. We really began the search four years ago for a second facility.”
Oxton said Philadelphia is a logical next step for the company, and they have slowly edged out to New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut. They also believe that Pennsylvania and Philadelphia are good beer markets for their local flavor and customer-oriented style.
He said the space was not easy to come by even though Philadelphia has a lot more warehouse/industrial property than Greater Boston.
“Even with the abundance of warehouses down there, there wasn’t anything that met our needs initially,” he said. “We really found the perfect location.”
Both of the expansions, he said, are based on the frenetic demand for their product, and a philosophy to not “push” their beer on consumers, but have consumers “pull” it into the marketplace.
“We’ve focused significantly on the local drinker,” he said. “We’re tried to grow out brand deep and not wide. Massachusetts is a focus. Our focus on being local has really made us a really well-liked beer amongst local beer drinkers. We consistently try to have our growth drawn by demand by our drinkers and not an internal target. It’s a pull and not push relationship.”
While their tried and true labels like Santilli and Whirlpool are still selling fast, the greatest demand lately has been their ‘Lite’ beer offerings – both Nite Lite and Lime Lite. That demand is a departure from the traditional preferences of local craft brew drinkers who often are seen as preferring strong, hoppy beers.
“Nite Lite and Lime Lite have really taken off,” he said. “All of our beers are doing well, but those two have experienced significant growth. It says a lot about what people want from their light beer…I don’t think it’s an indication that people don’t want Whirlpool or Santilli, but is an indication that people that drink light beer want something better. Our light beer tastes better than Bud Light and it’s only about $1 or $2 more. These two beers offer something local and better.”
The expansion plans, Oxton said, may mean that the company is stretching its wings to another major East Coast city, but it doesn’t mean they intend to abandon Santilli Highway.
In fact, he said, they don’t ever plan to leave their Everett home.
“I would say with the Philadelphia thing our attention isn’t moving away from our home in Everett,” he said. “We’re not planning on leaving Everett any time soon, or ever, if we can help it.” Night Shift and several of the other breweries on the stretch are gearing up for Village Fest on Sept. 14. He said they will be feature their Oktoberfest beer at Village Fest – a brew known as Steinbier.