Earlier this year, Reformation Brewery relocated its main warehouse and production facility from downtown Woodstock to a 20,000-plus-square-foot building at the Mill on Etowah, within walking distance of downtown Canton.
And this week, after a soft opening, the 5-year-old Cherokee County brewery is set to celebrate the grand opening of its recently completed taproom and private event space adjoining the new brewery.
Located between Railroad Street and the Etowah River, the Mill on Etowah is an adaptive reuse development on the historic site of a former denim jeans factory. With Reformation as the anchor, the dining and shopping destination was designed to feature a co-working environment with river access and green spaces.
Recently, Reformation CEO and co-founder Spencer Nix led me on a tour of the brewery and taproom, where he explained that though the company opened a small research and development facility and taproom in downtown Woodstock last year, rapid growth drove the quest for more capacity and a larger footprint.
“Our first brewery in Woodstock was about 7,500 square feet,” Nix said. “This building is a little over 20,000 square feet total. We just needed to add additional tanks and put everything in one location. We didn’t pursue it, but the developer doing this entire project came to us looking for an anchor tenant.
“For a production brewery to locate in a mixed-use development with retail and restaurants is pretty unprecedented, so we said yes. It took us about a year and a half to get it all built out. But it was built to be a brewery, whereas in our first location, we were kind of a square peg in a round hole. This place was designed for our needs now and into the future. We could go up to about 50,000 barrels a year. Right now, we’re at about 7,500 a year.”
Speaking about future growth, Nix said the master plan is to move ahead at a steady pace.
“We’re just very slow and intentional in how we want to grow,” he said. “To continue in that path forward, we think, is more sustainable. It’s funny. Our cold storage room is 7,500 square feet, which, as I said, was the original size of our first brewery, so that’s kind of cool. And we have a pretty cool view looking out from the back of the brewery. We’re probably one of the only breweries in Georgia that has pasture land beside it.
“I’m originally from Cherokee County, and this is what I remember it being like. We’re distributed throughout the state of Georgia now, all the way down to Albany, and all over North Georgia. We went into the Chattanooga market last year, so that was our first out-of-state market. We don’t have any big plans to go much further. I think the definition of local keeps getting tighter and tighter. We kind of want to be North Georgia’s brewery — the brewery in the 15-mile radius of where we’re at now.”
Hanging out at the grand, three-sided bar in the taproom, which features rows of garage doors, and patio areas with river-facing views, Nix talked about how Reformation evolved over the past five years.
“Just in the five years we’ve been in it, the industry has changed so much,” Nix said. “We were heavily influenced by European-style beers. That’s how we got into beer. That’s how we started homebrewing. So when we launched as a brewery, we were doing three Belgian styles. And we still have those in our core portfolio. But as the years have gone by, the consumer demand for variety and exploration and innovation have inspired us, and we’ve tried to keep up with that.
“When we got Woodstock online as an R&D facility, that really changed the game for us. It gave us the ability to constantly put out something new, and to get instant feedback from the community. That helped us evolve a lot of our products, and what you’ll see from us moving forward. That’s all coming from the transitions we’ve made in the last year and a half, starting with the Woodstock facility, and now with this facility up and running in Canton.”
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