MONTPELIER — The Capital City is getting ready to raise a glass or two to the new Caledonia Spirits distillery.
The Hardwick-based company’s move to a still under construction Barre Street facility will bring 50 high-wage jobs to the city, said company owner Ryan Christiansen.
“We’ve been designing this facility for over three years and we’re about two months from opening,” Christiansen said. “We’re shooting for June 1 at this point. There’s a tremendous enthusiasm in our team to get into Montpelier and start living and working and shopping in the downtown.”
Christiansen said about two-thirds of the 27,000-square-foot facility would be devoted to distillery operations in five large stills. There will also be an indoor and outdoor patio bar area for visitors to sample spirits, as well as laboratory space to research new products, he said.
“There’s going to be an onsite cocktail bar and retail experience,” Christiansen said. “The cocktail lounge is the final step in spirit production.
“Onsite, we’ll have everything from the grain silos, the honey delivery right from the beehives, and then all of those raw materials run through our process, from mash to fermentation to distillation to bottling, and then we’re able to bring the spirits to the cocktail bar and show people how to make great cocktails,” he continued.
“Internally, we’ve been saying we want to build a distillery where you can enjoy a cocktail while you stand next to the farmer that brought the raw materials,” he added.
Christiansen said local musicians will be invited to perform in the distillery and there will also be conference room space that would double as a community facility for local organizations.
Christiansen said there are also plans to have local food truck vendors onsite, and a riverside walkway and dock to allow people to put canoes into the river.
Christiansen said the new distillery would allow the company to move many of its operations from the Hardwick facility, which was only able to offer limited customer interaction and promotional opportunities.
“The goal is to really educate people on where their spirits come from and how they’re produced: where our company came from, how we got started in distilling and who we’re working with,” Christiansen said.
The company was founded by Todd Hardie, who decided he wanted to start distilling spirits using honey from his apiaries between 2009 and 2010, and in 2011, he hired Christiansen to oversee the distillery he established at his 6,500-square-foot building in Hardwick.
It would lead to the company’s signature Barr Hill Gin and Barr Hill Vodka products, and a barrel-aged Tom Cat Gin. Hardie subsequently sold the company to Christiansen in 2015 to focus on farming the barley and rye used by the distillery. The source of the 60,000 to 90,000 pounds of honey used in the distillery now comes from an apiary in New York.
Christiansen said the company would produce about 40,000 cases of spirits this year.
Ongoing research and development of new alcohols includes looking at using maple syrup from trees at Christiansen’s home and neighboring Farnham Farm in Plainfield. The company is also looking at a liquor from burdock root, produced by Richard Wiswall, of Cate Farm in Plainfield. Christiansen likened its flavor to “a tequila or mescal from the northeast.”
“The marketing opportunity is enormous — we can fight back against this plant that’s been getting in our hair or our shoelaces,” Christiansen said.
Christiansen said preparations for the opening were still being finalized, but he looks forward to welcoming the community.
He also paid tribute to the city of Montpelier for the tax stabilization deal that was key to the company’s move to Montpelier.
The tax stabilization agreement reduces the company’s property taxes by half to $36,000 annually for 10 years before reverting to full value.
The city financed the costs from a number of departmental and economic development funds — money City Manager Bill Fraser said would be recouped from city service rates and property tax returns over time. All told, the city expects to spend $466,700 but would recoup $536,000 over a 10-year period.