Triangle Brewing Co. owners eye expansion

May. 06, 2013 @ 06:26 PM

The owners of Triangle Brewing Co., a production brewery in Durham that makes beer to sell in grocery stores, restaurants and at other venues, are planning to move the brewery to a location where they could open a taproom.

Rick Tufts, 39, and Andy Miller, 40, launched the brewery in 2007. The two first met in high school and became business partners. They lease 10,000 square feet of former warehouse space on Pearl Street for the brewery, Tufts said, and plan to buy a 22,000-square foot-building nearby at 812 Mallard St.

They have the building under contract, Tufts said, and are looking to close on the purchase this month. They plan to buy new equipment to increase their production capacity by four times. Tufts said they’d be able to brew up to 8,000 barrels a year.

They plan to decommission their Pearl Street operation and to sell most of their equipment. They hope to be brewing beer in the new location by the fall, and to have the taproom open about a month later.

“It gives us the opportunity to grow and double in size, and it’s going to allow us to have a taproom, and to continue to excel at what we do, which is making beer,” Tufts said of the plan.

As a production brewery, Triangle Brewing Co. doesn’t have a taproom on location, Tufts said. They do hold tours on Saturdays, however.

“We get well over 100 people on some weekends, and we’re still in the misunderstood part of Durham,” he said.  “We just wanted to make beer and make quality beer, and the need for the taproom has developed itself,” he added.

In the brewery’s first year, it produced 150 barrels of beer, Tufts said. This year, they plan on producing more than 4,000 barrels.

Their beer is sold in grocery stores and by independent stores. They’ve started selling in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Wilmington.

They can their beer in Durham, Tufts said. They use cans because that increases the beer’s shelf-life, he said, and caters to people who are “on the go.”

“Here in North Carolina, which is a great state, we’ve got the ocean, and we’ve got the mountains,” Tufts said. “You can’t take glassware to the beach, you can’t take it hiking very easily; you can’t take it to the pool. So we make beer for people on the go…”

Tufts said he went into the beer brewing business when he needed a change. He’s a developmental psychologist by training who worked for several years with the TEACCH Autism Program at UNC Hospitals.

He said his business partner, Miller, studied hotel restaurant and institutional management at East Carolina University in Greenville, and had restaurant experience.

 “I loved working with families, the only issue was that every family I dealt with, I was dealing with them at a very sad moment,” Tufts said. “I was trying to help them above that, and it became emotionally draining.”

He said he went to brewing school at the American Brewers Guild in Vermont, and worked as an apprentice at Flying Fish Brewing Co. in New Jersey. He said he saw beer production as a means to bring people pleasure.

 “I would do that again in a heartbeat…but to be able to make something that other people could enjoy on a social level, as opposed to … dealing with people at their most vulnerable moments - it was time for me to change,” he said.

Tufts said they see the planned investment as part of the development of Durham. Their targeted location is empty, but previously housed a feed mill for Southern States, an agricultural products supplier, said Al Frega, an officer in the company that owns the building.

“We’re not in the best location, but Durham is changing significantly, and renovations and downtown revitalization is coming our direction, and we’ve made an investment to be in this part of Durham,” Tufts said.