Sketch of Lawson's Finest Liquids new Waitsfield location.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids completed its multipart review before the Waitsfield Development Review Board with one accelerated hearing last week.

On February 14, the Waitsfield Development Review Board heard a change of use, conditional use and subdivision application for Lawson’s Finest before closing the hearing that night. A decision is expected within 45 days.

Sean and Karen Lawson announced last year that they are moving their award-winning microbrewery from Warren to Waitsfield where they will open a new and larger brewery with a tasting room and retail sales. Their plan, which they presented to the DRB this week, is to move to Carroll Road in Waitsfield to the property formerly occupied by Valley Rent-All.

Sean and Karen Lawson
Sean and Karen Lawson

In their new facility, they expect to operate a 30 bbl brewery.

According to their contractor, P. Mark D’Angelo, they will be tearing down the building closest to Carroll Road and rebuilding a tasting room on the same foundation and footprint. The building at the back of the property will have its loading dock revised and gain 3 silos, two for grain and one for spent grain.

As reconfigured, the brewery will reduce its encroachment on the wetlands that make up parts of the Winter Park development along Carroll Road. The plan also includes creating a new 40-space parking lot to handle overflow parking when the existing 57-space lot (shared by the Big Picture and Wood and Wood Signs) fills up.

They anticipate having the retail and tasting space open seven days a week from noon to 9 p.m. Brewery operations – including deliveries – will take place in the mornings before the retail space opens. They anticipate adding a beer garden space to the retail space as well as a pocket park and additional trees to screen the parking from Route 100. They plan to build a boardwalk to connect to the current Mad River Path boardwalk which runs through the site.

DRB members had questions about traffic flow through the area and the traffic study prepared for the project. Some questioned whether the additional parking was necessary and wondered whether that land could be kept as a grassy lot used for parking as needed. D’Angelo explained that the maximum number of people who could be in the retail space at any given time was 80 and said that that number would help reduce any traffic issues. The extra parking, the boardwalk and the park would create places for people to wait their turn to enter the retail space which will have beer for sale as well as some food.

One thing that makes the project possible at this site in Waitsfield is the recent construction of a decentralized wastewater system serving Winter Park. That new system creates enough septic capacity for the new facility, which is designed for 4,500 gallons a day. The wastewater from the brewery will be treated twice before it enters the new system. D’Angelo told the board that the pretreatment system has a cost of about $1 million and that it knocks the strength of the heavy brewery effluent down to domestic strength.

In addition to the pretreatment systems, Lawson’s will be collecting the spent grains for farmers as animal feed. The spent hops and shrub will be captured and sent to a local composting facility and the first rinse water from the tanks will be collected for animal feed. No organic solids will enter the pretreatment system.

Lawson’s Finest was founded eight years ago by Sean Lawson, a longtime home brewer and the director of Mad River Glen’s Naturalist Program, a title he still holds. Since its inception, his beers have captured the fancy of beer lovers near and far, creating a cult-like following to go with the many awards and honors Lawson’s Finest has received.