AUGUSTA — Six months and three days after four partners opened Cushnoc Brewing Co., their brewery and wood-fired pizza restaurant on Water Street, they’ll open a tasting room two levels below it on Front Street.

And before the business reaches its first anniversary in October, a third location on Route 3 is expected to be home to additional brewing capacity, a canning operation and a small retail outlet.

“We’re not doing any expansions that we can’t support with our existing business model,” Tobias Parkhurst said. “We don’t feel like we’re taking a risk. We feel like we’re answering a need.”

While Augusta is a fairly small city, it serves as a regional service center, drawing people from across central Maine to its offices, retail outlets and restaurants every day.

With all that it offers, the city could not match what people traveled out of the region for.

More than a year ago, the partners behind the business — Parkhurst, Casey Hynes, Chris Geerlings and James Bass — started generating buzz about the business. They wanted to bring to Augusta the sort of experience they were driving an hour to Portland to get.

Before then, rumors had circulated that already-established craft brew companies were interested in expanding to Augusta, but none took to the leap.

“Cushnoc has certainly realized a vision that the partners all saw very clearly,” said Keith Luke, Augusta’s deputy development director, whose job is focused on economic development.

“The opportunity that existed and their ability to then capitalize on the opportunity they saw and further their commitment and investment is a great sign for the company and the city,” Luke said.

“What we’re trying to do is ratchet up both supply and demand incrementally,” Geerlings said, standing on the brewing floor on Water Street. “We expanded our production capacity in advance of opening downstairs, but we’re looking to do even more than that, plus sell product to bars and restaurants around the state. That’s where the Route 3 property comes in.”

Variety also is increasing, he said. The core beers will remain, but new beers will debut regularly.

The biggest surprise in the first six months of operation has been the rate of growth, he said.

“All the steps we are taking are things we had discussed, but seeing them happen so quickly has been the biggest surprise,” Geerlings said.

“Did I think we would be this busy out of the gate?” Hynes said. “No. This phase is coming on faster than we thought.”

On Sunday, the partners and others were in the new tasting room, two floors below the restaurant at 243 Water St., trying to wrap up final tasks before they open the space later this week.

The tasting room, which is actually two rooms, is accessible on Front Street, and two outdoor seating areas overlooking the Kennebec River will be available. Inside the main room, a custom-made barn board table that seats 30 stretches the length of the space, and the bar area features the Cushnoc logo. The second room is a smaller and more intimate.

The space has been stripped back to brick and granite, and any new walls have been built with cinderblock.

It gives the space a historic-industrial feel, but the reason for the design is more pragmatic. Because the tasting room is in the flood plain, anything that was added is flood-proof, Parkhurst said.

When the Kennebec flowed over its banks in January, a little water washed in and washed out again overnight. Should there be a more serious flood, he said, the staff can shift inventory and furnishings out of the path of the water.

In addition to the beer and red and white wines, customers will be able to get growlers and cans to go. The tasting room will offer lighter fare and snacks.

Right now, the biggest impediment to more growth, Parkhurst said, is himself.

“There’s four of us. Chris is very busy brewing, and Casey is very busy running a successful restaurant. James is vey busy with his job and helping us navigate the legal pitfalls of having a brewery that is expanding and offering new services. So the expansion is on me,” he said.

Even after this expansion, Cushnoc will remain a small brewery, and that’s fine, he said.

“It’s fun to be a in a busines that’s exciting, that makes you happy and makes other people happy.”

And people are apparently happy enough to book the tasting room for the first three days it’s open.

Once that’s done, the focus shifts to the expansion on Route 3.

“Our goal is to be open before our one-year anniversary. We want to make sure we’re celebrating our one-year anniversary with cans,” said Parkhurst.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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