What does one do with a decades-old mule barn smack in the middle of what used to be Fort Benjamin Harrison? If you’re David Waldman, you turn it into a microbrewery – with macro appeal.
You’ve probably seen the low-slung structure along Wheeler Drive in Lawrence with the decorative brewing vat planted out front. Here, Waldman and two partners brew and pour private-label bottles and growlers of specialty suds on property once owned by the U.S. Army. “We were checking out location options elsewhere,” remembered Waldman. “But our real estate consultant kept nagging us saying, ‘You gotta try the Fort!’ So, we did, and saw exactly what we were looking for. All the logistical pieces were here, and with much more character.”
And, so it came to pass that on September 2, 2011, the Triton Brewing Company opened its doors, but only after Master Brewer Jon Lang transformed the long-empty mule (and later jeep, then race car) barn into a state-of-the-art beer-brewing business. Fermentation bubbles away in the huge finishing tanks that Lang installed. The grain and hops are milled on site. Lang, who spent time in Germany and learned to appreciate good beer, described the brewing process as physically tough, but satisfying work. Pointing to a bottle of Magnificent Amber he added, “I like saying ‘This is mine.’”
Triton employs a reverse osmosis filtration process that strips Lawrence water to its core. The microbrewery uses lots of water – 60,000 gallons a month – which brings us to the brewery’s name. “Triton was the son of Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea. Much like our brewing process, he was all about the water,” Waldman patiently explained. “Poseidon carried a trident, a kind of three-pronged pitchfork used for spear fishing. The word trident is Latin meaning ‘three teeth.’ Our logo is a trident, as a reminder of what’s important to us.”
Clearly, they’re pushing the right buttons. With five offerings including a brown, a stout, and an IPA, Triton brews about 160 barrels a day – a capacity expected to jump to 280 barrels by mid-summer. “The toughest part is no matter how much we produce, we can’t ever meet the demand,” declared Waldman.
Athena Scholl is a Triton waitress (yes, that’s really her first name, and naturally she’d work in a place steeped in Greek mythology). “We have lots of regulars – everything’s been very positive. I think it’s very cool seeing this kind of development in Lawrence.”
While Triton has a family- (and dog) friendly tasting room, its primary focus in on production and distribution. Waldman, who sports a long-ish goatee that he calls a chin mullet (“all business on the sides, and a party in front”), explained the owners’ ultimate goal is a much larger brewery with more jobs for Lawrence. “We make beer – it’s our passion. Why beer? Why not? Compared to P-B-R, craft beer is the nectar of the gods!”