MANCHESTER, NH – Building owners working with Kelsen Brewing Company in Derry obtained a variance from the Manchester Zoning Board of Adjustment Thursday to be allowed to set up their brewery in a commercial space downtown just north of the city health department.
But Kelsen owner Paul Kelly said it’s too soon to announce any major plans for the company.
The brewery is being forced out of its current location at 80 North High St. in Derry to make room for a major construction project — the installation of Exit 4A off Interstate 93 and a widened throughway into downtown Derry — and they will need a place to land by summer.
Kelly said he’s been looking for locations in Derry and other communities across southern New Hampshire, and had at one point been in talks with a developer in Derry to be included in a new development. But that project has not begun construction yet and wouldn’t be built in time for Kelsen’s forced relocation.
Still, he said they haven’t made any final decisions or signed any leases in Manchester yet.
“I had to start moving on something because I only have until the summertime to move,” Kelly said. “There’s nothing in stone.”
At this stage, he said they are just doing their due diligence.
Before making a decision, he needed to make sure the city would approve the variance needed to allow a brewery, which is a manufacturing use, in the city’s Commercial Business District. The building he’s eyeing at 35 West Brook St. is already permitted as a restaurant/bar as it’s a former American Legion building.
“I like the spot and all, so I’m hoping it does work out,” Kelly said.
According to the application for the variance, Kelsen currently operates a 7-barrel brew system and it sold about 750 barrels of beer in 2020. It serves the majority of its beer at its own taproom and restaurant (which specializes in pizza) and delivers kegs to a limited number of on-premise accounts.
Bellavance Beverage Company and New Hampshire Distributors distributed bottles and cans throughout the state on Kelsen’s behalf.
The Manchester space is a similar size to the Derry brewery. If Kelly decides to move into the West Brook Street building, the plan would be to continue the current beer production output.
The variance application argued Kelsen would be a “minimal” and “humble” operation and would not harm public safety or health, which the exclusion of manufacturing in that zone was intended to protect against.
Aside from regular patron traffic, they expect only two to three delivery pickups per month.