Cans of Caldera ale are whizzing off the production line and diners are feasting on smoked salmon and burgers at the brewing company's spacious new digs, which opened Friday in south Ashland.
More than two dozen in-house brews are available on tap at the brewery, which is almost five times bigger than its previous location and includes a 143-seat restaurant, distillery and tasting room. Crowds packed the place on opening day, said restaurant manager Prescott Lewis.
"We were totally filled up inside and out, everybody was happy, the weather was really beautiful ... our view of the valley up here is unobstructed. It's just a beautiful place," Lewis said.
"I think what people are loving is that we're doing everything in-house — all the bread, all the pastas," said Lewis, former manager of Thai Pepper in Ashland and longtime friend of Caldera founder and owner Jim Mills.
Diners can choose from an array of pasta dishes, salmon smoked daily, burgers, freshly baked jumbo pretzels, or hand-tossed pizzas hot out of a stone oven, Lewis said.
The restaurant is also making a point of incorporating beer into several of its recipes, Lewis said.
The atmosphere of the restaurant is dominated by Mills' collection of more than 4,000 beer bottles displayed on high shelves wrapping around the inside walls. A fireplace offers a cozy corner to relax in, and the bar is inlaid with vibrant tile and mosaic work.
Mills, who moved the company's brewing operations to the 28,000-square-foot building in January, is also offering nonalcoholic Caldera concoctions — a hibiscus-ginger iced tea is available at the restaurant and ginger ale and root beer are soon to come, Lewis said.
The new headquarters sits a few hundred yards up Clover Lane from Caldera's former 6,000-square-foot brewhouse, whose retired 10-barrel system is dwarfed by the new brewery's 40-barrel installation. Ten of those will be used for distilling spirits, Mills said.
A new canning line has pumped out as many as 72,000 cans of Caldera ale in one day, Lewis said, and is running full tilt to satisfy the brewery's expanding distribution list.
Tours of the brewery are currently available upon request, Lewis said, but the restaurant plans to release a schedule soon.
Caldera will bring on about 30 new employees to run its new establishment, said Lewis, who is still hiring. That figure will raise the company's number of employees to about 50 who work between the new restaurant and brewery and Caldera Tap House on Water Street in downtown Ashland.
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com.