From making small-batch brews to becoming a grocery store during the pandemic, two local brewery founders are making a name for themselves in the kitchen and brew room.
Triton Brewing Co., at 5764 Wheeler Rd., is a dream 30 years in the making for co-founder David Waldman.
“I’d been thinking of starting a brewery in 1992,” Waldman said. “Originally, we were just going to be a production brewery that distributed. Maybe have a little tasting room and invite food trucks to set up onsite.”
When the business and quality of food trucks started to decline six years ago, Waldman decided to open a kitchen in Triton Brewing to make “good bar food” to pair with the brews. That, he said, is what helped the business weather the pandemic.
“We had access to stuff that normal people couldn’t get ahold of during COVID,” Waldman said. “Our food suppliers weren’t (supplying) for the grocery chains. So, we opened a grocery store at the beginning of the pandemic. Toilet paper, bleach-based cleaning supplies, you name it. Most restaurants were closed, so we took advantage.
“It’s the reason Triton’s still here.”
Triton Brewing opened in 2011. Waldman, a former nonprofit management professional, began working on the business in 2008 to follow a dream he had since 1992.
“At the time, there wasn’t really space to do something like this,” Waldman said. “It wasn’t like it is today, where breweries are commonplace for most areas. We were on the frontside of a giant growing bubble.”
When Waldman registered Triton Brewing with the state in 2010, his co-founder, Jon Lang, joined the operation.
“I was with Barley Island Brewing Co. (in Noblesville, now permanently closed) for nine years,” Lang said. “A mutual brewery friend brought us together. He recommended me to Waldman.”
Lang has won national awards for brews he created at Barley Island. He is now the master brewer for Triton Brewing.
Triton Brewing has always had a sterling reputation for its beer, Waldman said. When the kitchen was added, it was a logical next step to elevate the business. So far, it has paid dividends.
“Our kitchen is growing the fastest since we’ve created a great reputation for our beer,” Waldman said. “We use the best-quality ingredients to make our beer, and that starts with the water.”
The City of Lawrence has won several awards for its water quality, including engineering excellence awards for the water system. Originally, Triton was named for its superior water quality.
“Beer is 96 percent water,” Waldman said. “So, we want to make sure that the water we use is up to par to really let the actual science of the brew come through. When we decided to open in Lawrence, we didn’t even know about the improvements about to be made to the water. It was just an added bonus.”
The building that Triton Brewing Co. occupies is a former mule barn at Fort Benjamin Harrison. Waldman said that it’s one of the things that sets the business apart from other breweries.
“We kind of set up in the history of the area,” Waldman said. “We were the first retail space on the Fort.”
Waldman and Lang attribute a majority of the brewery’s continued success to the city’s efforts to reface and repurpose the Fort Ben campus.
“When the weather’s nice, we see a lot of people ride their bikes here from the (Fort Harrison) state park,” Lang said. “We’ve seen people park here, bike into the park and stop in for a beer and a bite before heading home.”
“Lawrence is a great place, and we love being able to be a part of the community,” Waldman said.
Triton Brewing events
It isn’t just about the brews at Triton Brewing Co. Co-founders David Waldman and Jon Lang’s commitment to the community means that every fourth Saturday of the month, they have a yoga and brews event.
The yoga class is taught in the parking lot or brew room by a previous server with a passion for yoga. Waldman said that Triton was the first brewery in the state to have a yoga program.
Waldman and Lang has also offered free space to local artists in need of a space to help kickstart teaching careers. With the cultural campus and Arts for Lawrence nearby, it was a great fit, according to Waldman.