Northeast Times

Fishtown nanobrewer finds a new spot

Call it the little brew­ery that could.

Tim Pat­ton, the Fishtown res­id­ent be­hind the pro­posed Saint Ben­jamin Brew­ing Co., says he found a new site for his busi­ness after wary neigh­bors shot down his pitch for a Rich­mond Street loc­a­tion last Decem­ber.

Pat­ton hoped to open a nan­obrew­ery — that’d be a notch be­low mi­cro — in his home, a re­fur­bished his­tor­ic fire­house at 310 Rich­mond St. in Fishtown.

The plan soured when neigh­bors voted against a needed zon­ing vari­ance, 36-32, at a Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation meet­ing.

Un­daun­ted, Pat­ton re­cently found a loc­a­tion in the Kens­ing­ton South area at 2nd Street and Cecil B. Moore Av­en­ue where he said zon­ing wouldn’t be an is­sue.

While the soft­ware en­gin­eer turned am­a­teur brew­er’s ini­tial plans were for a two-bar­rel brew­ing sys­tem, the new in­dus­tri­al space will al­low him to in­crease to three bar­rels. He an­ti­cip­ates pro­du­cing 250 to 300 bar­rels of beer per year.

That’s still just a drop in Philly’s beer buck­et.

Phil­adelphia Brew­ing Co., loc­ated just north at Am­ber and Hagert streets in East Kens­ing­ton, brews about 12,000 bar­rels of beer each year.

Yards Brew­ing Com­pany on Delaware Av­en­ue in North­ern Liber­ties is due for an ex­pan­sion this year that would al­low pro­duc­tion of 24,000 bar­rels a year.

But don’t take Pat­ton’s mini­ature plans for a lack of am­bi­tion. 

Tom Ke­hoe, Yards’ founder, star­ted his brew­ery in 1994 in a Roxbor­ough gar­age. The ca­pa­city of his ori­gin­al sys­tem? A measly three bar­rels that pro­duced about 700 bar­rels a year.

In­deed, Pat­ton, who said he hopes to be pro­du­cing beer com­mer­cially by Novem­ber, sees the nan­obrew­ery as a step to­ward a big­ger fu­ture for Saint Ben­jamin — named after Philly’s pat­ron suds saint him­self, old Ben Frank­lin.

Pat­ton en­vi­sions leas­ing the 2,000 square foot space for about five years be­fore mov­ing on to something big­ger. Of course, the avid homebrew­er is still far from join­ing the big brew­er­ies on the loc­al taps.

There is still a maze of pa­per­work to nav­ig­ate with the Pennsylvania Li­quor Con­trol Board, city agen­cies, and oth­er bur­eau­cra­cies that reg­u­late a brew­ery in Phil­adelphia. And then there’s ac­tu­ally ad­apt­ing the space for brew­ing — “mak­ing sure there’s drains and things like that,” says Pat­ton — an ex­pens­ive and timely pro­cess.

Still, he has been act­ively ac­quir­ing the needed equip­ment, in­clud­ing fer­ment­ing tanks and a brew kettle.

Pat­ton also is work­ing to keep Saint Ben­jamin on the minds of area beer lov­ers as he moves for­ward; his homebrewed beers will be avail­able for tast­ing at three events dur­ing the up­com­ing Philly Beer Week, in­clud­ing the fest­iv­al fol­low­ing the Open­ing Tap ce­re­mony at the In­de­pend­ence Vis­it­or Cen­ter on Fri­day, June 3.

While he can’t leg­ally sell the beer to cov­er the cost of in­gredi­ents, Pat­ton said donat­ing his pro­to­types at events where beer drink­ers con­greg­ate is im­port­ant.

“It gets my name out there, and it gives me an idea of what people like,” said Pat­ton, who has donated homebrew to a num­ber of events to con­duct some in­form­al mar­ket re­search. “I’ve got­ten a lot of feed­back.”

This Sat­urday, June 4, Pat­ton will be one of the fea­tured homebrew­ers at Beer­Camp Philly —  “a loc­ally-grown beer­tast­ic cel­eb­ra­tion of DIY beer­mak­ing” — held at the Ja­maic­an Jerk Hut on South Street.

Curi­ous beer drink­ers can also get a taste of po­ten­tial Saint Ben­jamin brews at the “Su­per Secret Beer Con­cert Series” on June 9, where fel­low would-be nan­obrew­er Sean Mel­lody will also be donat­ing beer.

Fea­tur­ing live mu­sic by TJ Kong and the Atom­ic Bomb, the con­cert and “fu­ture of Phil­adelphia nan­obrew­ery show­case” will raise money for the non­profit Phil­adelphia Mauso­leum of Con­tem­por­ary Art.

The event will be held at the ven­ue, 531 N. 12th St.

Like Pat­ton, Mel­lody hopes to open a very small-scale brew­ery in the near fu­ture, his spe­cial­iz­ing in “real ale” and pos­sibly open­ing in Queen Vil­lage.

While nan­obrew­er­ies have been crop­ping up in oth­er parts of the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in the North­w­est, Philly can’t yet claim such a fa­cil­ity des­pite the ro­bust beer cul­ture be­ing cel­eb­rated dur­ing Philly Beer Week.

There are four brewpubs — bars that brew and serve their own beer — in the city, but Pat­ton stressed that Saint Ben­jamin is not a brewpub.

He said he felt that con­fu­sion over the term was one of the big factors that led to neigh­bors vot­ing down his first pro­pos­al.

“People kept us­ing that word, ‘brewpub,’” at the zon­ing meet­ing, said Pat­ton.

But his busi­ness plan is to fo­cus on selling kegs dir­ectly to bars, with very little walk-in or re­tail at the brew­ery it­self.

To him, it’s much more valu­able to have one of his tap handles in a pop­u­lar bar than to have a keg tucked away in someone’s re­fri­ger­at­or.

In fact, the brew­ing li­cense he is seek­ing only al­lows him to sell kegs and cases. If he wanted to sell pints of beer at the brew­ery, he’d have to fork over an ex­tra $50,000 just for the prop­er li­cense, Pat­ton said.

Right now, he’s con­cen­trat­ing on tweak­ing his beers and look­ing for a way to in­cor­por­ate loc­ally sourced in­gredi­ents whenev­er pos­sible.

That ex­per­i­ment­a­tion, the fun part, is what Saint Ben­jamin is really all about. Dur­ing the June 9 event, he’s look­ing for­ward to test­ing out his beers on a crowd that might be in­ter­ested more in mu­sic and art than the of­ten geek-cent­ric de­tails of brew­ing.

He’ll be pour­ing his Troubleshoot­er Pale Ale, an Eng­lish brown ale, and a Bel­gian wit beer he hopes will be the sig­na­ture brew of his fledgling com­pany.

To fol­low the brew­ery’s pro­gress and find out about up­com­ing tast­ings, check out the Saint Ben­jamin Brew­ing Com­pany page on Face­book.

Re­port­er Bri­an Rademaekers can be reached at 215 354 3039 or brademaekers@bsmphilly.com.

Get­ting a taste of Saint Ben­jamin Brew­ing Co. 

Samples of beers made by Tim Pat­ton will be avail­able dur­ing Philly Beer Week at the fol­low­ing events:

Philly Beer Week Open­ing fest­iv­al

Fri­day, June 3, at 7:30 p.m. at In­de­pend­ence Vis­it­or Cen­ter, 6th and Mar­ket streets. Beer Fest­iv­al  doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Beer­Camp Philly

Sat­urday, June 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Ja­maic­an Jerk Hut, 1436 South St.

Su­per Secret Beer Con­cert Series

Thursday, June 9 from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Phil­aMOCA,

531 N. 12th St.

You can reach at brademaekers@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus