Tim Patton—Fishtown resident and Star’s now-monthly “Think Beer, Drink Beer” columnist—said he hopes to bring a low-key, slightly quirky brewpub and nanobrewery to South Kensington.
The brewmaster and owner of the Saint Benjamin Brewing Company might just see his complete dream realized—at a meeting of the South Kensington Community Partners on Wednesday, June 20 at the Finanta Building at 1301 N. 2nd St., residents were openly supportive of the proposed project.
The meeting was meant only to gauge the community’s reaction—locals will vote officially on the proposal next month.
Patton, who was a home brewer before working to make Saint Benjamin a reality, has already nailed down a home for the brewery at 1710 N. 5th St.
The industrial building, he said, is zoned to allow Patton to brew, package and distribute his beer from inside, but he is proposing zoning variances to allow for a brewpub for public use and the sale of merchandise and beer to-go.
He calls the building “the ideal setup” for a brewery. It was actually, he said, the former carriage house for the Theo Finkenauer Lager Brewery some 100 years ago. He said the building is a solid three-floor structure in which one could “park a tank.”
As far as a brewpub to supplement the brewery, Patton said it would have a 30-seat bar and a small prep kitchen that will serve sandwiches, salads and snacks. In the brewpub, he could only legally serve beer that is brewed on site—that is, only Saint Benjamin Brewing Company beer—as well as wine that is made in Pennsylvania.
“I see that as an attractive option since sometimes people get dragged to brewery tours,” he said, “So wine’s an option for the non-beer lovers.”
He’s also proposing a variance to allow on-site retail so that he can sell growlers, kegs and six-packs of his beer, plus merchandise like tee shirts.
He’ll have to propose later variances even for things like flower planters and a bike rack in front of the building.
Patton said his brewpub could only bring good to the South Kensington community and surrounding areas.
“It will bring jobs and tourism to Kensington,” he said of the nanobrewery and brewpub. “People came all the way from the West Coast for Beer Week. In the future, that could happen here.”
Patton said his brewpub will provide the community with a place to get pints of quality brews for $4 or $5, and it won’t be one like so many of the “problem bars” in the city.
“It’s not [going to be] the kind of place where people are pounding alcohol, and pounding light beer,” he said. “You sit down, you sip slowly, you have a conversation with your friend…[the brewpub will be] a meeting place. It’s definitely not a nightclub.”
As far as the hours of operation, Patton said he’d like to stay open late to provide service industry workers coming off shift a place to enjoy a good beer.
“In this neighborhood, there’s a lot of artists, a lot of people who work in the service industry, and they tend to keep rather odd hours,” he said, and proposed that at least on the weekends the brewpub stay open until 2 a.m. The assembled meeting did not object.
The brewery’s building is set up so that the first floor, at first, will be used for both the brewery and brewpub area. Patton said he’d later expand usable space to the second and third floors of the building. On the ground floor, he’ll park his delivery truck in the garage connected to the rest of the structure.
He said the truck doesn’t pose many traffic problems—he can’t back the truck in or out between the hours of 3:30 and 7 p.m., during rush hour. He said he’d probably make beer deliveries from the truck once or twice a week.
Patton also raised the point that the building will always be zoned as a brewery, even if it’s not his brewery that calls the place home. The city has attached a brewery pub license to the building, and a bar without a brewery could not exist at the site.
All in all, this so-called nanobrewery—which is a step smaller than a microbrewery—and brewpub, Patton said, will serve the purpose of expanding the Saint Benjamin Brewing Company down the line.
“This is a brewery that I expect to grow,” he said. “I’m trying to get to the next step up, which then brings even more benefits [to the neighborhood].”
Charlie Abdo, who addressed the attendees of the meeting after Patton’s presentation, had positive things to say about Patton and his proposal.
“He seems like he’s got himself together, he’s very earnest and very active in the neighborhood,” he said.
Abdo asked those present for their general thoughts, and one man raised his hand to say simply, “It seems like a responsible operation.”
When Abdo asked what community members should request that Patton bring to next month’s voting meeting, one person shouted out what, perhaps, many at the meeting had been thinking:
To learn more about Patton’s brewery, visit blog.stbenjaminbrewing.com.
Star Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at email@example.com or at 215-354-3113.