For months the Brewing Projekt has been making beer at its new sprawling brick complex, but the Eau Claire brewery still used its old location — a small, boxy cinderblock building — for its taproom.
But a Wednesday afternoon post on Facebook and a note on the door of 2000 Oxford Ave. alerted patrons to make the short journey of less than two blocks to the brewery’s new home.
“There’s just a heck of a lot more space,” said William Glass, who goes by the title of volunteer president because Wisconsin law forbids him from owning the brewery while his wife still owns a tavern in Eau Claire.
The temporary taproom inside the brewery’s new home at 1807 Oxford Ave. already came in handy, he said, as a group of 30 bicyclists who stopped in for a beer on Thursday evening would’ve been a tight fit around the old bar.
There will be even more space for trying out the brewery’s beer when the permanent taproom is completed later this year. The final version will be in its own three-story building with exposed brick, tall ceilings, garage doors open to views of the Chippewa River and a couple of patios.
“It’s going to be way cooler,” Glass said.
A lot of construction still remains at the new facility, Glass said, and will continue through the end of the year.
The building at 1807 Oxford Ave. was actually two large buildings joined by several small additions between them. Those middle pieces were the problem — small, poorly designed and not conducive to the brewery’s plans. So they were torn down and a new connecting building is under construction.
It would’ve been cheaper and faster to raze the site and start anew, Glass said, but he wanted to keep the 130-year-old brick building there that had served as a furniture factory and also a meat canning plant during World War II. Before the brewery, the most recent tenant was Silvermine Stone Co.
“It was never an option to tear that thing down and build something new,” he said.
The new brewery does have space for a restaurant in the future, but Glass said he currently has no plans to open one at the brewery. Groups that rent out event space would have the ability to have caterers bring in food. And the brewery has hosted a food truck recently.
Larger quarters were needed to boost the brewery’s capacity as its beers have grown in popularity since it began production about 3½ years ago. The brewery has increased its fermentation capacity, bought a bigger brewhouse and added a faster canning line.
Even with the increased volume that the larger building and new equipment can accommodate, Glass said he still can’t keep up with demand. To fully satisfy that, he said production could be quintupled or quadrupled.
About 80 percent of the brewery’s beer is sold in northwestern Wisconsin and the Twin Cities, but it also has shown up in Madison, and the company just started making inroads in Milwaukee.
Glass credits the upstart brewery’s success to its experimentation with beers that are difficult to make, using different ingredients and lots of trial and error to get them right.
“We’re making styles of beer that a lot of other brewers aren’t making,” Glass said.
On Friday they were brewing their latest creation, version 2.0 of their “Twang of Fruitility” Berliner weisse beer. The previous incarnation used raspberries, but the new recipe has real tart cherry and lime juices. (Glass said the beer’s name was inspired by a negative comment that a neo prohibitionist posted online about her hopes the brewery would suffer a Biblical “twang of futility.”)
Alongside them were tanks filled with a couple of the brewery’s best-sellers — Gunpowder IPA and Dare Mighty Things.
The Brewing Projekt’s move is another step forward in the city’s redevelopment efforts on the section of the west bank of the Chippewa River known as the Cannery District.
The Redevelopment Authority is buying a couple of rental houses along Oxford Avenue this year, which leaves a few older business buildings left to acquire in 2019 before the area is revitalized.
The city’s vision for that area is to attract businesses and a variety of housing.
“The process has started with developers,” said Mike Schatz, city economic development administrator.
Milwaukee firm WiRED currently is mulling a group of single-family homes called a “pocket neighborhood” for a vacant block on the edge of the district.
With the Brewing Projekt open and drawing people to the Cannery District, Schatz said that boosts interest and helps illustrate the area’s potential to would-be developers.
“My experience is once the first one gets in and activity is generated there, it becomes more visible to what it might become,” he said.
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