With a nod to Ben Franklin, new brewery to open in N. Phila.

Posted: May 30, 2014

 T IM PATTON, 37, of Fishtown, is the founder of Saint Benjamin Brewing Co. in North Philadelphia. Patton bought an old warehouse and, after several years of planning, he and co-brewer Christina Burris hope to open a nanobrewery during Philly Beer Week, which begins today.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea for Saint Benjamin?

A: I and a friend started an online coupon-and-deal website in 1999 that offered discounts on Amazon, pet food and other stuff. I was there until 2009 but wanted a different career path. I'd gotten interested in homebrewing and the beers I was making turned out decent. I researched the industry and visited breweries in Seattle.

Q: How much did you invest to get this going?

A: I used some savings from Dealcatcher.com [Patton's still a part-owner] to buy a building, upgrade infrastructure and buy brewing equipment. It was at least $500,000.

Q: Why brewing?

A: Philly has hundreds of craft-beer bars but only two production breweries [Yards Brewing Co. and Philadelphia Brewing Co.] and five brewpubs in a city of 1.5 million.

Q: What's special about your brews?

A: I love old styles [of beer] and brew true to that. I do a Cream Ale that's very much a classic style. We also brew some quirky beers. There's a light lager ale I brew with a bit of coffee we call Coffee Kolsch.

Q: The biz model?

A: We plan to self-distribute our beer, which we're legally permitted to do. So we'll sell to craft-beer bars all over the city, with a few accounts in the 'burbs. We're still working on pricing. Our goal is to sell 25 to 30 barrels a month. Part of the warehouse has been allocated for a brewpub and we'll probably start construction on that in the fall. This summer we'll have tours, tastings and growler sales.

Q: The name?

A: I wanted something that caught people's attention. [It] was a nod to Ben Franklin, who was a homebrewer himself. The saint part was a tongue-in-cheek reference to Belgian beers I like, especially ones made by the monasteries and monks.

Q: Biggest challenge?

A: I would say the bureaucracy of the city and state. We fought tooth-and-nail just to get power in here. We spent four months waiting for L&I to review building plans. I had enough money that I could wait, but I could have packed up, gone to the 'burbs and been open in six months. I didn't go because I live here, my friends are here and the market I want to sell to is here.

Q: Where do you see the biz headed in the next year?

A: The brewpub will be open within a year, and then we'll probably plan to expand into the rest of the building and build a larger brew house.


" @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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