USA, PA: Root Down Brewing Co. hoping to open by May in Phoenixville
Like many homebrewers, Mike Hamara had dreams of opening his own brewery.
And like many homebrewers, he found out that can be a long and complicated process.
That process soon will come to an end when Hamara and his wife, Martha, open Root Down Brewing Co. in downtown Phoenixville, the Reading Eagle reported on February 12.
"I thought it would be about a yearlong process, and here we are, almost two years later, still going at it," he said. "It's finally coming together. It's been a long time in the making."
The brewery will be at 1 N. Main St., behind Molly Maguire's Irish Restaurant and Pub. The 13,000-square-foot facility was previously known as Superior Beverage Co. and produced sodas such as Hires Root Beer and Orange Crush. It's the same building that West Reading's Chatty Monks Brewing Co. had planned to use for a second location before those plans fell through.
Hamara started homebrewing around 2002, when he was in the Marines. When he got out of the Marines, he moved back home to Downingtown, where he opened a beer- and wine-making supply shop called Artisan Homebrew. He ran that from 2009 until selling it in 2015.
"The original game plan was I was going to open a homebrew shop, and then open a brewery from that," he said. "The way the craft beer movement is just changing constantly, I decided it might be a better idea to create a completely different entity and start a separate brewery instead of tying it in with the homebrew shop."
He started planning for the brewery about five years ago, and got serious in 2015, securing investors, applying for loans and looking at potential locations. He knew of the Superior Beverage building, but at the time, Chatty Monks had a lease for it. Eventually, Chatty Monks pulled out of the lease, and Hamara moved in.
"Once I found out, I was up here that day," he said. "I think I had a handshake by the end of the week to start moving forward at this spot."
Construction started the second week of January, and the Hamaras hope to be open by late April or early May.
"I don't want to jinx myself, but if we have no delays, our licensing approval and all that stuff is scheduled to be done before that, so I feel comfortable that mid-April we'll be able to open," Hamara said.
The brewpub will have two distinct sections. The front part will resemble a German beer hall with a 60-foot bar, beer hall-style tables and the brewing system visible through two large windows at the front of the building. The back section will be an indoor beer garden, Hamara said, with furniture, video games and pinball machines.
"It'll be more of a hangout kind of atmosphere," Hamara said.
The kitchen will be in the back section, and food will be ordered at a snack-bar type window. John Walsh, who most recently served as corporate chef for Comcast in Philadelphia, will be the chef. The menu will focus on smoked meats, Hamara said.
"Our chef is very much into using the whole animal," he said
The brewpub will have 24 total taps: 12 in the front and 12 in the back. Most of the time, the front and the back will be the same, but they have the option of having 24 different beers on tap. In a nod to the building's history, the brewpub will also serve Hires Root Beer and Orange Crush soda.
Steve Bischoff, who most recently worked at Sly Fox Brewing Co., will be the head brewer. He will use a 17-barrel system.
Hamara said Root Down likely won't have "flagship" beers, but instead will continually brew different beers.
"I just feel with the craft beer movement that people want to see constant change," he said. "I would dare to say that flagships may be dying off, so I'm going to walk a fine line. There are going to be some recurring characters that are on here all the time."
Instead of calling the recurring beers flagships, they will be called the Root Series. Hamara also plans to brew an Alter Ego series, which will be the Root Series but with a different twist.
"There's a number of things we want to do," he said.
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