USA, NY: Heroes Brewing to open in former Lost Borough Brewing space in Rochester
Greg and Marlene Fagen are two of the most positive and selfless people you could ever come across. So it's no surprise that their brewery is an extension of that outlook, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported on November 23.
Heroes Brewing opens in the coming weeks in the former Lost Borough Brewing space at 543 Atlantic Ave. in the city of Rochester's Beechwood neighborhood. It'll become the city's 12th brewery (and a 13th is slated to open in the coming months).
When Lost Borough closed earlier this year, Heroes, which is nearly five years in the making, was ready to fill that void. The Fagens, a married couple who reside in Fairport, said it was the perfect opportunity and the ideal home for their community-centered brewery model.
The brewery name, they said, is a reflection of this.
"We had come up with all sorts of different names. We were going to name the brewery after our dog. I said, Marlene, what is it that anybody can be? She thought about it. I said, Anyone can be a hero? I was a fireman at the time, so firemen and police and veterans, theyve earned that.
"But we looked at it as the everyday hero. Grandparents who raise grandkids. People who adopt pets. People who spend their Saturdays cleaning their community. Teachers. Doctors. Nurses. They all have the ability to be a hero. Thats who we want our brand to stand for."
"People going above and beyond what they were trained to do," Marlene added.
Simply put, "Benevolence is a big aspect of our life and who we are," Greg Fagen said. It's important for the Fagens to "really live our brand," Greg added.
"We decided that for every packaged product we make, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a different local charity," Greg said.
The brewery has already canned seven offerings as it prepares for the uncertainty surrounding business openings and occupancy limits amid the coronavirus pandemic. And each of those beers will benefit a designated charity.
51/49 American light lager: This easy-drinking lager is based on a simple relationship principle, Greg said. "Most people go for a 50-50 relationship, but if you go for 51% and I go 51%, thats 102%. We all win." A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Beechwood Neighborhood Coalition.
Justintime Irish Red Ale: This is a malt-forward classic, Greg said. It is named in honor Justin, the son of family friends who has Down syndrome. Justin's story is on the side of the can and the beer will benefit the Flower City Down Syndrome Network.
Lets Go Fishing Kölsch is named in honor of the father of a childhood friend, Greg said. Some of his fondest memories involved fishing, so the beer benefits the fish hatchery at Powder Mills Park.
Walter's Warriors New England-style IPA is named after Walter the cat, the unofficial mascot of Lollypop Farm at the Greater Rochester Humane Society.
There are partnerships in the works for future releases, the Fagens said, including ones to benefit local veterans groups. "Its impossible to help somebody else without helping yourself," Greg said. "Were going to lean into it. Hopefully it means just as much to others as it does to us."
Lost Borough, which opened in Nov. 2014, had a promising start. The brewery greatly expanded its capacity early on jumping from a 3-barrel brewhouse to a 7-barrel system and even had to close about a month into operations because it simply didn't have enough beer. LBBC also raised more than $20,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. Heroes hopes to launch a similar Kickstarter drive to purchase a small canning unit.
Increased competition and divergent lives led to the brewery closure before the onset on the pandemic, but it created the perfect opportunity for the Fagens, who began exploring opening a brewery in 2016. The Fagens participated in the Brew in Livingston business plan competition in late 2016 and were among the 10 finalists. (Grants were ultimately awarded to places like Mortalis Brewing in Avon and Rising Storm Brewing in Livonia.)
"It's not always easy to stay positive, but what's the alternative," Marlene asked.
Through the competition, the Fagens met another participant, Phil Boulanger. Boulanger is a lauded homebrewer with more than 100 medals from various competitions. He'll oversee beer production. The goal is to be "style agnostic," Greg said. Heroes hopes to have something to satisfy every palate. The opening tap list relies heavily on classic styles.
"We want to make beers that we like," Greg said. "And I think there is going to be a move back toward more lagers. I don't have any apprehension for tying up equipment for six weeks as opposed to two weeks, because I think that's what the consumer is looking for. There is a niche for every brewery in this area."
Jerry Wheaton, Greg's long-time friend, rounds out the partnership group. Wheaton was following along with the Heroes journey and decided he wanted to invest in his friend's dream
Both Greg and Marlene love the hospitality aspect of the beer industry. Greg is a long-time homebrewer and is obsessive about processes, he admitted. Both Fagens are maintaining full-time careers.
"Greg is a natural-born entrepreneur," Marlene said.
"I always try to make things better," Greg added. "I've got books at home and whenever I get an idea about a business, I just jot it down. We haven't even opened this and I'm already thinking, 'How can I get to Heroes 2.0 and beyond?' I'm way out at the horizon and Marlene is in here."
Heroes will be dual licensed with the state as both a farm brewery and microbrewery to increase its flexibility and its access to a wider range of ingredients. It acquired all of Lost Boroughs assets, including intellectual property, branding, social media accounts and beer recipes. The Lost Borough name will be retired.
Some of the Lost Borough favorites could return in the future under a new name. Among the first eight beers at the brewery, all are Heroes originals.
The space has been completely transformed and reimagined. The striking concrete bar has been replaced with a warmer Brazilian walnut bar top. The concrete floors have been redone and stamped to mimic hardwoods. And the north-facing brick wall has been scraped clean. Two murals have been added. The brewery will feature a cozy, lounge-like atmosphere.
"We want to be about the community and honor the people who make this world a better place," Greg said.
"Every time a little piece is completed, it's like, 'Oh my gosh, this is really happening,' and we're one step closer," Marlene added. "There have been a lot of little celebrations along the way. But we're excited to welcome people in."