Nearing its two-year mark, South Kensington’s Saint Benjamin Brewing Company announces its brewhouse expansion. Led by brewers Tim Patton and Christina Burris, the brewing operation increased its three-barrel system to one that is now 10-hectoliters (that roughly translates to eight-and-a-half barrels).
The anticipated expansion will enable the Philly brewery to increase its production to 4,000 barrels per year. As of 2015, they clocked a 440-barrel production year, with their goal to produce a significant increase for 2016, roughly 1,400-1,500 barrels.
New System, New Beer
The sleek new German brewhouse arrived on-site as of early February, with the brewery tapping industry consultant and regional beer pioneer, Scott Morrison, to assist with calibrating the equipment. Even better, as a homage to Saint Ben and Morrison’s working relationship, they’re collaborating with him on a maibock—one to be released during the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) in early May.
But, back to the new system. The very first beer off of it was a sessionable IPA crafted with New Zealand Wakatu hops and pilsner malt, which made its public debut at Martha on Fri., March 4. Appropriately named the Troubleshooter, this beer also marks another new beginning—it was the one of the first releases that Saint Benjamin’s new assistant brewer, Josh Caputo, collaborated on. (He was formerly the cellarman of Duck Rabbit Brewery.)
Yes, We Can
Beginning early April, Saint Benjamin will also start mobile canning their most popular releases: Inca, an India Cream Ale with West Coast sensibilities, and Wit or Witout, a classic wheat beer made with traditional spices and a bit of Philly zest.
“We considered these two beers for canning because they are our go-to, easy-drinking beers,” shares Burris. “We envision people grabbing them to take to the shore or to baseball games.”
Burris and Patton worked with a designer to concoct can labels that best represent their history-inspired brand. Burris, a self-proclaimed ‘typography nerd,’ shares that the calligraphy-themed lettering that’ll don the coming-soon cans is identifiable to what one would have seen during Ben Franklin’s era.
It will not be just St. Ben’s cans hitting the market. Expect them to up the ante on their bottle production too. “Liaison was the first home run,” reveals Burris. “It was my first homebrew that grew into this beer. We are very happy for it to be coming into 750-ml.”
Bonne Année, a Belgian-style strong ale brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops, is another they’re prepping for large-format bottles. The beer debuted on draught for the second consecutive year on New Year’s Eve 2015. A portion of it was reserved and aged in 750-ml cork-finished bottles, to be released at a later date, after it “takes on the essence of the year,” suggests Burris.
Here Comes a Pub
The biggest news of it all is that fact that Saint Benjamin Brewing Company will soon add to the ever-evolving craft beverage scene of Kensington and Fishtown. Ever since Saint Benjamin’s initial May 2014 debut (that’s when they released the first keg, though they’d been in the works since Feb. 2012), the co-owners intended to unveil a pub within their brewery’s space.
Quick history lesson: the brewery’s tri-level building once acted as the historic carriage house and stables of the defunct Theo Finkenauer Brewery. Theodore Finkenaeur purchased the location in 1876 and by 1890, he was producing 15,000 barrels of lager beer.
Now, just in time for CBC, Saint Benjamin’s aims to introduce its brewpub. Previously, SBBC was open once a month for tours and growlers fills only.
“With this expansion, we’ve doubled our team,” shares Patton. They hired a general manager last week; they are in the process of appointing a chef; they welcomed a sales assistant.
Excited to add to the drink and food culture of the neighborhood, SBBC is about a three-block walk from New Liberty Distilling and Federal Distilling, and a quick drive from bar newcomer Martha. Similar in timing, SBBC’s brewpub will open the same month as Philly Distilling‘s new HQ (which includes a restaurant and cocktail bar; more on that here).
Brewery visitors can expect the rustic, brick-lined Tap Room to feature 12 beers on tap, plus one release on hand pump. The pub will feature a full kitchen that focuses on a fresh and seasonal menu that’s in sync with the brewery’s sensibilities. Patton also reveals they’ll feature Pennsylvania wines, as well as local cider, within the pub.
The brewery’s site has seen many lives, acting as a motor cargo company, sewing machine factory, storage warehouse, and now again, a brewery. Burris reveals that the space allows them room to grow upward, up to three floors. When the building acted as carriage house and stable, the horses were kept on the second floor. “The second floor was built to hold 64 horses,” reveals Burris about the architecturally sound levels of their building. “We can easily develop reorganizational opportunities upward within this building that are gravity fed.”
“We’re on the path of achieving our vision,” continues Patton, “And, continuing to get our name out there. Philadelphia’s [beer scene] continues to grow steadily and we’ve experienced great growth in the suburbs. As those markets are changing, we are looking to grow into the rest of the state and New Jersey, and build ourselves into a recognizable brand.”