Everything Old Is Brew Again: The Craft Beer Business and Adaptive Reuse

PLAY OF THE LAND

Microbrews and adaptive reuse—two great trends that work well together.

The beer business has exploded in recent decades, with new craft brands and brewpubs popping up everywhere. According to numbers from the Brewers Association, in 1996 there were 1,087 craft breweries in the U.S. Twenty years later, that number has jumped almost five-fold, to 5,234.

You’ve got to put all of them somewhere. And in many cases, that has meant outfitting existing buildings for new lives as breweries.

Adaptive reuse is a trend in commercial and residential real estate broadly, but there are a few points that make it particularly well-suited to the brewing business.

Adaptive reuse is a trend in commercial and residential real estate broadly, but there are a few points that make it particularly well-suited to the brewing business, says John Bernatz of the Advisory & Transaction Services, Restaurant Practice Group at CBRE Portland.

For one thing, says Bernatz, who is also a trained chef, the construction of older buildings lends itself to good beer.

“Typically those older buildings are secured masonry, really thick, sturdy construction, which allows for better brewing conditions,” he says. “They are usually a much more stable building to put a brewery inside.”

In addition, Bernatz notes, capital requirements can be much lower than building new facilities might be.

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The Kennedy School in Portland, Ore., has been converted into a 57-room hotel, complete with an onsite brewery.

Breweries are, in many cases, serving as beachheads for neighborhood development.

“I think these breweries are able to get into these old buildings and say, ‘Ok, it works, it’s functional, let’s just clean it out, gut it, and start using it,'” he says.

And then, of course, there’s the aesthetic angle. “It’s just hip and cool.”

So much so, in fact, that breweries are, in many cases, serving as beachheads for neighborhood development, Bernatz says. “They go into these areas because they are low cost and then all of a sudden the rest of the retail and gentrification boom follows suit. So they are blazing the trail in a lot of neighborhoods.”

Bernatz’s home base of Portland is a microbrew boomtown, and Oregon itself has the most craft breweries per capita of any state in the nation, he says. As such, the area features some of the more unique adaptive reuse brewery projects to be found anywhere. One of the major players in this realm is Portland’s McMenamins hotel and restaurant group, which has converted a number of historic Portland buildings into, among other things, breweries, hotels, wineries and entertainment complexes.

One of the company’s most popular sites is Kennedy School, a former elementary school in Northeast Portland that has been converted into a 57-room hotel, complete with an onsite brewery and movie theater. It also houses a restaurant and several bars.

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South Dakota’s Firehouse Brewing Co. is headquartered in Rapid City’s first fire station. Photo courtesy of Firehouse Brewing Co.

Bernatz cites Seattle and San Francisco as other hotspots in this growing scene. One prominent example is San Francisco’s Southern Pacific Brewing, which makes and serves its beers in a 10,000-square-foot former warehouse in the city’s Mission District.

And it’s not just a West Coast thing. Breweries around the country have set up shop in unique repurposed structures. Firehouse Brewing Co. is headquartered in the Rapid City, S.D.’s first fire station. In Grand Rapids, Mich., local outfit Brewery Vivant brews its beers in a former funeral parlor. And in Jenkinton, Pa., just north of Philadelphia, the Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company opened a brewery and restaurant this year in a former Rolls Royce showroom.

Overseas breweries have also taken up the trend. For instance, Amsterdam’s Brouwerij Troost operates out of a former monastery. London’s Crate Brewery, meanwhile, is located in an old warehouse in the city’s Hackney Wick neighborhood.

Simply put, these are heady days for beer lovers, with no shortage of interesting brews to try and perhaps even more interesting places to try them.

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