Independent craft breweries have always been about community and sustainability. Even though much has changed — equipment has evolved, become more high-tech and efficient — the basic science has remained the same for centuries. In the same vein, craft brewers are taking old buildings and giving them a new life and purpose.
Historic abandoned churches, banks, warehouses, train and bus stations, firehouses, factories and, yes, even old breweries are being restored and taking part in today’s craft brewery explosion. There may be even a few ghosts from the past hanging around.
In a follow-up to “12 Breweries in Historic Buildings: Reviving and Restoring the Past,” here are 12 more craft brewers who have taken the old and made them brew again.
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Wynkoop Brewing Co. | Denver
In 1988, Denver’s lower downtown — called LoDo — was skid row.
Then came four guys who wanted to make beer. Jerry Williams, Mark Schiffler, Russell Scherer and John Hickenlooper opened the first craft brewery in Denver in the J.S. Brown Mercantile Building on the corner of 18th and Wynkoop streets. Hickenlooper went on to become the mayor of Denver and is currently the governor of Colorado.
There are now approximately 50 breweries in Denver and more than 185 in the metro area. LoDo is the hippest area of Denver, home to the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field and some of the city’s best-known restaurants and shops. It all started with Wynkoop Brewing.
Built in 1899, the Mercantile Building housed the John Sidney Brown wholesale grocery business until 1943. Then for 45 years, it sat primarily unused.
Wynkoop stands on the corner of Denver’s only complete historic block with all the original buildings still in place and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The brewery rescued the back bar in the second floor, dubbed Wynkoop Billiards, from Denver’s Tivoli-Union Brewery that closed in 1969.
This destination brewery takes a farm-to-table approach with its ever-changing seasonal brews leading the way.
The Depot Craft Brewery and Distillery | Reno, NV
The Depot is housed in a three-story brick structure originally built in 1910 as the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad Depot. Originating in Reno, the trains catered primarily to farmers and ranchers along the 238-mile route to Lakeview, Oregon.
The building sold to the Western Pacific Railroad in 1917 and continued to serve as a midpoint on the line for freight and passengers until 1937. The railroad and other businesses then converted it into office space. It served that purpose for 20 years.
Beginning in 1958 and continuing for several decades, it was the headquarter of the Sierra Wine & Liquor Company, a liquor distributor.
In 2013, owners Chris Shanks and Brandon Wright, who is also the brewer, remodeled and restored The Depot. It opened on New Year’s Eve 2014.
The mission at The Depot is, “to share our pursuit and passion for transforming base ingredients into far more noble forms.”
The Depot is Nevada’s first combined craft brewery and distillery under the craft distillery license enacted by the state in 2013.
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Taft’s Ale House | Cincinnati
St. Paul’s Evangelical Church, constructed in 1850 in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, was once the oldest German Protestant Church in Cincinnati.
A fire in 1899 destroyed all but the walls and stained-glass windows, but it was fully rebuilt by 1900. It was home to the Church of God of the Mountain Assembly from 1949 to 1974.
Empty for many years, the structure decayed severely as the city searched to repurpose the building. Finally, in 2015, Taft’s Brewing Company established Taft’s Ale House inside the hallowed halls.
This once-thriving neighborhood of saloons, breweries, restaurants and supporting industries has made a comeback after being stopped overnight by Prohibition.
Taft’s doesn’t focus on the church history but, instead, on Cincinnati’s William Howard Taft, 27th president of the United States and chief justice of the Supreme Court. Its logo pays homage to the tale of President Taft, who was a very large man, getting stuck in his bathtub. The brewery named Nellie’s Tap Room, a former pharmacy space on the first floor, after his wife.
Taft’s operates a second location, Taft’s Brewpourium, in the former Cincinnati Car Company Factory, which manufactured streetcars and rail cars from 1902 until 1938.
Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. | Colorado Springs, CO
The Cheyenne Building, constructed in 1901, was first used as the western terminus for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. The upper floors were lodging for the railroad crews as the trains stopped in Colorado Springs overnight.
It became The Cheyenne Hotel from 1909 to 1963. The southwest corner bears a 2-foot-high stone bust of Chief Two Moons of the Cheyenne Indian Tribe. The name of the artist who created it is unknown.
Over the years, the building housed realty and insurance companies, a bus depot, cable TV company, jewelry store and a Navajo-Hopi Indian curio shop.
In 1993, it was slated for demolition when the owners of Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing stepped in, restored the building and opened Phantom Canyon, named for one of the last remaining roadless canyons along Colorado’s Front Range.
The main pub area, with a bar relocated from a railroad station in Pueblo, Colorado, occupies what was formerly the railroad ticket office. Patterned very much after Wynkoop Brewing, the upper floors are now a pool hall and event space. Like Wynkoop in Denver, Phantom Canyon was the first craft brewery in Colorado Springs
The dungeon-like barrel room is actually outside the building, under the sidewalk!
Phantom Canyon’s heritage runs as deep as the canyon it is named after.
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Paducah Beer Werks | Paducah, KY
Paducah Beer Werks occupies a former Greyhound Bus terminal that served travelers from 1966 to 2010. It also once housed a vending and pinball machine company.
Owner Todd Blume, a long-time homebrewer, had a vision to bring craft beer to western Kentucky. He bought the terminal and began renovations in 2014. PBW opened to the public in March 2015 as the first craft brewery in the area.
The brewpub occupies the former waiting area and candy shop and the brewery is in the luggage area and loading dock. PBW retained the original terrazzo floors, destination signage and luggage lockers of the bus station.
The location bridges the downtown area with the artists’ area. It’s also a music venue, hosting local and original performances from all genres. Guests can groove to the tunes while enjoying the popular Irish red or Orange Blossom Special wheat.
Most recently, PBW won a Bronze for their Robust Porter at the 2016 Dublin Cup in Dublin, Ireland!
Head brewer Todd brews by the philosophy, “From grain to glass … Building a better beer.”
Old Firehouse Brewery | Williamsburg, OH
When owner Adam Cowan was looking for a place to start his brewery, a friend pushed him to look at an old firehouse he owned. A former firefighter, Adam knew this was a perfect fit.
Built in 1955 in the center of Main Street, the firehouse serviced as an all-volunteer department until 2000. It has also been the village town hall and community center.
With no other venue available, this family- and dog-friendly brewery is still the center of this small town of 5,000 people. It has hosted various parties, weddings, wakes, reunions and football tailgate parties.
The Old Firehouse sponsors street parties, closing Main Street for cornhole tournaments and fireman’s competitions to raise money for the community.
The place is loaded with firefighting memorabilia, much of it donated by former firefighters or their families. The taproom is like your neighbor’s garage — a cool place to hang out with family and friends.
Its popular Midwest IPA is more malt forward, not a palate-wrecking hop monster.
“It’s all about good solid beer. Have fun with it and play nice with food,” Adam says.
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North Peak Brewing Co. | Traverse City, MI
Big Daylight Candy Company, established in 1899, outgrew quickly its two original factories. In 1904, a modern, state-of-the-art factory was built, producing all kinds of candies until it closed in 1928.
In 1997, this three-story brick building became the home of North Peak Brewing Company, serving craft beer, wood-fired pizza, salads, burgers and sandwiches.
Kilkenny’s Irish Public House occupies the basement space. The upper floors contain offices and residential condominiums. The renovation aimed to retain and showcase much of the old factory fittings and beams
North Peak was one of the earliest microbreweries in Michigan, helping pave the way to more than 300 in the state today. Like most of the breweries on this list, it started a revitalization of this neighborhood on the west side of Traverse City.
For over 20 years, its philosophy in both beer and food has been freshness and quality, using local and regional products whenever possible.
Enjoy a North Peak Diabolical IPA, unfiltered and dry-hopped with Michigan grown Chinook and Cascade hops — and, learn about the mythical North American jackalope.
Moon River Brewing Co. | Savannah, GA
Savannah’s first hotel, City Hotel, built in 1821, is the oldest building on this list. It was also home to the city’s first branch of the U.S. Postal Service and a branch of the Bank of the U.S.
In the 1850s, the hotel was renovated and housed a live lion and lioness to attract visitors. The final guest checked out in 1864, just before the arrival of General William Sherman during the Civil War.
The hotel remained shuttered until around the turn of the century, when it was used as a lumber and coal warehouse. In the 1960s it became an office supply and printing company. In 1979, Hurricane David blew the roof off, forcing the business to close. The building remained empty until 1995, when it became Savannah’s first brewpub, Oglethorp Brewing Company, which closed after two years.
In early 1999, Moon River took over the empty space in the historic district of Savannah, which is claimed to be the most haunted city in the U.S.
Haunted? Yes, Moon River is allegedly the site of hauntings and poltergeist activity. SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” and Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” have featured the brewery.
Moon River, which added its beer garden in 2013, is named for the iconic song, written by Johnny Mercer, who grew up in Savannah.
Co-owner, head brewer and mad tinkerer, John Pinkerton, is motivated by quality, balance and diversity. Pinkerton’s flagship IPA, Swamp Fox, is dry-hopped with whole-cone Citra, Centennial and Chinook in a custom designed hop vessel. Moon River was also named the Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year at 2017’s Great American Beer Festival.
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Mission Brewery | San Diego
The first Mission Brewery was established in 1913, but it, like many breweries, went out of business the first year of Prohibition. In 2007, homebrewer Dan Selis re-established Mission Brewery as a humble addition to a local restaurant.
That year, Dan won a bronze for his first incarnation of Mission El Camino IPA and a gold for Mission El Amigo Munich Helles Lager at the Great American Beer Festival. So he must be on to something.
Mission soon outgrew its original space and moved to a shared warehouse location in Chula Vista.
In 2010, the brewery needed another new home. Dan found the perfect space in the historic Wonder Bread Bakery Building, built in 1894, in the East Village of San Diego. This location, near the Gaslamp District and baseball field, boasts a huge tasting room that can accommodate 250 and a 5,000-square-foot event space. The brewery also refurbished the original Wonder Bread grain silo to hold grain.
In its sole location, the Mission brews, kegs, bottles and cans on site.
Flagship beers Mission IPA and Mission Hefeweizen along with an ever-changing lineup of seasonal brews exemplify its motto, “Craft Beer is our Mission.”
Loop Brewing Co. | McCook, NE
When Loop Brewing opened in 2011, it was recognized as the third-farthest brewery from the next nearest brewery in the U.S. Most people in the area did not understand what craft beer was all about, but they do now!
Its weekly “Stupid Pizza” special has placed the brewery on the list of “The Most Outrageous Pizza Joint in Every State” on msn.com.
The unique brick building right next to railroad tracks still holds evidence of its past lives. It built as a railroad icehouse in the early 1900s. From the 30s through the 70s, it was a produce company.
It was an empty shell when Tyler Loop found the building, but he immediately knew it was right for his brewery. The slight pyramid design of the building is to help mitigate the noise and vibration of the adjacent tracks. The original walk-in coolers from the produce company are still in use, complete with banana hooks.
Patrons can enjoy an Irish red, the most popular brew since Day One, while watching the still active railyard through the large windows facing the tracks.
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Engine House No. 9 / E9 Brewery | Tacoma, WA
Engine House No. 9 was built in 1907 and used as battalion headquarters and fire protection for Tacoma’s North End until 1965. It was the last engine house in Tacoma to convert from horse-drawn to motorized fire equipment in 1919.
The station fell into disrepair and was vandalized for several years until a newspaper reporter bought it in 1971, converting the first floor into a tavern with second floor apartments. The original tavern evolved, becoming Tacoma’s first craft brewery in 1995.
Engine House No. 9 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the original flagship beers, Rowdy & Dick Amber, is named after the last two surviving firehouse horses. The pair got a firefighter’s burial in the area occupied by the brewery’s current beer garden.
Being in the Pacific Northwest, its late hop addition IPAs are the brewery’s most popular. They also use a locally grown yeast strain for a true regional flavor.
What E9 brewers Shane Johns and Donovan Stewart are most passionate about are their Brett Saisons and fruited wild sour beers. They have their own barrel house with more than 200 wine and bourbon barrels for aging the beers.
7 Seas Brewing | Tacoma, WA
7 Seas’ unique location began life as … a brewery. The historic building was home to Columbia Brewing Co. 1900-33, Columbia Breweries, Inc. 1933-53 and Heidelberg Brewing Co. 1953-79.
In 2009, Mike Runion and Travis Guterson launched 7 Seas in a former racquetball court in Gig Harbor. Unfortunately, that location burned down before they could start brewing. Undaunted, they moved ahead in a former auto-body shop. By 2012, growth required a move to a 12,000-square-foot former grocery store.
Mike and Travis determined the future required a long-term home. In August 2016, they opened the Tacoma location in the 80,000-square-foot Heidelberg Brewing building that had not brewed since 1979.
Brewing history flows from every inch of this modern brewery. Its wall feature historic photos, Heidelberg and Columbia advertising, memorabilia and brewing equipment. These walls house years of community memories.
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Enjoy the brewery’s flagship beer, Rude Parrot IPA, with fresh, shucked-to-order, Washington state oysters.
The brewery customers approve of the site and the beer. According to Mike, one clearly impressed patron said that “7 Seas was voted “The Best Brewery EVER in the Universe” nine years running, by all humanoids and living organisms. Larry, the dude that lives up the street, said so!”
Small, independent craft breweries save more unique old buildings from oblivion, or even the wrecking ball, as they continue to take root in neighborhoods across the U.S. It’s a very fortunate by-product to come out of craft beer — perhaps second only to the beer itself.
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