Revitalizing Neighborhoods and Reigniting Memories
Nothing attracts customers to a brewery more than incredible beer. But a close second? An incredible location! Breweries around the country are finding new homes in abandoned buildings, helping to revitalize communities and reignite memories. These unique locations attract both locals and travelers alike, each drawn for a different reason. From historic banks and racing headquarters to federal post offices and churches, these breweries are bringing abandoned buildings back to life.
Abandon Brewing Company | Penn Yan, N.Y.
Let’s start by going back two centuries to an abandoned barn in Penn Yan, N.Y. While most of the barns in the Finger Lakes region are fully operational, this particular one had sat abandoned for years. It certainly wasn’t looking its best when Garry Sperrick first bought the property.
Sperrick and his family owned the farm for about five years before turning it into Abandon Brewing Company. Sperrick then sold it to his stepdaughter, Sarah Struzzi-Noto, and her husband, A. J. Noto. The couple saw potential in the brewery and knew they had something special when they took ownership in 2019.
Now the beautifully refurbished barn that overlooks Keuka Lake is a well-loved part of the community. As a New York State farm brewery, Abandon Brewing sources most of the ingredients for the beers locally. And like the building itself, head brewer Jeff Hillebrandt keeps the beers traditional in style. A. J. Noto explains that they “don’t make beer with children’s cereal, cookies, doughnuts, candy, food, etc. It’s just not our style.”
The other piece that is critical to Abandon’s mission? Not only do they strive to preserve the history of the building, they do so with zero waste. The spent grains go to local farmers and the wastewater is filtered and reused throughout the farm. Plus, the brewery is powered by thermal and solar energy. For Abandon Brewing, it’s not just about keeping the history of the barn alive, but also preserving it, and the land, for the future.
If you visit Abandon, make sure you ask to see pre-renovation photos of the 1800s barn. You’ll have so much more appreciation for the original beams and wood that still stand in the barn today.
Fireforge Crafted Beer | Greenville, S.C.
After nearly 50 years in use, a former tire warehouse in Greenville, S.C., found itself empty in 2016—but not for long. Brian and Nicole Cendrowski had been dreaming of opening their own brewery for years. While the couple never imagined that they could afford a spot in downtown Greenville, their realtor had an idea: why not the old tire warehouse?
The building was dingy with oil-stained floors, but it had good bones. Knowing that they didn’t want a typical commercial location or new construction, the couple saw potential in the blank slate that the warehouse provided and took a chance on it. According to Brian, “It’s miraculous that this building exists in downtown Greenville. There isn’t anything else like it there.”
The couple broke ground on the property in January 2017 and opened Fireforge Crafted Beer in June 2018. Since the opening, the Cendrowskis and their customers can look back with fondness over the transformation. Now the community can enjoy a pint of beer in the place where they used to get their oil changed.
But the best part? Brian and Nicole are constantly learning about the building’s past. One serendipitous day, a woman and her son came to visit. The two of them had spent their time at the brewery examining the building, which caught the attention of the Cendrowskis. After chatting with them, Brian and Nicole learned about the woman’s late husband, Willie Hudson. Hudson was the former manager of Tire Inc., one of the previous businesses housed in the building. To honor his memory, Fireforge created Big Willie’s Sweet Tea Wheat, an American wheat beer brewed with black tea and lemon zest. To make the occasion extra special, Willie’s family members attended the beer release party and brought old photos to share.
In a city that was turning into a ghost town 20 years ago, Fireforge is providing a spark of life in the community.
Guggman Haus Brewing Co. | Indianapolis, Ind.
Here’s what you get when you combine twin sisters, their husbands, racing history, and a love of craft beer: Guggman Haus Brewing Co. in Indianapolis, Ind.
Courtney and Derek Guggenberger spent a few years in Germany, relishing in the centuries-old brewing history of the country. Meanwhile, Abby and Ryan Gorman were exploring the modern beer hub that is Denver. When the couples reunited in Indianapolis, there was no question about what family business to establish together.
According to Courtney, the crew had spent a year formulating a business plan and were on the hunt for a location. That’s when they learned about the Boyle Racing Foundation, a group of vintage racing enthusiasts who were trying to save the old Boyle Racing Headquarters from a city demolition order.
The building that had once been the center of the city’s racing history had become abandoned—forgotten over time, left to weather the elements and encroaching foliage. But when the family discovered the building, they felt compelled to help preserve the legacy of the Boyle Racing Team after seeing the location and learning of its history.
Guggman Haus Brewing Co. initially opened in 2019, in the house located on the property, after two years of renovations. The couples spent another two years renovating the main building, which opened in June 2021 and houses the brewery, taproom, event space, kitchen, and Boyle Racing Shop. The taproom overlooks the racing shop, so customers can enjoy a beer while viewing a remodeled 1934 Diamond T race car hauler and a replica of Wilbur Shaw’s Maserati.
In keeping with the history of the building, three of Guggman Haus’s core beers have racing themes. Wilbur’s Prize Pils is named after three-time Indy 500 winner Wilbur Shaw. Boyle Brown Ale and Winner’s Milk Jug Stout both pay homage to the Boyle racing team and the tradition of chugging a jug of milk after winning a race.
The Guggenbergers and Gormans enjoy introducing craft beer to the racing community while learning more about the area’s history. They look forward to welcoming race fans to the brewery this coming summer.
Lost Way Brewery | Holdrege, Neb.
When a brewery finds a home in an old creamery, it gives a whole new meaning to milk stout, and rightly so. Lost Way Brewery has named its signature milk stout Ye Olde Creamery as a way to honor the building’s history.
Lost Way Brewery is nestled among a series of abandoned buildings in Holdrege, Neb. When searching for a location for their business, Jessica and Mark Kraus discovered this gem. According to Jessica, “There were quite a few abandoned buildings, so we were happy to be able to breathe some life into an old place.”
The “old place” in question had quite a varied history. It began as a creamery in the 1950s with its tiled floors, walls, and floor drains. It transformed into a print shop in the 70s and remained so for a couple decades before becoming a storage facility for approximately 20 years. The Krauses came along in 2017 to show it some much-needed love.
Throughout the renovations, and with the help of the community, Lost Way’s history has emerged. The original wooden rafters were repurposed as the current bar and banisters in the taproom. Memorabilia from the building’s former life live on as decorations for the brewery. An apron, milk crate, and sign adorn the walls along with old newspaper clippings about the creamery and print shop.
As for the customers? They love what the Krauses have done with the building. Whether it’s the local crowd or the folks visiting their prior homes in Holdrege, everyone reacts fondly to the revitalization of the building. Guests love to peruse the old newspapers on the walls, reading stories or finding photos of their parents or themselves when they were younger.
Ministry of Brewing | Baltimore, Md.
For some people, Sundays are for going to church to attend services. For others, Sundays are for going to a church to…drink beer. That’s exactly what you can do at Ministry of Brewing in Baltimore, Md.
The history of the location stretches all the way back to 1857, when the first church was built on the property. Over the years, St. Michael the Archangel Church served the local German Catholic community before transitioning to Spanish services for its final decade. Due to declining attendance, the church was deconsecrated and closed between 2010 and 2011. It then sat vacant for years before a developer purchased the church complex in 2016 to build lofts. The church itself remained empty, but the developer’s goal was to incorporate a brewpub into the project.
With the loft project near completion, a group of friends were brought in to work on the brewery in 2019. After a year of renovations, Ministry of Brewing was born—but not without controversy. While most of the community embraced the new business, a few members of the neighborhood weren’t happy that their once beloved church was no longer.
Father Austin Murphy Jr., who once led the congregation, held his own conflicting opinions. Nevertheless, he attended the grand opening in January 2020 to see the transformation, happy to witness the revitalization of the former church.
Understanding the sensitive nature of the building’s history, the staff of Ministry of Brewing are very deliberate in their actions and the naming of their beers. General manager Jon Holley admits that they “purposely avoid any beer names with religious tie-ins out of respect for what this building was and what it meant to so many people.” Nonetheless, they did christen their core Pilsner The Point in honor of the building’s nickname. And the team strives to be very involved in the local community, often hosting public events at the brewery.
Most of the features of the church remain the same: visitors can still see the stations of the cross, original columns, murals of saints, and a few remaining pews. But on the altar, you’ll find the 20- and 40-gallon vessels that make up the brewing system. The setting for the brewery is also tied into the tap handles and beer labels, which feature stained glass-inspired designs.
Reaver Beach Brewing | Norfolk, Va.
Don’t expect to pick up your mail at this building in Norfolk, Va., anymore. The old post office from the 1940s is now a modern brewery, slinging pints instead of selling stamps.
Reaver Beach Brewing Co. opened its first location in the heart of Virginia Beach in 2010. Several successful years later, the owners wanted to expand to a second location. General manager Josh Bennett explains that they chose Norfolk because they wanted to join the growing craft beer community there. When the owners came across the old Milan Post Office, they knew they had found the right spot for their second home.
Because the prior post office was a federal building, it took roughly a year for the new owners to acquire the licensing, and then another to finish construction. The Reaver Beach Norfolk location finally opened in February 2021, but the discoveries along the way made it worth the wait.
One of the most common comments from brewery customers is about how large the space is. Previously, postal patrons were only privy to the lobby of the building, but during the renovations, Reaver Beach stripped down walls and opened the space up. They uncovered a back entrance and a hidden brick staircase to the second floor. The stairway landing became an impromptu museum, now housing paraphernalia from the brewery’s history.
The other unique feature of the building is the large safe that sits in the center of the space, holding up the roof trusses. Why was there a giant safe in the post office? When the post office was built shortly after the Great Depression, people had lost trust in banks, so post offices became the place to store their money. The building was designed so that if the safe was attempted to be removed, the building would come crashing down. Now, the safe serves as a piece of history and an interesting talking point for customers.
In another way to pay tribute to the building’s past, Reaver Beach hired a graphic artist to design artwork of the beer labels on postage stamps to tie together the transition of the space over time.
When a Brewery Opens in an Abandoned Building, Everybody Wins
Many buildings across the country remain abandoned. It happens all the time: businesses fail, the economy struggles, or for whatever reason, places sit empty. But when breweries come in and breathe life into the buildings again, it’s a win-win situation. The brewery finds a home and the community welcomes a new business where folks can gather. Plus, the renaissance of the buildings makes their histories come alive and helps people relive their memories tied to each location.