With a nod to Ben Franklin, new brewery to open in N. Phila.

Tim Patton and Christina Burris gather around some kegs at their new St. Benjamin Brewing Co. on 5th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue in North Philadelphia. The three-barrel nanobrewry is opening up just in time for Philly Beer Week. (David Maialetti/Staff)

 TIM PATTON, 37, of Fishtown, is the founder of Saint Benjamin Brewing Co. in North Philadelphia. Patton bought an old warehouse and, after several years of planning, he and co-brewer Christina Burris hope to open a nanobrewery during Philly Beer Week, which begins today.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea for Saint Benjamin?

A: I and a friend started an online coupon-and-deal website in 1999 that offered discounts on Amazon, pet food and other stuff. I was there until 2009 but wanted a different career path. I'd gotten interested in homebrewing and the beers I was making turned out decent. I researched the industry and visited breweries in Seattle.

Q: How much did you invest to get this going?

A: I used some savings from Dealcatcher.com [Patton's still a part-owner] to buy a building, upgrade infrastructure and buy brewing equipment. It was at least $500,000.

Q: Why brewing?

A: Philly has hundreds of craft-beer bars but only two production breweries [Yards Brewing Co. and Philadelphia Brewing Co.] and five brewpubs in a city of 1.5 million.

Q: What's special about your brews?

A: I love old styles [of beer] and brew true to that. I do a Cream Ale that's very much a classic style. We also brew some quirky beers. There's a light lager ale I brew with a bit of coffee we call Coffee Kolsch.

Q: The biz model?

A: We plan to self-distribute our beer, which we're legally permitted to do. So we'll sell to craft-beer bars all over the city, with a few accounts in the 'burbs. We're still working on pricing. Our goal is to sell 25 to 30 barrels a month. Part of the warehouse has been allocated for a brewpub and we'll probably start construction on that in the fall. This summer we'll have tours, tastings and growler sales.

Q: The name?

A: I wanted something that caught people's attention. [It] was a nod to Ben Franklin, who was a homebrewer himself. The saint part was a tongue-in-cheek reference to Belgian beers I like, especially ones made by the monasteries and monks.

Q: Biggest challenge?

A: I would say the bureaucracy of the city and state. We fought tooth-and-nail just to get power in here. We spent four months waiting for L&I to review building plans. I had enough money that I could wait, but I could have packed up, gone to the 'burbs and been open in six months. I didn't go because I live here, my friends are here and the market I want to sell to is here.

Q: Where do you see the biz headed in the next year?

A: The brewpub will be open within a year, and then we'll probably plan to expand into the rest of the building and build a larger brew house.


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