August 02, 2016
For months, in 2013, Kristen Nicholson made a routine of going to her brother Kyler's house to brew beer. As time went on, more and more pieces and parts of this brother-sister homebrew operation made their way home with her.
“Somehow, in the course of six months, all of [Kyler's] equipment migrated to our house to get out of his fiancee's way. Everything started there," Patrick Rhine, Nicholson's roommate at the time, told PhillyVoice. "We were in the kitchen one day — it was the only thing we used our kitchen for most times — making a batch of beer, talking about starting a brewery, and [realized] we’d gotten two beers we could make consistently that get rave reviews from our friends."
So, together in their Point Breeze kitchen, Nicholson and Rhine took a leap of faith and launched Point Breeze Brewing Company.
Since then, they've produced a handful of staple beers, all cheekily named after South Philly neighborhoods and streets: Point Breeze Pale Ale, a white wheat malt with Simcoe and Cascade hops; Reed Street Rye, with caramel and rye malts, and a hint of spice from the Amarillo and Simcoe hops; and a yet-to-be-named spiced IPA made with Azaca and Mosaic hops with ginger and cardamom. Their goal, in short, is to create brews with South Philly — Point Breeze in particular — in mind.
“A lot of it is doing made-to-order stuff, almost," Rhine explained. "We’re really working with the community heavily on what they want and taking input. ... We’re working with a local bar who wants an [IPA] for his bar produced locally, so we worked with him for six months to design a recipe to prepare with his menu, based around Indian seasonings."
They're also working with West Passyunk Avenue to develop a West Passyunk Porter, to be shared at events. The idea is to create a sense of pride among neighbors, with beer as the great uniter.
"There’s still a lot of contentiousness between old residents and new residents, but we’re hoping to find common ground," he added. "We’d love to see our beer be that. Everybody can relate to ‘We have a beer named after our neighborhood now — if you love it, drink it.' It’s locally produced by residents of the neighborhood, producing tax dollars that help the neighborhood."
For now, Point Breeze Brewing Company is "donating" their homebrewed beer to events and interested neighbors; their brewing license, Rhine clarified, is still in the approval process, but they're due to get the go-ahead any day now to begin selling. After some hurdles trying to find a location to brew, they decided to work with a neighborhood developer to set up camp at 28th and Oakford streets, a 600-square-foot space on the border of Point Breeze and Grays Ferry; they hope to eventually evolve it into a brewpub.
Rhine: "There’s still a lot of contentiousness between old residents and new residents, but we’re hoping to find common ground. We’d love to see our beer be that."
Upon receiving their brewery license, they'll use a one-barrel brewing system, run on electricity (instead of gas) to save energy and reduce carbon emissions, to produce about four barrels per month of each variety of beer — their standards, plus a seasonal. That beer will be on sale at South Philly bars, competitions and events.
In the immediate future, Rhine hopes to work with Philadelphia State Rep. Jordan Harris to introduce legislation that rethinks current laws that create hardships for craft brewers in Pennsylvania, such as a brewery license that has the same price tag regardless of size, zoning laws that make it hard for small breweries to launch in right-sized spaces zoned CMX-2 and a tax-filing system that's still mail-in. It's frustrating, Rhine said, considering the commonwealth's status as producer of more craft beer than any other state in the country.
"We’re hoping to bring in some other startups in the area and say ‘Hey, we want to get this proposed legislation going. Wherever your brewery is located, go pitch this idea to your state rep.," Rhine said. "Let’s get Pennsylvania into the 21st century — at this point, I’d be happy with the 20th century.”