Studio Brew Expands | Bristol, VA.

9 September 2015 by , 1 Comment

Studio_1We dream. It’s natural. To aspire towards something greater, to grow, to reach for the stars. Vision.

When I first met Erich and Pamela Allen many years ago Erich told me that one day, like many other aspiring brewers, they would open a brewery – a big one! “Working on it,” and “stay tuned,” he’s say in casual conversation as we’d run into each other here and there. While Erich had the vision, Pamela’s patience, understanding and hard work continued to push them forward.

Their main belief in their entrepreneurism; As in many great beginnings an idea fuels a dream then the dream becomes a passion. Once the passion becomes an obsession great things happen. Thus Studio Brew was created. 

Studio_3Then, it happened. After a lengthy search and many conversations Erich and Pamela found themselves standing in front of a building, in Bristol….Bristol, Virginia. While Erich’s brewing roots will always reach towards the state of orange, it was Bristol, Virginia that not only opened their arms but dropped their shoulder and bull rushed every obstacle possible that stood between Studio Brew and Bristol. They offered them a building, they offered them the land, they removed barriers and encouraged Erich and Pamela to make it happen. Happening, it is.

While the building may have been offered up, it was very much in the do something or knock it down phase of existence. Built in 1908 it originally housed barrels of whiskey for a nearby distillery and it just so happened to back up to the railroad tracks. Convenient for shipping. “You could buy whiskey out of the Sears Roebuck catalog in those days,” Erich quipped. Studio_2Two years later a third floor was added for, yep, you guessed it, a roller skating rink. The rich floor, old growth maple, is still there and it will be refinished to be used partly as event space and partly for office space.

We stood outside as Erich painted the picture of what the building would look like and given our timing, it was very easy to see the finished product. The space between the building and a public park – where there is a river – would be transformed into a bier garden and on the massive side of the building, a giant projector would display football games, the race perhaps, or a movie. We circled the building taking in each element and hearing Erich describe the challenges with breathing life back into a 107 year old structure. For instance, the exploration of a water leak led to the discovery that a long lost drainage system was allowing water to back up against the side of the building and ruining the foundation. This discovery resulted in a significant restructuring project that would have caused many to walk away and call in the bulldozers. Not Erich. Now the building is stronger than ever and will easily stand for another 107 years.

Studio_6As we entered the building from the 1st floor, the giant mahogany doors greeted us whose arches perfectly matched the brick set many years before.  “No one should be sent to purgatory,” Erich said. “not in my place. No one wants to go to a place and have to wait an eternity to be served. When you walk in, there will immediately be three beer taps.” Waiting for a table? You won’t be thirsty. As you continue there will be a rather large lounge/bar area with an expansive bar in the back and just to the right and a little further back, a bar dedicated to nothing but growler fills. Erich had noticed in previous breweries that often growler fills can drastically slow down serving customers, so Studio Brew will have a separate place for that. Also on the first level will be an expansive kitchen with a brick oven – no typical bar food here but culinary masterpieces meant to compliment and enhance the beer. The brewhouse sits just to the right as well with a 15bbl system that can actually act as a 30bbl. The way it has been designed, expansion will not be a problem as the floor between the first and second floors have been removed and can accommodate multiple large fermenters. Also, when the time comes, it won’t be hard to set fermenters in the parking lot.

Studio_4On the second floor, you find what Erich calls “party central.” Tables, a stage, a killer sound system and eventually, in Phase II a Tuscan balcony will be added to overlook the bier garden. There is also a large glass expanse that overlooks the brewhouse. Further, the touches throughout, the history, the old wood (such as the column pictured here), add to the ambiance and led each of us to believe, there is something special here, this will be a destination.

A seed has been planted in Bristol, Virginia and as Studio Brew begins to take shape and bear fruit, others will take notice. The beer that Erich and Pamela have created through Studio Brew is top notch and with this addition, we’ll certainly see more of it and there is a sense of place as we all make plans for a pilgrimage to the northeast.

Well done Erich & Pamela, cheers!