The Fifth Street neighborhood block between Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Montgomery and Germantown Avenues will soon be the home of the Saint Benjamin Brewing Co.
Construction is under way for this brewery that will also have a restaurant and pub attached. The brewery is expected to open over the summer with the pub’s opening scheduled tentatively for the fall, maybe early winter.
Owner Tim Patton had several reasons for choosing South Kensington.
“When I started looking for locations, this was one of the neighborhoods that was about the highest on my list,” Patton said. He said he also looked at buildings in South Philly, Brewerytown and other parts of North Philadelphia.
“I was looking all over the City. One of my primary goals of the brewery was that I always wanted it to be located in an urban setting,” Patton said. “I didn’t want to just be in some anonymous industrial park out in the suburbs.”
Patton said he had toured many breweries—going as far at Seattle and Portland—to decide what kind of atmosphere he wanted his brewery to have.
“I think of the ones [breweries] that really just scream brewery to me, I think of Brooklyn Brewery or the Philadelphia Brewing Company,” Patton explained. His building search tried to channel a similar environment.
“And that was the kind of thing I wanted: an old brick building from the Industrial Revolution.”
Patton said the South Kensington building—which he bought in February 2012—had all of the details he wanted in his future brewery and could easily accommodate the large equipment he would need to use.
“From a practical matter, South Kensington has got a lot of old warehouses and good number of them are in shape, whereas as you go to some other areas, everything’s already been converted, or it’s very expensive or just completely falling apart,” Patton said.
He said the history of the building gave it “this Old World feel and it reminds me of pictures you see of old English breweries and Belgian breweries.”
This South Kensington building is also located close to other historic breweries.
“The Gretz Brewing Co. is a block and a half from here [and] the Old Smith site is located maybe a half mile away,” Patton added.
“I love the fact that there was so much brewing going on here a hundred years ago, even in recent decades… I really wanted to tie into that history.”
The Saint Benjamin Brewing Company is named after Benjamin Franklin—who himself once brewed beer in Philadelphia. Patton plans to decorate the pub in accordance with this historical theme.
“Obviously the name, Saint Benjamin, is a nod to the past. And I wanted to also have a nod to the City’s industrial history as well as its colonial history,” Patton said.
Saint Benjamin Brewing Company will also be open to the public as a regular bar. Patton said this is different from other breweries where all production is either consumed on site or packaged and sent to bars for consumption. Patton plans to sell his own beer and also send it out to Philadelphia bars.
He said the South Kensington building is close to the Northern Liberties and Fishtown markets where he wants to sell his. Customers from that area will also find his bar convenient.
Patton said he sees the South Kensington developing—one of his reasons for starting a brewery in this area.
“Then there’s a practical matter, I do see the changes that are taking place in South Kensington. There’s a lot of construction going on,” Patton said.
“There’s a lot of new residents coming in [and] there’s a lot of the existing residents who are looking for amenities they don’t have over here.”
He said he was “hoping to be able to provide some of those [amenities].” Patton said there were two main service gaps he was hoping to fulfill.
“Right now there really isn’t that much in the way of craft beer bars in the neighborhood itself,” Patton said. His brewery will have three barrel production, meaning six kegs per cycle, but it would also include a food menu for its customers.
“I don’t believe there’s anyone with a kitchen open late. I notice most of the restaurants close down around 8 or 9,” Patton said. “There’s that aspect of, you know, fulfilling a need.”
Patton said he has listened to neighborhood enthusiasm for the construction of his brewery.
“When I went to the zoning meeting, the neighborhood was incredibly supportive. They were really excited to have a business like this in the neighborhood,” Patton said.
He said he not only wants his bar to be located in South Kensington, but also sees it frequented by area residents in the future.
“It [his brewery] brings in tourism, but also, I think the biggest thing that they [residents] liked was that this was a business they could see themselves patronizing,” Patton said.
Overall, Patton said he wants his historic South Kensington building redeveloped to attract people.
“Basically I want it so that when people come down the street and look at this block, they see something real nice and they know there’s a business here: it’s not just hidden away in some warehouse, kind of anonymous. I want to draw people in.”