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Sacramento’s brewing history will be spotlighted in a new microbrewery set to open in a historic building on Broadway early next year.
Dave Gull, 37, said he saw the building at 1730 Broadway and thought it would be the perfect place for his New Helvetia Brewing Company idea with its proximity to Land Park in an area that’s a diverse mix of ethnic restaurants.
Though his professional experience is as a real estate broker and developer, the Sacramento native said his exposure to craft brews when he went to college at the University of Oregon planted the seed to open his own brewery.
“I think that a craft beer brewery is a great use for the space,” Gull said Friday. “It’s a need that is lacking on Broadway.”
The approximately 5,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1925 and was most recently a tile manufacturing plant. Before that, it was the Casa Grande Tortilla Factory, and it has been vacant for about two years. Multiple rooms stem off a courtyard, and each will be used for a different aspect of the business.
Opening a new business in the current economy can be risky, and Gull said last week’s closure of Brew it Up! was a shock.
“It obviously made me think, with them folding and seemingly always busy,” he said. “My approach will be to keep overhead low.”
Much of the building will remain intact, with upgrades being made for comfort and some energy efficiency, such as installing air conditioning and insulation.
The bare brick walls will be cleaned up and decorated with archival photographs showcasing Sacramento’s brewing history. The New Helvetia name itself is a nod to Sacramento’s history going back to the days of John Sutter.
Image by: Brandon Darnell Beers will be brewed in very small batches and aged in wooden barrels. Gull said he will have an IPA, since it’s become the standby for West Coast brewing, but he said he also wants to focus on brewing lagers, which take more time to age, but which provide a nice, refreshing taste.
He said he plans to carry about six to eight different types of beers shortly after opening, and he also plans to rotate seasonal brews.
While his own brewing experience is limited to some home brewing – and to brewing his own beer at Brew it Up! – he is working with a professional brewer, who will be a part of the brewery and tasting room when it opens.
“I hope to be operating by the first of the year, and I want to open to the public by Beer Week, which is the last week in February,” Gull said.
Initially, beers will only be served on draught from taps in the building. Kegs will be sold to local bars and restaurants, but not to the public. Bottling will come later, as the business expands, Gull said.
A 2,000-square-foot space in the front of the business next to large windows that face Broadway will have tables for tastings, and in about two years, Gull said he plans to add a restaurant that will serve California fare and some traditional brewpub items.
“It all comes down to when we can get the kitchen built out,” he said. “I don’t want to do it right away and carry that much overhead.”
The kitchen will be built in a room off the building’s courtyard, which will have secluded outdoor seating. Another room off the courtyard will hold the brewing equipment, which Gull said patrons will be able to take a look at and learn about the process.
(Image by: Brandon Darnell) Though some associate Midtown and downtown more with beer and eating than Broadway, Gull said about 3,000 people work on Broadway at buildings such as the DMV office, and he expects the residents of nearby Land Park to come in.
“I had an open house a few days ago to show the space, and about 80 neighbors showed up,” he said. “The response was really positive.”
Next door to New Helvetia Brewing Company is Kathmandu Kitchen, an Indian and Nepalese restaurant, and Manager Bhupinder Saini said she thinks the brewpub will make a good addition to the street.
“It will definitely bring more people to the area,” she said. “A lot of times, when people go to one place, they come back later and go to the place next door, so I think it will be good for our business, too.”
She added that she thinks New Helvetia Brewing Company will draw new people to Broadway and show that the area is a vibrant district.
Teresa Rocha, executive director of the greater broadway partnership, agreed.
“It’s always exciting when we see historic buildings reused in an attractive way,” she said. “It’s not a chain. It’s an independent business. We like to see both national businesses as well as local independents.”
She added that having the brewery will add even more variety to Broadway’s already-eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants.
“We have over 30 restaurants on Broadway between Third and 28th (streets), and we enjoy continually expanding the breadth of what we’re offering,” she said.
For now, the building is mostly empty, with a few beer kegs and some brewing equipment the only things other than bare walls and exposed beams serving as the flooring for the second floor, which will not be used, initially.
Beer labels and the building’s aesthetics have yet to be determined, since the business is still in its infancy. Gull said he looks forward to the time when he can sit down and play with label options and the building itself.
“If my mother came in here, she’d be appalled,” Gull said. “But I look at it, and I see how I can be creative. That’s the developer in me.”
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.