Less than two weeks remain until Braeloch Brewing in Kennett Square officially opens its doors to the public. We sat down at the massive 78-foot bar with President and Brewer Kent Steeves as the very long-awaited new brewery readies to open to the public.
It is a journey that began five years ago for Steeves, along with his wife Amy and longtime friends Kathy and Matt Drysdale of Hockessin. Steeves, who resides in Newark, originally planned to start his business closer to home. He even had the laws changed in the city, only to be unable to be recognized as a craft brewery and not a restaurant per the existing laws of the municipality.
Steeves mentioned they were pretty picky on the property because the business model included a beer garden, which ruled out industrial parks and strip malls. A recent change in Pennsylvania liquor laws was what ultimately brought Braeloch Brewing to Kennett.
The partners were able to purchase a manufacturers license instead of a liquor license, which was more affordable and offered more flexibility. Brewing in Pennsylvania would also allow them to self distribute and Steeves had plans to distribute to local restaurants, including their neighbor The Creamery.
Renovating and designing the aged building was their next challenge. The substantial 4000 square foot space was originally built as a street trolley service barn in 1903 – the hump in the road from paved over trolley tracks on Birch Street still remains. The previous tenants also included a shitake mushroom farm and a business that serviced fireman clothing.
The building was completely gutted to prepare for the new brewery, which took a considerable amount of time and resources.
It is now a warm space peppered by exposed brick, antique light, wood finishes, comfy leather couches and murals by the brewer’s brother. The enormous arched windows that were once packed with cinderblocks are now replaced by brand new windows modeled to match the building’s unique style. The original brick was cleaned and left exposed, fostering the feeling that Braeloch has always been there. Every aspect of the brewery is incredibly well thought-out, especially the bar, which curls into multiple half moons to foster conversation amongst patrons.
What’s in a name?
The brewery’s name is inspired by a 20-acre property on the Finger Lakes that Steeves’ parents purchased in 1990 – a special place for the family used for vacation and family gatherings.
On a lamppost at the edge of the property was the name “Braeloch” inscribed on a wooden plaque. Steeves said “there’s something about the place; you just forget about life. We wanted to take what you get at the Finger Lakes and bring that here into this space.”
The space was also modeled after the popular book The Great Good Place, a community building philosophy built around a place you spend time socializing that isn’t work or home, but a place in between. The third place emphasizes providing a comfortable space for social interaction where you relax and have a good time. They set out to create that feel as well as “build up Kennett Square’s community family room,” said Steeves. They want you to feel like you are coming home when you come to the brewery.
Behind the bar
Steeves got his start brewing beer at home with his brother 11 years ago, driving from Newark to Annapolis regularly to brew together. After his daughters graduated and moved out, he decided he was ready to turn his hobby into a business.
The brewery currently has six beers on tap: 33rdMarc Cream Ale, Sassy Saison, Blue Hen Gold New England IPA, Kennett Brown Ale, Birch Street Porter, and the Meddling Russian Imperial Stout. Each of the beers is balanced, packed with flavor and taste like the product of many years of practice. The Blue Hen Gold, a smooth and juicy New England and the Birch Street Porter, a rich and creamy American porter with notes of chocolate, are particularly impressive.
The bar will eventually include 12 rotating taps, one of which will be a small batch experimental beer brewed on Steeves’ homebrew system. He mentioned he is working on the first – a beer brewed with Kennett Square Mushrooms.
His goal is to offer a broad spectrum of beers, so patrons can try new things but also drink their favorites. The bar will also serve wine, soda, local cider and flavored seltzers for non-beer drinkers. Meade and Kombucha are also potentially in the plan for the future.
Games, brew tours and live music
Once up and running, Braeloch will offer games, brew tours, growler fills, food trucks and live music on the weekends. The brewery also includes a 25 person meeting room that will be used for private events. The 4000 square foot outdoor beer garden bordered by a scenic natural creek and mature trees, will be fully fenced to accommodate children and dogs. Steeves is also working with a restaurant group to run the kitchen and provide light fare as well as food and beer pairings.
Braeloch Brewing will open to the public on March 1, with grand opening events happening March 8-10.
Braeloch Brewing is located at 225 Birch Street Kennett Square, Pennsylvania 19348