Braeloch Brewing officially opens in Kennett Square
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
After prolonged delays that whetted the anticipation of a curious public, and following several soft openings this winter, the doors of the long-awaited Braeloch Brewing in Kennett Square finally swung officially open this past weekend, and the crowds flowed faster than the beer did.
From Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, the new brewpub's parking area was filled in all directions, which subsequently turned Birch Street into a jammed matrix of vehicles and excitement, as hundreds of customers filled the renovated building to capacity. Once inside, customers bellied up to the bar to sample the Blue Hen Gold, Kennett Brown Ale and the 33rd Marc, sample tasty treats from food trucks outside and hear live music all weekend long.
At the entrance of the brewpub, a sign read, “Welcome home.”
“The emotions we've had have been excitement, fear, anger, frustration and back to excitement again,” said Kent Steeves, who owns the brewpub along with his wife, Amy, and Matt and Kathy Drysdale. “It's been a long journey. We signed a lease on this building 22 months ago. It's an old building, so we knew we would have challenges here, but it's been worth the wait.”
Although March 1-3 served as the official opening of Braeloch Brewing, it wasn't the first time the brewery has welcomed visitors. Ten by-invitation-only soft openings were held in February, which allowed 30 invitees at each event to sample beer, take tours of the brewery, meet the owners, bartenders and servers, and mingle with other guests.
“On the night of the first 30-person soft opening, my stomach was in knots,” said Kathy Drysdale. “We kept asking, 'Have we done everything right?' After the first night, we thought, 'We've got this.' Each night got a little easier, and we got a little more confident. Now we have to transfer that confidence from 30 people and apply it to serving hundreds of people, and that's a big transition.”
While giving a lot of credit to his wife Amy and the Drysdales, Steeves also recognized many others who helped lend some “elbow grease” that converted a 9,000-square-foot brick warehouse built in 1903 into a space that features a 4,000-square-foot tap room area and a brewing room. He thanked his two daughters, who now live in Charlotte, N.C., and the Drysdale's daughters.
“So many people committed to paint, even on the hottest, nastiest of days,” Steeves said. “If they gave us ten minutes, we took it, because they knew they would become part of the fun. That was priceless.”
Steeves also thanked his brother, Brett, who designed the brewery's 78-foot-long signature bar, which weaves its way along the far-right wall.
“It's got corners and it's got curves, and if you want to have a conversation with one person, you can do so, but if you want to add a third person into the conversation, you can do so. It's become a facilitator of that family feeling that we want to bring here.”
Steeves said as a brewer, he feels the pressure to live up to the high standards set by those brewpubs that have preceded Braeloch in the southern Chester County area, like the Kennett Brewing Company, Victory Brewing Company, Two Stones Pub and the Levante Brewing Company, to name a few. As an owner, Steeves and his partners are on a fast track to complete the outdoor beer garden, turn the brewery's kitchen over to a restaurant group; and complete several other cosmetic changes.
“Once you open, everything switches over from 'How much money do we have left to spend?' to 'What are we going to do next?'” he said. “People who have walked through this door have told us, 'This place is amazing,' but to us, we're not finished. We have to keep this journey going. This weekend will give us a moment to breathe a little bit, but we're about to go right back in and do more.”
The official opening of Braeloch Brewing nearly coincides with the rebirth of the Creamery of Kennett Square, which reopened last November to great fanfare, as well as a new infrastructure and a hatchet-tossing venue. Steeves said that the opening of Braeloch creates a “collaborative effort” between the two businesses.
“There were a large number of people at our soft openings who came here, went to the Creamery and came back here,” he said. “A rising tide raises all boats. The Creamery is not a craft brewery like we are, but they're achieving the same thing that Braeloch will do – to provide a wonderful place for people to go.”
The roots of Kennett Square's newest brewery trace back to the home that Steeves’ parents purchased three decades ago in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. In a short time, the home became a serene refuge for everyone who entered there, and when each visitor arrived, he or she was met with a welcoming sign that hung on a lamppost that read, “Braeloch.” While its literal translation is a Scottish term that stands for “hill by a lake,” the word came to define for the Steeves’ a spirit of energy that can be found when people gather in conversation and camaraderie.
“It's all about family,” Steeves said. “Those are the precious times in life, and it's hard to count those out, because you don't know until you lose them just how important they are to you. We knew that's what we wanted to bring here.”
Braeloch Brewing is located at 225 Birch Street, Kennett Square, Pa. 19348. To learn more, visit www.braelochbrewing.beer.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.