Williamsville is closing in on its first brewery of the new craft beer era.
The brewing system was delivered and installed this week on a patch of land along Ellicott Creek that once was home to a blacksmith shop.
Britesmith Brewing Company will open sometime in the fall.
“That gives me until Dec. 20,” principal owner David Schutte said with a smile this week, as contractors set up the 10-barrel system in the westernmost of two buildings on the property and set the stage to pipe beer underground into the second building along the creek, then into four storage tanks – called brite tanks – in a new brewpub.
When it opens, the $1.75 million enterprise will feature craft beers that many will wash down with foods baked in a wood-fired pizza oven. They will do so indoors in the pub – including at high-top tables that overlook the creek – and outdoors in a beer garden that sits along a stretch of the creek that curves downstream toward Glen Falls.
The beer garden bar will circle a towering, 100-plus-year-old chestnut tree behind the brewhouse.
“We want to be a main focus in Williamsville for beer, food and community outreach,” said Nate Root, Britesmith's director of operations. “We'd like to take people back to that public house feel, where people want to meet.”
Schutte owns the Creekview Restaurant across the creek as well as Oliver’s in North Buffalo. He announced last summer that he would build the craft brewery project in two renovated buildings at 5611 and 5609 Main St., which most recently served as the Center for Plastic Surgery.
He and his silent investors hoped to open Britesmith in the spring but discovered – as almost all new brewery owners in the region have, during the past five years – that repurposing historic properties and handling local, state and federal paperwork for brewery-related enterprises is much more demanding than many assume.
It’s been a busy construction season in the region. It took longer than expected for the brewing equipment to arrive from Vancouver, British Columbia. Contractors needed some extra time to solve an engineering challenge digging the trench between the two buildings to lay beer lines.
A sluiceway stands in the path of the underground channel that still must be finished. It starts as a 4-by-4-foot tunnel along the creek at the southern edge of the property and narrows as it tilts downstream along the creek and under Main Street to the Williamsville Water Mill. A flow of water in the now-dry sluiceway once powered grist-making operations at the mill.
Lazarus Industries and Specialty Manufacturing Construction, along with Gavigan & Gruppo Interior Design, can ramp up work at Britesmith now that the brewing operation is on site, Schutte said.
Beer production will start in August, about the same time the pizza oven arrives.
Devin Erdmann, former lead brewer at Ellicottville Brewing Company, is the new head brewer. Clay Keel, former chief brewing officer at 42 North Brewing Company in East Aurora, is director of brewing. Keel has returned to suburban Tampa to run his family farm, winery and Two Henry’s brewery. He will serve Britesmith mostly from a distance, and already has worked with Erdmann in Florida on test batches.
Erdmann said it will take three to four weeks to make and ferment his first batches at Britesmith – which will likely include India Pale Ales (IPAs), lagers, pilsners, sours and a stout.
“Every brewing system is different,” he said, “so once I start researching and playing with this more, I can dial in recipes. I have a pretty solid idea on at least six to eight beers now.”
The Britesmith pub will feature 20 taps that include brewery flagships and seasonal beers, as well as guest taps for other beers and ciders.
Schutte hopes Britesmith will produce 1,500 barrels – or 372,000 pints – of craft beer in its first year in business.
As time goes on, some of those beers will be offered at the Creekview and Oliver’s.
As he and his charges push toward the Britesmith opening and await the liquor license for the new venture, they already are talking about providing samples of some of their early batches late this summer or in early fall to visitors at special village events, and maybe a regional beer festival or two.
“Nobody wants to see this brewery open more than I do,” Schutte said, “but we won’t open it until it’s ready.”