Tapped Potential: Brewing Projekt to open spacious riverside taproom

Lauren Fisher, photos by Andrea Paulseth

THE OLD, THE NEW, AND THE TIMELESS. The new taproom at The Brewing Projekt features church pew seating from Red Wing, an original floorboard ceiling, and a suite of shiny brewing equipment to observe during a visit.  Volunteer President William Glass and Visit Eau Claire Executive Director Linda John expect the venue, which overlooks the Chippewa River, to become a statewide, or even national, attraction.
THE OLD, THE NEW, AND THE TIMELESS. The new taproom at The Brewing Projekt features church pew seating from Red Wing, an original floorboard ceiling, and a suite of shiny brewing equipment to observe during a visit. Volunteer President William Glass and Visit Eau Claire Executive Director Linda John expect the venue, which overlooks the Chippewa River, to become a statewide, or even national, attraction.

It won’t be long before the din of drinking and socializing joins with the cacophony of canning machines in the new Brewing Projekt Taproom on 1807 N. Oxford Ave. Scheduled to open mid-February, the modern, airy taproom is inside a completely renovated industrial building – one that at times has housed a furniture factory and a meat-processing facility. Now, it’s home to vats, tubes and pipes, canning machinery, and pallets of local brews. Center stage in the Projekt’s operation, as always, will be production brewing.

“I definitely see this as a destination driver. Having The Brewing Projekt there is really key to getting that space the boost it needs to become a popular area.” – Linda John, Executive Director, Visit Eau Claire

“We wanted it to be open and enjoyable, and to be observed by everybody who comes.” William Glass, volunteer president of The Brewing Projekt, said. “People will be able to stand right here,” he said, one hand on the waist-high steel railing that separates the taproom from where the brewing and canning will take place. Only the rail, and a few feet of open air, will come between guests and the brewing process. “If they want to ask a question they can ask and know what’s going on,” he said. Guests can chat with staff about brewing while enjoying their drinks and taking in the sights and sounds of machinery in motion, and the warm, humid smell of hops.

“We really wanted to capture that experience of being in a brewery and not just being in a bar, because we’re not a bar,” Glass continued. “That’s not what we set out to be, and that’s not what we’re ever going to be.”

The new digs will be host to nearly triple the beverage production of the Projekt’s original location at 2000 N. Oxford Ave.  Within six months of opening in 2015, the business was maxed out at about 3,400 barrels per year. With more space at their disposal, Glass expects to begin production at about 10,000 barrels per year.

A “teasy” portion of that beer will find its way to different parts of the country, Glass said. 

“There’s a culture that surrounds our industry, and especially the beers that we’re making, that people are really excited about,” he said. These shipments will introduce The Brewing Projekt’s unique approach to beer to other regions, and potentially draw more visitors to the taproom and to Eau Claire.

Already, Glass said, most of the cars parked outside the Projekt’s temporary taproom sport out-of-state license plates. Glass believes that The Brewing Projekt – and the Chippewa Valley with its recent explosion of craft beverage businesses – can become a tempting destination for people who love to sip and savor.

Operations Manager Jessica Meyers is excited to see the taproom bring a new energy to the area. “We hope that along with the people of Eau Claire enjoying the new space, it will also draw beer enthusiasts from other cities and states to Eau Claire,” she said. “They will likely patronize other small businesses in the area during their stay, and the city as a whole experiences a positive effect of the (brewery’s) expansion.”

The taproom main floor is defined by metal-framed light fixtures hanging from original steel beams that weave across the ceiling, underneath the exposed floorboards of what used to be the third floor. Matching floorboards from other parts of the building were salvaged to make up the bar face, before which is a tile mat that reads “BEER HERE.” Look left from the bar onto Oxford Avenue and right to the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the patio and the Chippewa River.

The patio will open in the spring, offering a view of the water and a chance to play games on the grass, from cornhole to kubb. Glass would like to see the Cannery District grow around the Projekt into a neighborhood of recreation, with parks and other experience-based businesses filling out the area.

“You go down to Phoenix Park to get music and go to the farmers market, but then you would go to the Cannery District to play,” he said.

“I definitely see this as a destination driver,” Linda John, executive director of Visit Eau Claire, said. “Having The Brewing Projekt there is really key to getting that space the boost it needs to become a popular area.” John notes Eau Claire’s growing reputation for craft brewing and distilling. “All of that is really a part of our story, and part of what our area offers,” she said.

“We will definitely continue to promote (the Projekt) – it has been a real point of pride for Eau Claire,” John said.

“It’s cool, I’m excited about it, but there’s so much left to be done,” Glass said of the new building. Years ago, before The Brewing Projekt opened in its first location, he bought himself a few cigars at an Eau Claire shop, and imagined that when he was satisfied, when he knew that his business had “made it,” he would kick everyone out of the brewery and enjoy one in what he’d built.

“That cigar is still sitting on the top of my dresser at home,” he said. “I’m sure it’s dry and disgusting, but I don’t think I’ll ever smoke it, because I don’t think we’ll ever get there.”

The reason why is in the name of the business, Glass explained. It might be bigger than ever, it might be reaching new milestones, however ... “What is the Brewing Projekt when it’s not a project?” he asked.