Farmington's Lauter Haus Brewing Company plans summer opening
Leader of new brewery has years of experience at Three Rivers
FARMINGTON — Since committing to opening his own brewery last fall, Brandon Beard has heard all the naysayers out there who express doubt that Farmington can, or will, support two such operations.
Downtown's Three Rivers Brewery and its various spinoff operations have the locally brewed beer market cornered after more than 20 years of dominance, or so that thinking goes, leaving little room for a start-up brewery.
Beard isn't buying that argument. He spent 15 years working at Three Rivers, serving as the business' head brewer for the last 10 years, and he figures he's learned a thing or two about the nature of the business from that experience.
"A town this size can have up to five breweries and support all of them," he said Friday while leading a tour of his soon-to-open Lauter Haus Brewing Company at 1806 E. 20th St. "Does it make everybody's profit margin go down a little bit? Yeah, but competition is always good."
Beard expresses nothing but admiration for Three Rivers founders John Silva and Bob Beckley. His move to open his own brewery was born more out of a desire to pursue his own vision than any sort of discontent with his situation at Three Rivers, he said, explaining he's been kicking the idea around for a long time.
"It's been a 10-year dream," he said. "Then this opportunity came about. … Three Rivers' legacy will always be about Bob and John. They've built an amazing company that's served the community for 22 years. But this is our legacy that we're going to try and build and pass on to our kids."
Not only does Farmington lack brewery options, Beard said, it needs more locally owned nightlife establishments. He hopes to see Lauter Haus help change that.
"For someone to be able to go out in Farmington, it's really hard," he said, ticking off only a handful of locally owned bars. "It's kind of sad to see we have all these corporately owned places. It's an underserved community, especially in craft beer."
With Lauter Haus, Beard hopes to open a business that promotes a sense of community as much as it does high-quality beer. He and his partners have purchased a 10,000-square-foot building that will accommodate a 4,000-square-foot brewery and a 3,600-square-foot taproom while retaining plenty of space for growth.
Beard characterizes the operation as a "brewcade," a combination of a brewery and an arcade. When it opens, Lauter Haus will feature eight to 10 arcade and pinball games, as well as four cornhole courts from which a league will be operated. Eventually, he hopes to have as many as 30 arcade and pinball games.
The public entrance to the building will be on the east side, away from the 20th Street exposure, directly off the parking lot. That side of the building will feature a 900-square-foot patio that could be expanded if demand warrants it, he said.
On the west side of the building, where a large garage door is positioned, Beard plans to construct a 4-foot-high wall where patrons can order selections from food trucks, as Lauter Haus will not operate as a restaurant. Beard hopes to have at least three food trucks on site every day, but he said patrons will be welcome to bring in their own food from any eatery or have it brought to them by a delivery service.
There was never any consideration given to making Lauter Haus a restaurant, Beard said.
"It was a nonissue for us. There's so much waste in food," he said, doing some quick tabulations associated with inventory and labor, and explaining that the construction of a kitchen probably would have added $100,000 to the business' start-up costs.
"You're just eating up your costs," he said. "For us, yeah, it was a no-brainer."
Without the distraction of operating a restaurant, Beard will be free to concentrate on doing what he loves — producing good beer.
"When I started, I was a huge hophead, so IPAs were all I wanted to drink and all I wanted to brew," he said. "But I've grown into appreciation for pilsners and lagers, especially German, Old World beers. … We're going to concentrate on lagers and German styles as much as possible."
Those lighter beers, typically lower in alcohol content, will allow patrons to enjoy an extended evening at the brewery without being overserved, he said.
"This community is begging for that place to go and hang out and have more than one (heavy) beer," he said. " … This enables you to come in and have a good time longer."
In addition to the games, Beard plans to offer live music. He'll be building a stage in the arcade area that can be assembled or removed instead of simply setting aside some floor space for musical acts. He believes such elements are important.
"I'm a huge music guy," he said. "I love music. And when I go into a place that has a stage, it just feels different."
He also plans to promote an attitude of respect throughout the building – from his employees to his customers.
"That's the worst thing ever — to go into a place and be treated badly by the bartender or to treat a bartender that way," he said. "That won't happen here at all. We have a zero tolerance for rudeness, even on our end."
An opening date for Lauter Haus has not been set. A fire suppression system was being installed in the building last week with insulating due to take place this week. Several fermenters recently were delivered to the building, and the brewery will be assembled over the next couple of weeks.
Beard plans to have the build-out done by July and hopes to open the doors then, but he knows the licensing system for a new brewery is a complicated one that can be full of delays. His impatience to start welcoming customers is tempered by a growing pride in what he is creating.
"It's the biggest gamble I've ever made," he said, acknowledging that he left a safe, prestigious position at Three Rivers as its brew master and head distiller to go out on his own.
After several conversations with his wife, his in-laws and his own parents last fall, during which he received conflicting advice about whether to proceed with the opportunity to open his own brewery, Beard came to the realization that there was no such thing as the perfect time to take such a risk.
"You can't win if you don't play," he said. "Even Bill Gates started out in a garage. You gotta do what you gotta do."
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.