There is a New Beer Brewing in Chester (Part I)
It was first reported in the Delaware County Daily Times that The Larimer Beer Company was almost open and you’d think no one in Chester saw the article. About a month after the Daily Times ran their article, the brewery had opened and I stuck my head in early one evening to see what was going on inside. I met the owners, had a couple great beers, and created a blog post to simply say I stopped in and we’re going to do an interview for this issue.
The response was bonkers. It was as if Larimer Brewery dropped out of the sky overnight landing on Front and Engle under the cover of darkness to only be discovered by the ‘in’ crowd, or those who are super curious like me. I casually mentioned Larimer to one of my friends and he went right down there and started posting to his huge social media crowd. Most of the responses were of disbelief.
Possibly this interview will clear up a few things for those with little faith that great beer is actually brewing in Chester.
Enter Matt Lindenmuth, the founder and top guy at Larimer Brewery. Originally a Pennsylvania guy from Berks County, Matt started the Larimer as a “gypsy” brewer in Colorado, meaning he brewed out of numerous locations without a place he could call his own. About 2-years ago he started looking to open something back here in Pa., in or near Philadelphia. Along came the Front and Engle Street building.
Matt and his business partner are both season ticket holders for the Major League Soccer Philadelphia Union team that play their home games about 250 yards from the back door of the brewery. They both have attended games since the beginning. As Matt says, “This Chester opportunity fits, and we decided to pursue putting ourselves into the MLS soccer culture in one of most prime locations imaginable. The other benefits are how much easier a project it became getting established in Chester, and costs were much more forgiving than trying to work on something in Center City Philadelphia or other communities. We’ve been thrilled with our decision to come to Chester.
“This is truly our headquarters and home. Even though we are still brewing in Colorado and other locations under then gypsy guise, this is our real-deal headquarters here in Chester. This is home. This is where we’re registered with the Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade (TTB) for our federal alcohol manufacturer license and all our state licenses. Chester is home base and the more I sit here, the more potential I see for our growth and expansion. We can do so much here.
“I’m honored and surprised that after ten years of the Philadelphia Union and the stadium being here that a little nobody brewery called the Larimer is the first business to pop up here and be participating in the culture of pre- and post-game MLS soccer.”
Matt and his team started building a buzz among the soccer crowd by hanging out at all the home games spreading the word that they’d be opening a brewery here. Matt says, “Within the soccer community, the word spread fast. They’ve been supporting us with welcome open arms. They’ve also been desperate for something to come in to make for a better experience of traveling to and from Chester for the games.”
Here’s how Matt describes day one at Larimer. “The day we were approved to be open, we opened to a home game crowd. We may not have been as ready as we liked, but you’d never know it by the customer response.”
I moved the line of questioning to what happens after the season ends. Matt shared, “This is home base for our company. The Union and the soccer schedule are fantastic and they have the shortest off season in U.S. major league professional sports so it’s not a big gap of being without soccer around here. However, this is where we conduct our day-to-day business. We’re open seven days a week. We also run our distribution out of here for South-Eastern PA and we’ll continue to do that through the winter.
“We see the amount of traffic that comes through here, the amount of businesses on the riverfront, where local employees value having a nice location to have a drink after work. Many live scattered around New Jersey, northern Delaware, and throughout PA, and we provide the first place they feel comfortable getting together for Happy Hour and the food truck before hitting the road for home. From what I gather from the folks who have come in, they haven’t had the local bars reach out to them in that capacity. We immediately reached out to these companies on the riverfront and said, ‘Hey, we’re here, and we’re going to be open at 3 pm running happy hour specials for you guys, so come on in.’ The response has been fantastic.”
I needed to know from Matt what the difference is between a taproom and a corner bar.
“The difference is pretty drastic. We are lucky in Pennsylvania as a brewery to have the privilege of selling other beer, wine or spirits made in Pennsylvania. Bars, with their State liquor license, can offer beer, wine, and spirits from anywhere in the world. We don’t have the ability to acquire everything a bar can acquire so the Pennsylvania margarita probably won’t be as good as you’ll get at the corner bar.
“Obviously, we focus most heavily on our own beers – the beers we brew, but we have guest taps on. 90% of what we do here has to do with what we craft and make. We have that nice benefit to feature our friends who are really good at what they do with beer, wine, cider, and spirits made here in Pennsylvania. We can’t wait for you to get to know them, too.
“When I first got in the industry, what I appreciated most about taprooms was the just sitting with folks, pouring beers, and having a conversation. We’re not just sitting at the bar drinking. We are sitting in the place where the beer is made and the craft is performed. There’s one notch more of artisan presentation to it that gets the conversation going in a different format than sitting at the bar having a shot and a beer.
“When you sit in a brewery, you get to look at the tanks we work with. There’s a sense of the work that was put into the beer you’re drinking, the craft, the passion, the care for details. That parlays into getting people around that centerpiece which is that beautiful beer that we made.”
From here, Matt and I really got deep into the science of making beer. It was a great discussion and an eye-opening education for me. I’m going to save that portion of the interview for Part 2 which I’ll roll out in the next issue. Until then, here is my favorite quote from Matt from my nearly one-hour interview: “The Riverfront, the view of the bridge and the stadium is so fun. There will be a future for all of that here. It’s going to come together.”