OLEAN – Three beer lovers are planning to bring new life to the old Olean Brewing Co. buildings that were shut down during Prohibition.
Jaye Beattie, Gregg Piechota and Nicholas Bohdanowycz, are looking to bring brewing back to the Greene Street property.
They have been operating Four Mile Brewing, a small craft brewery for their friends, on Four Mile Road in Allegany. The friends liked their beer so much that the three decided to move to a larger, better location and to create a production line – and the Olean Brewing Co. buildings seemed to be the logical place.
The buildings have been used for a variety of purposes – including storage – since the days of the 18th Amendment. One of the buildings currently is vacant, and the other houses furnishings that once were in the former Castle restaurant and hotel near the St. Bonaventure University campus.
The buildings were built in 1907 to support the growing need for beer in the industrial city of Olean.
If all goes as planned, the local brews of that age will be replaced by Four Mile Brewery’s packaging lines and fermentation tanks after 96 years.
The smaller building will house the production line as well as the brewing equipment. Behind a large window in the 202 Greene St. building, visitors would get a feel for the beer-making process as they watch it happen.
As planned, when visitors walk into the shop, they will be virtually transported into a time before Prohibition. They also will be able to get a New York City deli-style sandwich, served on a piece of parchment paper.
And, they’ll be eaten in an area that will be designed to look like the pubs of the past. An industrial look, complete with distressed brick and metal tables in the small dining area, is planned.
Outside, the developers are looking to have a hops garden with benches in the walkway and they plan on a small, family-friendly beer garden.
The facility has one of the best vantage points for the Fourth of July fireworks in Bradner Stadium. Plans are being laid for that viewing experience.
Piechota, an avid runner, has started laying the groundwork for a citywide running club. The three men have an environmental bent. They look hard to find ways to help in making the city a better place, and that includes the river.
“We want to be an active partner in the community,” Piechota said. “Sure, we want to have some of our own events, but we want to be part of the community. We want to be part of what’s happening right here.”
In that vein, Piechota said he and his partners are not looking to open a bar. Four Mile Brewing is a production facility, he said. To become a bar would hurt their local sales to other establishments. Being a bar would also hurt the neighborhood feel, he continued.
As the brewery opens, yes, there will be tastings, and yes, people can get a growler of their favorite flavor. The place will close by 10 p.m. On most nights.
“If we have the Sabres game on, or a football game that goes a bit past that, we will stay open until the game is done, but then we are closing shop,” Piechota said.
All of the action seems to be going on in the smaller building. What about the behemoth, 18,000-square-foot former brewery behind it? For the time being, it will be storage for materials. Plans are in the works to use it for other things, but those are not fully disclosed at this time.
The men hope to have the buildings ready for operation by late fall, with hopes of hitting the Ellicottville Beer and Wine Festival.
Operations are expected to grow to provide sales to private citizens walking in to get beer. After that happens, Piechota said, expansion to the Olean and Buffalo markets is the next step. Eventually, having distribution in a 600-mile radius is planned. Once at full operation, Piechota said, he and his partners are looking at potential employment of 10 to 15 people.
To make this whole thing a reality, a couple of hurdles remain. The next is a public hearing at the Olean Planning Board meeting, set for 7 p.m. Jan. 27. If that is successful, plans can move forward for making a new life for the old the Olean Brewing Company buildings.