Source, Philadelphia Business Journal, Kenneth Hilario
Look inside one 1960s industrial building in King of Prussia, and you’ll see workers rigging brewing equipment and welding pipes to turn the space into Montgomery County’s only brewery.
It would be a welcome destination for an area brimming with new food and beverage options, and rife with 9-to-5 workers and suburbanites looking for a new local hang-out spot.
The owner-founders of Workhorse Brewing Co. are injecting north of $5 million to turn roughly 70,000 square of space at 250 King Manor Drive into their first brewery, near Interstate-95 and the King of Prussia Mall.
The Workhorse team is made up of CEO Peter Fineberg; Dan Hershberg, cofounder, vice president and chief marketing officer; and brewmaster Nate Olewine, previously lead brewer at Devils Backbone Brewing Co., Virginia’s largest craft brewer.
The first phase of construction, once completed, will give the brewery a 5,000-square-foot tasting room; a 30-barrel system; a 24-tap bar area; retail area; 1,200-square feet for private event space; food truck and beer garden areas; and about 3,500 square feet for the Workhorse offices.
Subsequent phases will or could potentially utilize additional space for 7,000 square feet or so for a second, larger event area; a canning line; about 10,000 square feet for a barrel-aging facility; and more brewing equipment like additional 60-barrel fermenters to supplement the existing six.
The Workhorse facility is a massive undertaking, with a lease signed for about 70,000 square feet within a 122,000-square-foot property — a deliberate move made to accommodate growth, said Hershberg in an interview with the Philadelphia Business Journal.
“We looked at the scene, and there are a ton of breweries. Everyone coming into the game lately is smaller-scale, except Victory, Yards and Troegs.” said Hershberg, who also owns local apparel company Philly Phaithful.
Troegs Independent Brewing has a new 90,000-square-foot facility in Hershey, Pa.; Yards Brewing Co. recently opened a new 70,000-square-foot facility in Philadelphia; and Victory Brewing Co. has a 140,000-square-foot facility in Parkesburg, Pa. These facilities opened years after the brewing companies built brand equity and demand, calling for expansion from more modest facilities.
To differentiate itself from other startup breweries, the Workhorse team is “coming in big” with a high-end facility with equipment from Rolec, a Germany brewing equipment company whose products are used by major breweries like Victory and California’s Lagunitas Brewing Co.
“Every single brewery we talked to said the biggest issue was capacity,” he said. “They had so much demand but not enough brewhouse or facility [space] or capital. They couldn’t grow quickly enough.”
A large facility gives Workhorse brand equity from the get-go, and it eliminates the headaches — and dollars — of opening a new location.
The team worked with a handful of commercial realtors to look for an ideal location before they zeroed in on the King of Prussia facility, which they found in 2016. They looked in Chester County, Northeast Philadelphia and in areas near the Philadelphia International Airport.
“We wanted at least 50,000 square feet to accommodate that future growth,” Hershberg said, “and its hard to find a warehouse of that magnitude, a reasonable rental rate and a desirable area.”
With a large space at the start, the Workhorse team can add on amenities or spaces that generate additional streams of revenue, including sales from private and corporate events as well as revenue from retail and the tasting room.
With a dozen or so accounts already lined up, the brewing company will self distribute its beer.
“We want to be a regional production facility,” Hershberg said. “The tasting room is key at the start. The goal is to get the product in as many locations as possible.”
The King of Prussia area over the past few years has added more food and beverage options, most notably at the King of Prussia Mall and the King of Prussia Town Center — no surprise since food is a top tourism driver.
Workhorse Brewing Co. is another notch in the area’s belt of offerings, joining a trend of more real estate earmarked toward alcohol production. Their facility had been on the market for years, Hershberg said.
King of Prussia is by and large still a town made for drivers, although some moves are being made to add more pedestrian-friendly amenities like the much-anticipated SEPTA rail project.
To market Workhorse Brewing Co., the team will utilize social media, partner with hotels, the King of Prussia District and Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board, and it will have an advertising budget.
Making Workhorse a one-stop destination of sorts that can accommodate a number of needs can only benefit the brewing company.
The U.S. craft beer market continues to add more breweries every year, with a record 6,000-plus in operation in 2017, according to the Brewers Association.
That presents competition for startups and legacy brand, forced to rethink their marketing strategies, brand story and designs of their logos on store shelves.
Workhorse Brewing Co. officials wanted to create a brand story to articulate its values to foster a personal connection to the King of Prussia community, Hershberg said.
For transparency, and to bring the community along the journey, the team created the “From the horse’s mouth” blog on the Workhorse website.
Brewmaster Nate Olewine describes Workhorse as a “traditional, no-frills brewery” and “traditional with a twist — but not too out of field.” The core of the brand will be “approachable.”
The beer styles include IPAs, Vienne-Style Lagers and American Brown Ale. It will also have craft wines, ciders and cocktails.