By now questions surrounding the Kettlehouse Brewery’s long-awaited Northside expansion are growing old. Really old. Owner Tim O’Leary gets the “When do you open?” question two or three times a day.
“It’s why I’ve gone underground,” O’Leary says. “And you can’t fault people for asking.”
The when is simple: anyone’s guess. O’Leary plans to move the canning operation to the First Street building atop the Orange Street underpass by May, with Cold Smoke, Eddy Out and Double Haul IPA produced by summer. But the cavernous taproom, currently littered with sawhorses and lumber, is still months from ready.
The why is what has Kettlehouse disciples scratching their heads. O’Leary blames engineering hiccups for the delays, denying any link to the struggling economy. Progress is crawling ahead in stages, but the sheer scope of the project has O’Leary physically taxed.
“I planned this about two years ago and I didn’t think we’d be on this steep of a growth surge,” O’Leary says.
Delays started early, when O’Leary chose to buy out several investors, namely his in-laws. He and his wife, Kettlehouse co-owner Suzy O’Leary, didn’t feel comfortable putting her parents at risk on an uncertain business expansion.
The list of wrinkles grows lengthier, from equipment problems to maintaining a focus on the current Myrtle Street location. Now O’Leary is pushing to create a financial package, paying for new equipment and moving on a purchase option for the new building from owner Abbott Norris.
“In a time of economic uncertainty, we’re putting it all on the line,” O’Leary says. “It’s just construction and equipment delays [now]. When you’re building something it’s always an uncertain timetable, unless you’re Hooters and you’ve done it a thousand times before.”
O’Leary understands that for the community “it seems like a long delay, and it does for me too.” But, with the Myrtle Street taproom floating much of the project and Kettlehouse’s future at stake, he’s cautious about running before he can walk.
“It’s a birthing process, and right now is very painful—crowning.”