Hop River brewers build place to mingle
By Megan Knowles | KPC Media - Northwest News
From the beginning, Hop River Brewing Company has been about using beer to bring people together.
Initially, co-founders Paris McFarthing and Ben Jackson had separately been considering opening their own breweries.
“By happenstance we got introduced through a mutual friend and the three of us … had a beer at the Dash-In,” McFarthing said. “[Ben and I] realized we could make a go of it together.”
Both had helpful backgrounds to bring a new brewery into existence — McFarthing has an entrepreneurial background as co-owner of Phil’s Hobby Shop and Jackson’s background in the law helped them navigate the regulations necessary to open a brewery.
As they were getting their plans together, it seemed development was working with them too.
“There’s a lot happening on Wells Street, there’s a lot happening north of the river. The momentum, not withstanding the GE project, with the city is moving north and we thought we’d just get right in the way,” Jackson said.
Though they had intended on purchasing a different building, their current location at 1515 N. Harrison St. met all their needs, both now and in the future.
“Literally a city block zoned industrial in the middle of neighborhoods, you’re hard pressed to find that right off downtown,” McFarthing said.
Though the building has “good bones,” as Jackson put it, the space still had to undergo a lot of infrastructure and mechanical work over five months to get it to function as a brewery.
“We also wanted to build it to expand,” he said. “We made the conscious decision that we wanted to get bigger so we sized our infrastructure accordingly so we didn’t … have to do it all over again.”
For now, Hop River has a 3,800-square-foot taproom with a 200-person occupancy. In addition to their beer, they plan to serve soups, sandwiches, salads and shareables, McFarthing said.
More importantly though, they hope to offer a place where people can come together to connect.
“We value community from a large scale all the way down to a very small scale, from connecting with Wells Street Corridor, Greater Fort Wayne, all the way down to having community tables, engaging tours in our brew house,” Director of Marketing Mary Corinne Lowenstein-DeGood said. “We really want to connect with other organizations, other companies, other aspects of the community as well as individuals.”
“And let them connect with each other as well,” Jackson added.
In the next couple of years, Hop River hopes to expand its taproom as well as use its outdoor space for a parking lot and a beer garden that could be one of the largest in the region, Jackson said.
And they want to expand their production so that it can be found across the region, McFarthing said.
“We are really making some classic beer styles. There’s a little bit of innovation in each one. I don’t want to make something super weird, I want to make something you want to have two of … [and] share it with your friends,” Brewer Kevin Debs explained.
“Ultimately we want to give people the opportunity to connect with us, whether it be at your favorite restaurant, at the taproom or at different events,” McFarthing said. “We want to make excellent beer … that people want more than one of [so] that we can be a dependable supplier to the bars and restaurants, so that we can really build our brand to be the city and the region’s brewer.”
Hop River’s grand opening is Saturday, Feb 3, at 1515 N. Harrison St., Fort Wayne. Its hours are: Tuesday-Thursday, 4-10:30 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Saturday, noon-12:30 a.m.; and Sunday, noon-8 p.m. Hop River is closed on Monday.