Green Success: Craft Microbrewery Revitalizes Kentucky Neighborhood
The West Sixth Brewing Company in Lexington, Kentucky, is a craft brewery, founded by Joe Kuosman, Ben Self, Robin Sither, and Brady Barlow and located in the old Rainbo Bread Company building. The business is the first Kentucky brewery to can its beer and has the ability to produce 180 barrels per month. The redeveloped two-story building, which also has a basement and dates back to 1880, is now called The Bread Box and is located in the historic Northside Neighborhood.
Besides the brewery, tap room, and beer garden in the front corner of The Bread Box, the 90,000-square-foot structure will host other companies and community organizations that share our values, beliefs and commitment to the community, according to the owners. Other organizations scheduled to occupy portions of the building are The Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop; Cricket Press; the Roller Derby’s Roller Girls and FoodChain, a nonprofit focused on urban indoor food farming production and education that includes growing vegetables and raising tilapia in a vertical farm.
Purchased in August 2011, the building was certified for brownfield zoning for adaptive reuse by the Kentucky Brownfield Redevelopment Program. It was the first single-use building in Lexington to meet four of the seven criteria for this designation, which makes it available for retail, office or residential use and increases its value.
A large portion of the historic building consists of large, open rooms with industrial-style windows. One of the attractions for the owners was that the floors, walls and roof are intact, so there were lots of original parts to the building, with things that could be reused. In the room where the brewery is housed, the original yellow tile walls remain, still in good condition. Several rooms have original tile floors. Portions of the old maple loading dock and wood from the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum were used to form the bar area. Metal came from the mixers in the upper floor of The Bread Box.
When the owners were searching for a location, they knew they wanted their business to be in a neighborhood near downtown and be environmentally friendly and sustainable. By choosing a brownfield, they realized it would be less expensive to locate in an existing structure, but they also knew there would be unknown conditions to face. The building had been vacant for many years.
"All the windows needed steel lintels," says Self. "Part of the floor was on a concrete slab, while there was a crawl space under the rest of it. All of the copper had been stolen. The windows were blocked in and had to be removed. But the building has tons of architectural character with several features, including its barreled roof. If you are considering purchasing a brownfield, go for it, but expect surprises and challenges."
The Bread Box was not an overly expensive building, and it already had a cooler in the back, floor drains and industrial utilities, all of which are perfect for West Sixth Brewing.
Also, several positive factors converge at that location, including a biking-and-jogging path; nearby Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus, which is under construction; and Transylvania University, with 1,100 students, is a few blocks east. The Bread Box is the latest in a series of projects transforming Jefferson Street into a restaurant and entertainment corridor.
"The neighbors are happy because the corner went from being blighted to becoming a vibrant, positive influence," says Self. "We measure success not only by making great craft beer, but also by how it helps our community. We will always strive to protect our environment even if it costs us more to do so. The microbrewery will donate 6 percent of its profits to local charities and nonprofit organizations that make our community a great place to live."
Microbrewery image via Kentucky DEP.