How to Build a Better Brewery - and a Dream
Photography by Tracy Doyle
Rivertown Brewery founder Jason Roeper and Cincinnati Commercial Contracting (CCC) president John Westheimer admit there were plenty of late nights going over blueprints. And, yes, some beers were consumed. After all, they were building a brewery.
The CCC team was creating more than a building for Roeper. It was fulfilling his dream. One of the region’s original craft brewers, Roeper had always aspired to have a facility that would make his Rivertown Brewery a major player in the booming craft beer market.
In 2015, Roeper contracted with Cincinnati Commercial Contracting to make that dream come true. The project is a case study in how a contractor can do it right, with attention to detail, identifying the special needs of the client and, above all, the importance of communication in a complex construction project.
Building special relationships with clients is something CCC, the design-build firm, has been doing for nearly 40 years. CCC has a diverse portfolio designing and building manufacturing complexes, warehouses, retail, restaurants, office and recreational facilities. CCC also is a commercial real estate developer and property management company with more than 250 acres of available land to build to suit or to sell.
Roeper was introduced to Cincinnati Commercial Contracting through Roddy MacEachen, SQFT Commercial Inc. Roeper also interviewed other general contractors.
“I knew a lot about construction for a brewery, but no way could I be a (general contractor) for this project. It was way over my head,” Roeper says.
After years of serious home brewing, Roeper started Rivertown Brewery in Lockland and added a taproom in 2012 when Ohio changed its law and permitted beer to be consumed on premises where it was brewed, which helped create the microbrewery boom.
Roeper, who specializes in all styles of beer as well as barrel-aged sours, always planned to be a major regional brewer. After buying out his original partner, Roeper and his wife, Lindsey, rebranded the company and looked for a site for an expanded production facility settling on a four-acre plot in Monroe at Route 63 and Salzman Road.
Rivertown Brewery was a small business in a small location and was growing rapidly. Roeper was busy making beer and he needed a business loan to cover a larger facility and all of the brewery equipment for that new facility. Cincinnati Commercial Contracting helped Roeper find the financing needed. Cincinnati Commercial Contracting brought in the architectural team from KBA, Inc., headed by Bill Schalk, and Evans Engineering, headed by Jonathan Evans. Advantage Group Engineers, Inc. also became a part of the team. At this point the planning began. The 27,000-square-foot facility would be a brewery, restaurant and taproom.
“Jason had a unique plan because it was manufacturing and a restaurant. That made it a lot more fun than usual,” Westheimer says. “We spent six months with KBA, Inc., Evans Engineering and Advantage Group Engineers, Inc. figuring out how to build this.”
“It helped that the CCC team was really into value,” Roeper says with a laugh. “They had not done a brewery before, but they quickly learned how beer was made. Understanding the process helped in the engineering side. They immediately understood this was designed from the ground up to be a brewery. This is not a standard rectangular steel-framed building. It was thought about with attention. We had to meet FDA requirements for a packaging facility.”
Roeper says one of the trickiest parts of the project was that the contractor had to be sensitive to the needs of a brewery with a structure able to support 200-barrel fermentation tanks. Yet, it also had to meet the needs of a restaurant.
Roeper explains the issues this way, “You have to think a little more about plumbing. That goes beyond just having some floor drains. We have two separate businesses with different usages – a manufacturing facility and a restaurant.”
Roeper said the CCC team was creative in the need to essentially construct two different buildings under one roof. There was the manufacturing part that had specific needs. The concrete pour needed to be different in areas to support the substantial weight in the brewery. It was also important to make sure the elevation and structural beams made sense to fit 24-foot-tall tanks. Roeper also wanted a special aging room for the sour beers, too. Then the restaurant and tap room was a different unique section.
One of biggest innovations in CCC’s client communication is the use of 3D modeling. A software application that turns blueprints into an easy to visualize multimedia plan showing walls, floor layout, plumbing and electrical.
“You don’t have to read those mysterious architect codes in those blueprints. It allows everyone to reduce field changes. With this design tool, you can visualize three dimensions and see how a field change would impact the entire project,” says Westheimer. “It’s the ultimate communication device. The only thing better would be the holodeck from ‘Star Trek.’ ”
Rivertown Brewery opened in February after breaking ground in June 2016, coming in on budget with a brewing capacity of 150,000 barrels. It features a 4,000-square-foot taproom and restaurant that can serve 287 people inside and 150 on the outside patio. Rivertown makes some 20 limited edition and everyday beers with Roeper expecting to reach 30,000 barrels in the first full year of operation. It distributes in seven states, includes such clients as Kroger and Costco and brews specialty beers for several area restaurants.
Westheimer, who began his career as a construction laborer before founding his family-run company, takes pride in helping another family enterprise take root.
“Jason and Lindsey seem to be having tremendous success,” Westheimer says. “It was always very friendly and casual to meet them at the job site. We know this is possibly the most important thing they are going to do in their lifetime. CCC is happy to be part of it. It was very important to them, so it was very important to us.”
Cincinnati Commercial Contracting is located at 4779 Red Bank Expressway, Cincinnati, OH 45227. For more information, call 513.561.6633 or visit cccontracting.com.
Rivertown Brewery is located at 6550 Hamilton Lebanon Road
Monroe, OH 45044. For more information, call 513.360.7292 or visit rivertownbrewery.com.