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From old Waterworks to beer work: A historic grand opening for Amicus Brewing Venture

from Tallahassee Democrat

Old City Waterworks. State Archives of Florida

One day on a camping trip in St. Marys, Georgia, eight friends sat in a neighborhood craft brewery dreaming about having a similar small-scale establishment of their own.

Little did they know, two years later, they would be making literal history in a brewery of their own.

Their dream influenced by ambience and spirits but driven by a profound love of craft beer and community has become a reality with the grand opening of Amicus Brewing Venture.

It will be the city’s latest destination, featuring an in-house brewery capable of producing several craft beers and green space to host locally-owned food trucks. It also represents the latest attraction to a growing entertainment hub south of Apalachee Parkway from the Capitol.

The grand opening starts at 12 p.m., followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony with the city of Tallahassee at 4 p.m., at 717 S. Gadsden St.

The eight friends and four couples — Laura and Shaun York, Mary and Sheldon Steen, Laura and Tom Barrett and Alison and Tim Denny — met at Faith Presbyterian Church and found themselves bonded by their faith and love for craft beer leading to the creation of Amicus Brewing Venture.

This venture would harmoniously blend the skills of the friends who joined together to create a destination for all, already distinguishing itself as one of the best in the city by those who’ve cherished their soft launch at the Tallahassee Beer Festival.

“We really want to be a family-friendly brewery where folks who are playing across the street at Cascades (Park) can pop over and let the kids run around, while the parents drink a beer, ” head brewer Sheldon Steen said in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat. 

The location draws those near and far to stop in with friends and family, tour a historic building and get a drink.

Old City Waterworks transformed

The neighborhood craft brewery has transformed and renovated what was the city’s Old City Waterworks building.

The Waterworks, a 1-acre historic site established in 1890, served as the capital city’s first public utility facility and foundation for urbanization.

The facility drew water obtained from nearby springs and reservoirs to while serving as a water and power plant serving residents. The building was abandoned by the late ’70s and functioned primarily as a city storage facility for decades – until now. 

Knowing the significance of the 3,000-square-foot main building, the Amicus team decided that they would not change the building but give it the facelift it deserved. 

“We talked with them about just keeping it as true to its original form as we could,” said Alison Denny, co-owner and contractor for the venture.

From the roof tiles to the pipes, every inch of the century-old building was kept and refreshed to create the “vibe” of what was to become Amicus Brewing Venture. Much of the interior and exterior remained untouched throughout the design and renovation process.

“It needed a lot of work, it was basically starting from square one except … the bones and the structure of the building,” Steen said.

The open arched space gives the guest a peek into the back room where they can see the massive tanks brew their 12 specialty taps. When guests make their way inside, they’re invited to sit on tall chairs in front of the long windows with views that look out onto Cascades Park and the rest of downtown Tallahassee.

The brick walls, sun-lit seating space, and wooden accents from the trussed ceilings to the chairs create a warm, homestyle atmosphere.

Alison and Tim Denny, owners of A.T. Home Contractors in Tallahassee, helped preserve the building in its truest form, leading the way in renovations and training the rest of the team in skills like retiling windows.

“I don’t think the group would have taken on a project like this if they didn’t have a contractor, because it was a lot of work,” Denny said. 

The four-family team gathered enough money to purchase the property, but with early estimates that the transformation could cost $1.2 million, renovations were spearheaded with the help of a community redevelopment grant of about $300,000.

The brewery dream team

Eight families have come together to form Amicus Brewing Ventures at old waterworks building.

Like the Dennys, each couple has a skillset that they are able to share and train the rest of the team on from contracting to brewing to social media management. Meetings on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and early Saturday mornings is how the team has been able to balance the workload among the eight of them, while also working nine-to-five jobs and raising their families.

From business to parental advice, it all has become a joint effort.

While many warned the team not to go into business with friends, Denny shared that their friendships that date back as early as childhood is solidified by their faith.

“Maybe it’s because we started as church friends, there’s definitely been a level of respect between the partners, and forgiveness and love and things like that,” Denny said, adding she has no regrets embarking on this venture.

What’s next for Amicus Brewing?

There are high hopes for what this destination could mean for the city, with three other smaller outbuildings on the one-acre property that provide endless expansion opportunities.

“Everybody’s just so excited, I think that’s the best feedback we’re getting right now, not only about the brewery and the fact that we make good beer and people want to drink it, but about the building too,” Denny said.

The green space surrounding the buildings will host food trucks from smaller, minority-owned businesses which the team hopes to introduce to the city and guests from the AC Hotel by Marriott.

The brews that will be available as of mid-October, as described by the Amicus team, are:  

  • Cascades Pale Ale (5.5%) – a fresh take on the American Pale Ale. 
  • Tomahawk Drops (6.7%)- a new school IPA loaded with newer hop varietals that drive the hop flavors with a touch of old-school Tomahawk hops to add an approachable level of bitterness to round out the citrus notes from the hops.
  • Transfiguration (6.6%) – a take on a double dry hopped Hazy IPA. Transfiguration is saturated with bright hop flavors and aromas.
  • Pastor’s Pils (4.3%) – a take on the classic simplicity of the Czech-style Pilsner using only traditional Bohemian pilsner malt and classic Saaz hops.
  • Summer Crush (4.6%) – a refreshing, slightly tart beer made with locally grown strawberries and basil.
  • Mango Party (5.0%) – a tart Amicus sour base packed full of mango and pineapple flavors.
  • Fuggle’s Brew (3.7%) – a dark beer with a light malt and caramel body supported by a touch of roast flavor. 

Outside of its prized craft beer, which they plan to offer more of, the brewery offers wines, root beer and slushies for prices starting at $4. Since there is no kitchen in the actual brewhouse, food will be available from the hosted food trucks.

Amicus Brewing Venture will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Kyla A. Sanford is with the Tallahassee Democrat and can be reached at [email protected].

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