The Roy-Pitz Barrel House opens at 990 Spring Garden next week, adding one more member to Philly’s swiftly growing contingent of in-city beermakers.
The cadre of 33-year old friends who own the Chambersburg, Pa., brewery — founders Ryan Richards and Jesse Rotz, head brewer Chris Collier and operations director Mike Treon — won’t actually be brewing at their Philadelphia outpost; there’s no grain mill or boil kettle at the Ninth and Spring Garden facility. But they will be fermenting, cellaring and barrel-aging there.
A steel-and-glass-enclosed lab at the back of the 130-seat bar and dining room is home to two big foeders — wooden containers used for making “wild” or sour beers — as well as a 10-barrel steel fermentation tank. And on one side of the high-ceilinged space, next to a line of beer-hall-style communal tables, is a rack of a dozen barrels, waiting to be filled from the main Central Pa. brewery.
“What we do in Chambersburg, that’s the science part [of brewing],” Collier explained. “What we’ll get to do here — that’s the art.”
In fact, “Liquid Art” is the company tagline, and the theme informs just about everything Roy-Pitz does.
Established in 2008, right after the two principals graduated from the Siebel Brewing Institute (in Chicago and Germany, respectively), the brewery has always commissioned oil paintings from artist William Hemsley for each of its brands, which are then translated into labels and marketing materials. Hemsley also painted the Kraken mural that brightens the Philly spot’s back wall. Rotz’s father crafted the tabletops for the dining area. The long stainless steel bar was welded in place by metalworker Kenny Hauk, who also created the intricate steel-cut divider sectioning off the retail beer sales area at front.
Even with friends and family pitching in, the 4,000-square-foot Barrel House had a $1 million budget — and it shows.
The 1927 building, which is being redeveloped by Craig Grossman of Arts & Crafts Holdings, was formerly a warehouse for the Philadelphia Wholesale Drug Company, so Roy-Pitz was basically starting from scratch with the buildout, as far as getting it up to restaurant code.
But the ground-up nature of the project was what attracted Roy-Pitz to the space in the first place, per ops director Treon. “We looked in Fishtown, we looked in Old City, but we really loved that this area is just starting to come alive.”
Roy-Pitz folks first connected with Grossman back in 2015, Treon said, while hosting an NFL Draft event at a Philly bar. The developer sold them on his vision for the formerly industrial neighborhood, which he has dubbed the Spring Arts District.
That Grossman has signed a different brewery — Love City — as a tenant less than two blocks away doesn’t bother them, Treon said. On the contrary, the two teams have already discussed possible collaborations. Similar discussions have started with Yards Brewing, which is expected move into its new facility at Fifth and Spring Garden later this year.
“We also love that he’s creating a community right in this building,” Treon added, noting that plans called for 990 Spring Garden to also house a BBQ restaurant (from Chad Rosenthal of The Lucky Well), a bakery, a coffee shop and potentially also a butcher. The shops will have a built-in market from the seven floors of offices above them, plus residents who move into the Grossman project across the street at 915 Spring Garden, which is still in early stages of development.
So yes, the Barrel House will absolutely be open for lunch, Treon said, suggesting hours would probably be 11:30 am through midnight, six days a week (closed Mondays).
Chef Michael Richards (brother to co-founder Ryan) is in charge of the Roy-Pitz Beer Stube restaurant in Chambersburg, and his Philly menu will be similar, but not an exact copy. Treon describes the style as “American gastropub” — think nachos, wings, charcuterie, sandwiches, salads, burgers — made with local ingredients whenever possible.
Sixteen taps are lined up behind the bar, along with one hand pump. They’ll pour mostly house brands — the Roy-Pitz portfolio is varied, with everything from a watermelon lager to a kolsch to an American sour — along with some ciders. Pennsylvania wine and liquor will also be on the drink list.
“We wanted to open in Philly because it’s one of our two biggest markets,” Treon explained, “but also because we love all the revitalization. We’re not some mega-brewery coming in. The city fits our vibe and grit.”
The Roy-Pitz Barrel House has a targeting a launch date of Friday, May 19, or sooner.