A brewery opening in Philly isn’t huge news these days, thanks to the recent trend in beermakers opening within the city limits. Hearing that the new brewery is turning to a form of crowdfunding to get off the ground also isn’t surprising — the model has become almost standard for independent entrepreneurs looking to enter the hospitality market.
Attic Brewing is notably different, in two main ways.
For one thing, it’s opening in Germantown, an area that doesn’t have many places to drink craft beer, much less one making the stuff. Second, the brewery owners plan to rely on funding from microinvestors — hopefully some of whom will live right there in the neighborhood.
“This is not donating,” Attic cofounder Laura Lacy explained. “This is a revenue share. Why would you donate when you can invest?”
Instead a classic crowdfunding site like Kickstarter, GoFundMe or Indiegogo, Lacy and husband/biz partner Todd turned to a public benefit corporation platform called WeFunder. People who chose to give money are rewarded with the usual range of perks, but they also get something more: a stake in the business, and potential for a return on their initial investment.
“There’s so much conversation about revitalization and gentrification, and not pushing people out, but including them instead,” Lacy said. “This is a way to include more people.”
All contributions via the WeFunder platform will be eventually paid back when the brewery is up and running and starts making money, until they’ve made back 150 percent of their initial investment. And if Attic can show the model works, Lacy suggested, the implications go beyond just that one business.
“There are so many people here who could use funding,” she said. “If we can show the model works…it could be big for the neighborhood.”
The Lacys, both in their late 30s, had been wishing Germantown had a local brewery for more than a decade. Husband and wife homebrewers who met working for the National Park Service in Valley Forge, they fell in love with the Northwest Philly area after moving there in 2005. One of the only downsides, Laura said, was the lack of nearby retail.
“There was nothing, no place for people to go,” she recalled.
That’s slowly changing, she noted, citing recently opened spots like Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books and Germantown Espresso. But the neighborhood still lacks a large gathering place.
“Our thought process in planning this was, ‘How can we build a spot where 100 people can get together?” she explained.
Attic will bring a 3,000-square-foot taproom and 10-barrel brewhouse to 137 Berkely St., part of the new pocket of development around Wayne Junction being put together by Philly Office Retail’s Ken Weinstein.
It’s being positioned as a production brewery, not a brewpub — plans don’t call for a full menu or kitchen; food can be brought over from Deke’s Bar-be-cue next door — but the Lacys are not planning to distribute their beer. Everything they make will be intended to be consumed on site, a consideration that also drives what kind of beer they’ll produce.
Germantown is around 70 percent African American and has a large number of older people, both demographics that traditionally haven’t embraced the current craft beer trend. Attic’s lineup will reflect that.
“We’re doing a cream ale, a brown ale, things other than IPAs,” Lacy said. “We’re brewing for diverse taste in beer — not just one population.”
To help make sure the taproom serves the area, Attic has partnered with more than a dozen local organizations, Lacy said, “people who have lived here for 40 years.”
Along with searching for microinvestors, Laura and Todd are actively soliciting feedback on what residents would like to see when the brewery opens. So far, they know they’ll have space for live music and movies, along with a large central bar and a rollup garage door for indoor-outdoor seating during warm weather.
Buildout is just beginning, and the target launch date isn’t until first quarter 2019, but the Lacys are already busy brewing test batches.
Look for Laura and Todd at the Germantown Second Saturday Festival on May 12 to try Attic’s beer for yourself.