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Updated Nov. 12
The American beer scene has changed radically in the two decades since Mike “Scoats” Scotese opened the Grey Lodge Pub in Mayfair. And in a bid to keep pace with the latest industry shift, Scotese is taking a radical step of his own: he’s opening a brewery.
Lucky Cat Brewing Co. will be a nanobrewery located a few doors down from the pub on Frankford Avenue, as first reported by Don Russell in Philly Beer World.
It will be Northeast Philly’s first professionally licensed brewing operation, joining more than 20 fermenting facilities within the Philadelphia city limits. The local brewing scene has exploded over the past few years — which is exactly why Scotese is throwing his hat into the ring.
“Destination beer bars are completely irrelevant now,” he told Billy Penn. “All the chatter is about breweries and brewery tasting rooms.”
Back in 1996, when Scotese took over a drab neighborhood tavern and transformed it into the Grey Lodge, craft beer was still a niche product. There were only a small number of brewers making and packaging alternatives to macrobrews, and only a few bars with owners who put effort into finding them, stocking them, and ensuring their integrity when poured.
Grey Lodge was one of them, and it flourished.
Scotese, who went on to be one of the co-creators of the Philly Beer Week Hammer of Glory, crafted a vibe that was reverent of beer but not obnoxious about it — the Bud Light king would’ve felt right at home. But around two years ago, there was a huge drop in revenue. At first he thought it was just a blip, but he soon realized it was a sign of the times.
“We sell a lot less craft beer than we used to,” Scoats said. “Goose Island’s brewpub at the Filmore gets more chatter than [world-renowned] Monk’s Cafe. It’s just a different world now.”
Hence, Lucky Cat Brewing. Once all the licensing is worked out (there are complex rules at both federal and state levels), plans call for the majority of the brewing to take place at 6245 Frankford Ave., a former linen shop that’s two doors away from Grey Lodge. Scotese expects to buy a tiny 3-barrel brewhouse, and use it to stock at least one of the pub’s lines year-round — a solid hefeweizen is his first target — with other brews added as necessary. Overall, volume is not the goal.
“There’s really no demand for more beer in the marketplace,” Scotese said. “I know that first-hand. There’s literally four times as many people knocking on my door to sell me beer than used to.”
Lucky Cat will likely also eventually have a tasting room, with a clear rollup garage door beckoning passersby along Frankford Avenue. And there may soon be more people to entice: The Mayfair Business Improvement District is planning a new black box theater, per Scotese. It’s slated to go into the space right between Grey Lodge and Lucky Cat, and Scoats has already spoken with Insectarium owner John Cambridge, who also runs a theater company and will be helping with programming there.
To Scotese, the confluence of all these things points to a vibrant new creative mini-district forming on the block — without much standing in the way.
“This is all very low overhead and low stakes, it’s all very doable,” he said. When it does come together, “there won’t be anything like it outside of Center City!”
Target launch for Lucky Cat is first half of next year, with the potential for brewing to be started by June or sooner.
“After 23 years I’m ready to be involved in brewing beer on a regular basis,” Scotese said. “I’m not looking to take over the world — just make Mayfair a little more cool.”