New Lewiston restaurant slated to open in June
BBC owners looking forward to welcoming guests
By Joshua Maloni
How do you top yourself when you already own and operate three of Lewiston's most successful restaurants - eateries that have garnered national press and consistently large crowds?
If you're Ken Bryan and Eric Matthews, you transform an average pizzeria into a one-of-a-kind, two-story brewery, complete with a mural, stained glass windows and handcrafted everything.
The owners of Tin Pan Alley, The Brickyard Pub & B.B.Q. and Center Cut have painstakingly built a modern-day masterpiece that's an homage to Lewiston's past and present - and unlike anything the village has seen in its storied 200-year history.
Working alongside Eric's brother, Steve, Lewiston architect Jim Fittante, and a host of collaborators, Bryan and Matthews built The Brickyard Brewing Co. on Center Street.
"It's probably our biggest project we've ever done. We kind of put all our cards on the table," Eric Matthews said. "This is what we did for the last year - it's actually going to 18 months. July will be 18 months since we started this thing. And it's probably three years before that when we bought the building and we had ideas for doing it. But it finally materialized three years later.
"We're pretty excited. We're pretty close to having it completed."
"Down to the final stretch," Bryan added. "We've been very fortunate that people have helped us. This is just a combination of a little of everything we've done over the years. It was actually the original concept when we first came 23 years ago was to do a brewery. ... It's been an exciting run."
The Brickyard Brewing Co. is located next door to The Brickyard, which allows its owners to take advantage of shared spaces and services.
"We added probably 4,000 square feet of real estate on the back and for the kitchens, and handicapped-accessible bathrooms. ... The elevator lift for handicap (patrons) to go upstairs. There was a lot of thought involved in that, and Jim was a part of that. Pretty much a big part of putting it all together and making sure it's right for the public," Eric Matthews said.
"It just worked out great for us," he added. "Being next door, we could connect the two buildings and have a passageway through."
However, "Not so much connect the businesses, because they are two separate (restaurants). We'll have two separate menus. This will be the brewery side, where you can enjoy craft beers, and if you want a Budweiser you go next door," Matthews noted.
Most noticeable as one walks into the restaurant is the open viewing area where the brewing equipment is located, and the open second floor, which will have seating around the periphery.
"You just knew it was a giant space," with lots of potential, Steve Matthews said. "I distinctly remember sitting here with Eric and Ken the one day. It was just almost to the point where we were talking about putting apartments in here. And then Eric said, 'You know what would be cool, maybe we should just open this up, and have like a balcony?' And ... it's like a jam session (of ideas), where you just keep firing ideas and 'do this.' And the next thing I know, Eric's taking a chainsaw and cut the hole in the floor."
The top level will have its own bar, banquet/conference space and indoor/outdoor seating.
On the first floor, behind clear, soundproof glass walls, is a seven-barrel brewing system.
"Direct fire, and then six seven-barrel fermenters," brewmaster John Paul Meteer said. "We also have a half-barrel pilot system for test batches. We'll kind of rotate through small-batch beers. Kind of a post on social media and when they're gone, they're gone."
Inside the barrels, "We're going to offer a little bit of everything for everybody. We're going to have our house pilsner, which is just going to be easy drinking for the guy who comes in and says he doesn't drink craft beer. That's the beer. We're going to have a moderately Belgian wit. It's kind of a hybrid between - as much as I hate to say it - like a Shock Top and an Allagash White, where I want to make it craft beer, but make it approachable."
Beer is pumped underground and across the room to the serving tanks at the bar.
"For people who are passionate about beer, it's just kind of cool. And visually, it's pretty stunning to see a brewery," Meteer said. "It's a lot of stainless steel. It's a lot of moving parts. With more and more people taking an interest in beer, they're more curious about how it's made. So, it's kind of cool to have it all right in front of everybody."
He said The BBC also will offer pale ale, New England-style IPA and, for non-beer-enthusiasts, tequila.
The brewing room and brewmaster John Paul Meteer.
What's On the Menu?
While Tin Pan is known for its burgers and seafood, The Brickyard for its barbecue, and Center Cut for its steaks, The BBC will forge its own unique culinary path.
"Handcrafted sandwiches, like really, really good (sandwiches)," Eric Matthews said. "We might take some things that are standards, like a Cuban, or a pastrami on rye, and just make them. ...
"Enhance them to the next level," Bryan said.
"Make them better," Matthews continued. "We've also got a bunch of other stuff that we're going to put on the menu that are related to beer, (including) homemade pretzels."
They're also toying with ideas for homemade smoked pastrami, brisket tacos and fish tacos.
Anything but barbecue.
"There may be a phase two of food coming (later this summer or early into fall)," Bryan said, laughing.
"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel with the menu, but we really want to have good, gastropub-type food and a couple of dinner items," Matthews said. "But we're mainly staying with great salads, sandwiches, some off-the-wall things that we've come up with."
They will have health-conscious menu items, as well.
"I think the goal, as far as menu creation, at least from my point of view, has been very much find a blend of the old and the new," Steve Matthews said. "Twenty years ago, when you thought pub food, you thought mozzarella sticks, chicken wings. ... We're also going to offer stuff like kale salads."
He added, "When we talked about beer, it was make it palatable - not just for the beer (enthusiasts), but make it palatable for the construction worker who might be working at the plaza down the road and comes in for a chicken sandwich and the equivalent of a light beer. We will have those options available to just about anybody."
The price point, he noted, will be "very appealing."
Thomas Paul Asklar works on The BBC mural.
Second Floor Banquet Room and Mural Walls
At the back end of the second floor of The BBC is a banquet/conference room, which will have full audio/visual functionality.
"Our banquet room pretty much stemmed out of a need for a larger venue," Steve Matthews said. "At The Brickyard, we can host parties up to 50 people, comfortably. I had to turn down a lot of business, because we just didn't fit that 75-100 range.
"We are looking to seat, roughly, at least 100. One hundred to 125. The goal, moving forward, is parties larger than that, we will be able to close down the front of the brewery (upstairs). Have seating out there for let's say weddings. That'll be our ultimate goal. Probably up to 200."
The second floor's outside patio will open at a later date.
As one walks through the banquet space's double-doors, the outline of the cutout floor is seen, as well as a string of hanging Mason jar lights.
The owners acquired a grand stained-glass window via Larry Manning of Freedom Run Winery. The piece is from a circa-1903 Pittsburgh church. It sits above The BBC staircase.
A large mural covers the back walls. It is the work of Lewiston's own Thomas Paul Asklar, his collaborator, Matthew Sinclair Conroy of Dovetail & Brush, and another artist, Matt Leboeuf.
Having won the HarborCenter mural contest last year, Asklar was looking to do another large-scale painting. He saw the effort going into constructing The BBC and decided to contact Bryan.
Asklar's mural at The BBC has several layers and incorporates many historical and iconic images. Among them are Niagara Falls, Old Fort Niagara's French Castle, the Six Nations wampum belt, the Presbyterian Church, a trolley, Tryon's Folly and the Underground Railroad, and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
On the east wall, the moon shines above the historic areas - the falls and Lewiston, whereas on the more contemporary west wall, in the stairwell, a hop sun shines above Bryan and Matthews' other restaurants (shown in their original state). A sentry tree also is there, admiring the progress.
The mural has "the history; it's got the international border; it's got the Native American connection; you've got the Underground Railroad connection; the settlers and the explorers - the French and the British and everybody else who came through here," Asklar said.
He added, "I just think it's going to be a really great centerpiece. A great showpiece. And you'll be able to see it from downstairs."
Asklar praised the owners for using master crafters and blacksmiths to handcarve the walls, tables and trim. He said, "It's a great thing to be involved in. ... It's just cool how the whole thing came together."
"We are nodding to where we came from," Steve Matthews said. "We just want to make Lewiston known more so, and provide an anchor for the village. And I feel we're succeeding in doing that."
With The BBC under construction for the past 18 months, and owners teasing its opening on social media and with outdoor banners, future patrons are eager to try out the new restaurant.
"(We're getting) a lot of 'oohs' and 'ahs,' " Steve Matthews said. "I would say the biggest thing that I've noticed is, when people first walk in, they see how vast the space is, and they can't quite remember what Brio used to look like. The first thing people say to me is, 'This is Brio?' You get that a lot."
Whereas Brio could seat and serve around 30 people, The BBC can handle upward of 225.
"The transformation of the building, when people put their head in, is the biggest wow factor," Bryan said. "They just have a hard time conceptually seeing what it used to look like to what it is. We opened the ceiling to the second floor, and it just makes it look like a totally different building."
Fittante, who's recently worked on some of the most notable Lewiston construction projects, said, "The attention to detail - I mean, a lot of people won't even notice some of the detail that these guys put into it. But you can look. ... They went out and got square-headed nails and hand-drove them into the siding. The ideas that these guys came up with, I loved working with them. I loved making the changes. ... In the long run, I think it's going to be awesome."
"There were a lot of changes on the fly," Fittante said. "From the original plan to their vision to bringing it all together, it's been an awesome ride."
"I'm just amazed with the blood and sweat these guys put into this place; and their attention to the detail and everything coming together is just amazing," he added.
Village of Lewiston Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said, "I have been following the construction at The BBC for quite sometime. Eric, Ken and Steve are amazing; everything they do is to perfection. The added touches such as handmade tables with 'BBC' burnt into each one; the white birch trunks along the stairway; handmade designs from scrap pieces of word as you exit the bathrooms; the rustic, handmade chandeliers; rough, hewn hemlock siding. ... The BBC is going to be a destination and a 'crown jewel' of breweries.
"We are very fortunate to have these businessmen investing their time and money into our village."
Michael Fiore, owner of The Village Bake Shoppe, said, "We can't thank Ken, Eric and Steve enough for their amazing investment they have made in our community. We look forward to having another attraction for people from all over to enjoy. Great job!"
Owners anticipate opening at the beginning of June, with full operation by mid-month.
"We've been working 12, 14 hours a day trying to get it open," Eric Matthews said.
"It's something we're very proud of, I can tell you that," he added. "We're going to sit back a year from now - right now we're all burned out, and we're all beat up, and we look like hell, and we lost 30 pounds - but a year from now, when all the dust settles and everything, I think we'll really appreciate (it). And I'm hoping the village, and I'm hoping people that come here do appreciate (it)."
Pictured is a view of The Brickyard Brewing Co. from the first floor to the second floor.