Building a Brewing Building

experimental brewery finds temporary West Bank home

Eric Christenson, photos by Andrea Paulseth

BIG AND UGLY (THE BUILDING, WE MEAN). Eau Claire Brewing Project’s owner and proprietor, Will Glass, stands in its big, empty, temporary space in Eau Claire’s West Bank.
BIG AND UGLY (THE BUILDING, WE MEAN). Eau Claire Brewing Project’s owner and proprietor, Will Glass, stands in its big, empty, temporary space in Eau Claire’s West Bank.

The Eau Claire Brewing Project is ambitious, forward-thinking and, frankly, it’s been kind of a hassle.

Two years in the making and planning, with an expansive myriad of red tape (kind of) cleared, multiple partnerships dissolved, insecure funding, potential locations crashing and burning, Will Glass, the project’s proprietor and owner has finally secured a location (albeit a temporary one) for the experimental brewery on Eau Claire’s West Bank at 2000 Oxford Ave.

“It’s an ugly, nondescript gray building sitting on the left side of the road,” said Glass, who’s also the proprieter of The Fire House, 202 Gibson St. “It’s definitely nothing pretty, but it’s gonna be home for three years.”

Why three years? The West Bank area near downtown is slated for redevelopment by the city, which would mean the end of a lot of those ugly, nondescript gray buildings.

“It’s definitely nothing pretty, but it’s gonna be home for the next three years.” – Will Glass, on the Eau Claire Brewing Project’s West Bank building

And Glass is relieved. Over the last couple of years, he’s seen perfect spots become too expensive, and he’s seen promising (and promised) locations dissipate before his eyes. Most notably, after the post office secured the old Charly’s Market space for its new, updated location, Glass was promised a vacant section of the property and planned to sign the lease right away, but that prospect fell off at the last second, leaving Glass reeling and the Brewing Project up in the air once again.

But now, having signed a three-year lease, Glass is ready for the big change and will use his limited time to get a sturdy project bubbling until he, his crew, and a yet-to-be-named head brewer are ready to move to a more suitable location – still near downtown – which is tricky because breweries need a lot of space and Glass has looked into almost everything. The big, ugly gray building isn’t perfect, but it’s a start.

Glass said the grand goal – once his three years on the West Back are up –to open a large, sweeping production brewery with a brewpub serving experimental beers and top-notch food, but that take a little extra gusto – and an even more specifically suitable location.

“It’s going to depend on how we grow; we can grow into a brewpub or we can go into just a bigger brewery,” Glass said. “There are a million different ways to skin a cat. Right now, the focus is on getting open and having the production facility going, (then) being able to turn around with a couple years of tax returns, go back to the bank and say, ‘Hey, now we want to do this for real.’ This is the first step. From there? Brewpub, brewery, it’s hard to tell.”

After breathing a slight sigh of relief, Glass is eager to get started on the brewing process, which means filling his vast, empty space with brewing equipment, and filling that equipment with beer, but nothing you’ve ever tasted before.

“We have absolutely no intention of being a brewery that makes three or four beers,” Glass said. “I personally get bored with something really fast. I really want to cater to the person who knows what they’re drinking, who knows what they want. I know what’s available on stock sheets and I know what everybody’s making. I know what people want, and there’s a gap there. There’s a void.”

Glass said the project aims to launch with eight to 10 beers all ready to go. It won’t be your standard IPAs, stouts, porters, lagers, or ambers. Glass is interested in a weirder cast of unique libations with distinct, offbeat flavors and for the Eau Claire Brewing Project to be the only brewery in the region making stuff like that.

He dreams of Belgian quads and triples, and then when he wakes up, he daydreams of Berliner Weisse and doppelbocks. He wants the project to be every discerning craft beer lovers’ Eau Claire haven. Now, with a place to do it, that seems more likely than ever.

“That’s where the name came from; it’s the Project,” Glass said. “It’s never gonna be something that’s set it its ways, it’s always gonna be something that’s growing and evolving.”

Check out the Eau Claire Brewing Project's Kickstarter campaign ...