To say I was shocked when I stopped into Balter Beerworks for a follow-up to my article announcing their opening from, incredibly, a year ago, would be the honest truth. For months last spring and summer it appeared nothing happened. Construction picked up in the fall and has continued to this point getting the business ready to open. Construction of a beer garden continues, but the brew pub will open today.
The shocking reality is that the concept has evolved tremendously from what sounded like a small brewery with a few food items into a large-scale bar and restaurant concept paired with the brewery. Additionally, for those of you who, like me, have the image of the Corner BP in your mind, you will be very surprised to see a rustic, yet very visually appealing space. The entire build-out is very attractive and functional with a full-kitchen on one end, dining space in the middle and a bar on the far end, as well as the brewing room on the outside of the structure, there’s a lot to take in.
Brewer Will Rutemeyer explained that six Balter beers will be on tap initially, but that will soon expand to eight. Taps move directly from barrels in the Brew Room providing the freshest beer possible. The goal will be to provide beers appealing to a range of palettes rather than focusing on one particular type of beer. While there will be a core of beers that will remain the same – he mentioned a “Bear Blend” which is a beer made using Three Bears Coffee – there will be a constant rotation of others. Customer choice will dictate emphasis.
Will has been a home-brewer for about ten years and was hooked even before that when his parents took him to the home of a friend who had a brewing operation. As soon as a friend turned twenty-one, the duo began working on their own vision for beer. He noted that the early years included a lot of bad beer, but that it was all part of the learning process. He finished a degree in bio systems engineering from UT and worked in that field for a number of years as an employee of TVA.
He pointed out that the Brew House has glass walls all around for a reason. He wants people to learn about the process if they are interested and to be able to see it happening in every stage. The beer garden is beside it and he hopes people will watch, ask questions and learn. He enjoys working with people and hopes to be able to interact with customers.
The menu, which was once planned to be a tapas menu, now includes thirty items ranging from street tacos and burgers to shrimp and grits and salmon, covering many points in between. An entree may be had for around $10 or you might spend as much as $18. Just like the beer, they wanted the menu to be unique and to be their own. They will make all their own sauces, dressings and potato chips will be made in-house. Co-owner Blaine mentioned a “skillet cookie,” which includes cookie dough baked in a skillet and served with ice cream which he says is beyond good.
The vision is to create the ultimate craft beer experience, you’ll be able to pair it with good food or enjoy it by itself. Co-founder Blaine Wedekind said the menu might be described as “new American” and the intention is to be a gastro-pub.
The design of the building is intended to invite people to come and stay for an extended time. You may enjoy a beer in the beer garden (which will also soon include a fire pit), before moving to the restaurant for a meal and perhaps capping the evening off with a drink at the bar. The desire is to appeal to a wide range of people who might enjoy beer or might want a good meal or might want wine and specialty cocktails, all of which are available.
Co-founders Blaine Wedekind and Will Rutemeyer are joined by partners David Wedekind (Blaine’s father), Allen Corey of Square One consulting and others. Of Square One, Blaine noted they were very helpful in training employees (of whom there are sixty-seven, though many are part-time) and in guiding the vision of the concept. Chef Jason Strobel previously worked at Shuck on the 100 block. Mark Chilcoat is general manager and Brooke Shepherd, previously at Bucket Head Tavern is bar manager. Brooke designed the specialty cocktails you’ll find on the menu.
The interior space of the restaurant will seat 107 people, another 30 or can sit on the patio and the beer garden has room for around 70 – 80 and more seating may be added in the breezeway. On a good weather day, the capacity can stretch to around 290, a number I find simply amazing for the space. There are 19 parking spaces on the property and street parking stretches down Jackson and leads to the city parking on the McClung site which is free nights and weekends and is about 200 yards or so from the restaurant.
It’s worth noting that this new business is about as close to for the residents of the Daylight Building, The Pembroke, Crown Court and Kendrick Place as Market Square. It’s also a short (though somewhat complicated) walk from the Locust Street and Walnut Street garages. They also hope to connect and appeal to the LMU law school and workers in the Langley Building. The business is also just about one minute from the interstate exit, so it’s convenient from other parts of the city. Blaine says it takes twelve minutes to drive from his home in Rocky Hill.
They hope to promote biking and other healthy-lifestyle choices and they’ll have $1 off your first beer if you bike to Balter. They are also considering regular slow bike rides through various parts of the city starting and stopping at the pub. They are working on a partnership with Legacy Parks which will include a “beer of the month” designated to donate a percentage of sales to the foundation.
They open today at 11:00 AM and will open roughly around that time every day and will close each night around midnight to 1:00 AM. Check the website once it goes live for specific hours and full menu. In the meantime, give them a “like” on their Facebook page and get over there for lunch or dinner.