Cans Of Fun

OLEAN – Western New York is no stranger to local breweries. Many survived through the dark era called Prohibition, but one such place did not. A couple of buildings in the city, built to house the Olean Brewing Company, have been the homes of several different things, even storage for former area businesses. Now, a trio of beer lovers are looking to bring brewing back to the Greene Street properties.

The trio, Jaye Beattie, Gregg Piechota and Nicholas Bohdanowycz, are not new to the brewing business. The brewing at Four Mile has been going for quite some time, with the goal of brew to enjoy with friends, Gregg said. The problem is, friends and their friends have liked the beer so much that more has had to be made. That hatched an idea. Why not move into a larger, better location and create a production line?

The former Olean Brewing Company buildings offered the perfect setup, and history, for the trio to start to offer their products to a larger audience. The buildings, built in 1907 to support the growing need for beer in the industrial city of Olean, was a victim of the 18th Amendment. How can you continue your business if you’ve been brewing a now-illegal beverage with nothing else in the hopper?

The local brews of that age will be replaced by Four Mile Brewery’s packaging lines and fermentation tanks after 96 years.

The line at Four Mile will not be the regular sight for craft and microbrews. Beer coming out of the Greene Street buildings will be packaged in cans. Yes, cans. Sounds like a step into the past in itself, right? Well, it may be but, there are some real reasons, for the life and flavor of the beer, to can instead of bottle, according to Bohdanowycz and Beattie.

“Cans are actually better for the beer,” Beattie said. “A can does not let the light in at all. Light is a big enemy of beer. It degrades the product. Another thing a can keeps out is air. Air will turn a beer pretty quickly.”

Bottled beer has a bad habit of losing its air-tight seal on the cap, according to Bohdanowycz, who was a skeptic on the canning process over bottling.

“I really thought they were crazy when they started talking about canning,” Bohdanowycz said. “Over the course of two days, with all of the evidence to show the good side of cans, I was sold on it.”

It’s not just in the quality of the product, but cans are easier to store, easier to stack and more welcomed in a lot of places than bottles are.

“When you go to the beach, you will see a sign that says ‘No Glass Containers.’ Golf courses are against it as well,” Bohdanowycz said. “Those are markets we can help out.”

The smaller, production building of the two, will house the production line, as well as the brewing equipment. Those things will not be hidden away in some dark corner of the facility, though. Behind a large window in the 202 Greene St. building, visitors can get a feel for the process as they watch it happen in front of them.

Who wants to go to a facility and just watch as beer is being brewed and canned? Another issue that has been taken care of by this trio of beer-minded businessmen. When you walk into the shop, you will be virtually transported into a time before Prohibition, back to a time when the beer of the day was very close to a porter and sandwiches were almost a foot tall.

That’s the goal. As you walk into the store, you will not only be able to have a pint and watch the game on television, something those pre-Prohibition guys missed out on, but you’ll also be able to get a New York City deli-style sandwich, served on a piece of parchment paper. That sandwich will not be the average lunch sandwich, Beattie said. That sandwich is one of those that will be able to last you for lunch and even dinner that night, if that’s what you want.

And, you’ll be eating it in an area that will be designed to look like the pubs of beers past. An industrial style, complete with distressed brick and metal tables in the small dining area are planned.

An even greater component of the plans for the revitalization of the buildings than what they are planing to do on the inside, is what they plan to do on the outside. Sure, the guys are looking for a hops garden with benches in the walkway for visitors to go out and drink while resting in the plants. Yeah, they plan on a small, family-friendly atmosphered beer garden, but they are looking to be a full partner with the neighborhood and the Olean community, as a whole.

The facility has one of the best vantage points of the Fourth of July fireworks in Bradner Stadium. Plans are being laid for that viewing experience, and it does sound like an experience. Piechota, an avid runner, himself, has started laying the groundwork for a city-wide running club. The guys all have an environmental bend. They look hard to find ways to help in making the city a better place, and that includes the river.

“We want to be an active partner in the community,” Piechota said. “Sure, we want to have some of our own events, but we want to be part of the community. We want to be part of what’s happening right here.”

In that vein, Piechota said the thoughts that he and his partners are looking to open a bar could not be farther from the truth. Four Mile Brewing is a production facility, he said. As such, to become a bar would hurt their local sales to other establishments. Being a bar would also hurt the neighborhood feel, he continued.

As the brewery opens, yes, there will be tastings, yes, people can get a growler of their favorite flavor, and there will be many. The place will be closing by 10 p.m. on most nights.

“If we have the Sabres game on, or a football game that goes a bit past that, we will stay open until the game is done, but them we are closing shop,” Piechota said.

All of the action seems to be going on in the smaller building of the two that will be Four Mile Brewing. What about the behemoth, 18,000-square-foot former brewery behind it? For the time being, it will be storage for materials. Plans are in the works to use it for other things, but those are not fully disclosed at this time. The building will house the cans to be filled with the beer.

As for future plans, the guys hope to have the buildings ready for operation by late fall, with hopes of hitting the Ellicottville Beer and Wine Festival. Operations are expected to grow to provide sales to private citizens, walking in to get their beer. As that happens, Piechota said, expansion to the Olean, Jamestown and Buffalo markets are the first stop. Eventually, having distribution routes in a 600-mile radius are planned. Once at full operation, Piechota said he and his partners are looking at potential employment of 10 to 15 people around the area to help in their operations.