Melinda Rizzo, Contributing Writer//May 18, 2021
Melinda Rizzo, Contributing Writer//May 18, 2021
With three breweries operating in Perkasie’s downtown, the bucolic Upper Bucks County community could become a micro-beer mecca for area beer enthusiasts.
Situated between Doylestown and Quakertown, Perkasie’s recipe for successful business support offers professional resources, carefully crafted zoning regulations, fast-tracked permits, development guidance and a rare open-minded aim at attracting entrepreneurs and build-out future vitality.
“Perkasie’s [leadership] … have committed to unique and innovative initiatives [for] economic development [and] kept Perkasie growing and thriving even during the pandemic,” said Stephen Barth, Perkasie’s economic development consultant, and founder of Barth Consulting Group in Doylestown.
Craft and microbreweries continue to be big business.
Breweries in Pennsylvania and the Brewers Association, a national nonprofit, ranked Pennsylvania #2 in the nation in 2019 and 2020, respectively, for barrels of beer produced.
The Brewers Association website, serving the small and independent craft brewing sector, reported a steady rise in new brewery openings across the commonwealth. In 2020, 444 craft breweries produced roughly 3.16 million gallons of beer per year, the most recent figures available.
While beer brewing heats up in the borough, beer making in Perkasie was born at Free Will Brewing Co. in January, 2012, when the first sold keg rolled out of its W. Walnut Street location.
Joining Free Will this year will be Mystic Ways Brewing and Van Lieus Brewing Company, all located along Perkasie’s Walnut Street corridor, Barth said.
Mystic Ways estimates a late summer opening. Van Lieus Brewing anticipates a fall opening.
Galen Barr, Van Lieus co-owner and brewmaster, said Perkasie officials were receptive and encouraging, when other potential communities were not. Barr and his father, Jim Barr, will co-own and operate Van Lieus.
During a months-long search that took the pair north to Easton and south to Bristol Borough, they found a sweet spot in Perkasie. It was during those first exploration meetings that they discovered borough officials were already re-writing zoning in the C2 commercial district to allow breweries. And a space suitable for both retail and manufacturing was also available in Perkasie.
Finding the perfect spot to locate was their biggest challenge.
“For a long time we were searching for the ‘Holy Grail’. It needed to allow both manufacturing and retail space, and we found that in Perkasie,” Jim Barr said.
Perkasie’s twentieth century manufacturing legacy, which includes a former cigar factory, knitting mill, lumber mill and tile works left behind buildings and tracts of land ripe for redevelopment. This repositioning is paving the way for business and residential growth.
Barr credits borough leadership, ample business resources, contacts and follow-through with setting the positive tone for economic development.
In addition to Barth’s economic development services Perkasie has an economic development committee, drawn from the community and borough council members, and a stand-alone Perkasie Towne Improvement Association [PTIA] that supports small business development and success.
PTIA has applied for $50,000 in grant funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to help downtown business owners improve their buildings. If approved, it will make grants available for up to $2,500 for façade improvements. The Barrs are already working with PTIA to take advantage of the grants, when they become available.
Commercial and residential growth strategies combine to maintain Perkasie’s “small town feel.” As a new family-owned and operated business, Mystic Ways was impressed with Perkasie’s development approach, and its small town America commitment.
Mystic Ways will be co-owned by four family members: matriarch Alice Krier, daughter Angeline Winiarski, son Joseph Winiarski and his wife Florencia D’Amelio.
The family-friendly atmosphere, events like its Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, hailed as the oldest of its kind in the U.S. and seasonal, outdoor Perkasie Farmers Market were attractive factors in their decision to locate here, Angeline Winiarski said.
“Breweries have become a family atmosphere. We’re doing this business as a family, and it seemed to be a right fit,” she said.
The borough’s growth plan and new developments include condos, townhouses and apartments all within walking distance of the business district. Growth combined with maintaining a “small town feel” appealed to Mystic Ways.
Opening the business in downtown Perkasie will provide opportunities – with other beer makers and the larger business community. “I’m looking forward to collaboration with other local businesses, who aren’t beer makers, to do cool things,” Krier said.
Krier isn’t concerned about the brewery competition. She said “the more the merrier” attitude is infectious.
Dominic Capece, Free Will co-owner and general manager, said even a decade ago, the key ingredients lined up to open a brewery in Perkasie.
“We were at the start of this new wave of breweries,” and the trend toward sourcing curated ingredients and making small-batch craft beers, Capece said.
Patrons come to Free Will’s Perkasie location because they want to experience the brewery.
“I’d like to think that [because] we’re a distributor brewery, we attract visitors to town,” Capece said.
Making it “as easy as possible” to set up in Perkasie has been a goal of town administrators and elected officials for many years.
“We’ve provided reduced building and zoning permit fees, made staff and resources available for entrepreneurs to take their business from idea to reality and have provided marketing and grant support whenever we can,” said Aaron Clark, Perkasie borough councilman.
Tapping into popular programs like the Bucks County Ale Trail and Bucks County Sweets Trail, provided as self-guided map tours and managed by Visit Bucks County in Bensalem, are among Perkasie’s goals, Clark said.
Early stage conversations with other Upper Bucks communities could connect area micro breweries and highlight regional attractions, bringing more visitors to communities like Perkasie.
“I think it comes down to interest and commitment,” said Jim Ryder, Perkasie Borough council president