by Mark Tichenor
Fairport Brewing Company owners Tim Garman and Tom Bullinger are thinking small; really small.
With a some treasured recipes lots of passion, and a brewing system they could actually misplace behind the furniture, these middle aged professionals with a homebrewing problem are set to open something tinier than a microbrewery- a nanobrewery? “We’re even smaller than that,” chuckles Garman. “We’re a picobrewery.”
That means no trucks, no national distribution deals, and the brewing capacity to serve only a small part of the Rochester area market. Garman who has no intention of leaving his day job in medical sales, likes that arrangement just fine.
“We’re not aiming to be on the shelves at Wegmans,” he says. “I’m an ‘83 grad of Fairport High. We’re about serving Fairport.”
Garman and Bullinger already have a head start in that department. Bullinger a homebrewer for 25 years, met Garman in karate class, and passed along his passion for the brewer’s art. They’ve shared homebrew with friends and family and recently conducted a well-received tasting at the Fairport Village inn.
“We started out in the Man Cave- one of my rental properties,” Garman relates. “We kept doing more and more. We decided to make a business out of it. Both of our neighbors love us. We’ve taken our craft up about 10 notches and it keeps getting better.”
Starting small has its advantages. Garman and Bullinger both plan to keep their professional jobs, so they have the cash flow to pay the considerably lessened costs of the tiny brewing system and small space in the old Crossman Air Guns factory. Also missing are the pressures to compete with megamicros like Victory Brewing or Dogfish Head.
The vision is grassroots, like the first microbreweries. The Fairport Brewing Company will be a place where neighbors can stop in to pick up a growler, or maybe bottles of select brews, less so a place of intense marketing and distribution. “We’re going to be talking to bars, but again, very local.” Garman says.
While Garman agrees that he’d like the brewery to become something he and Bullinger could retire into and run full time, he’s content to keep things at a level at which there is still a great deal of ‘hobby’ involved, and the pressures of running and growing a business don’t throttle his passion for brewing.
Fairport Brewing Company will launch with four core beers: Lift Bridge Lager, Perinton Porter, Brothers’ Belgian Tripel, and an as-yet unnamed black lager. While Garman and Bullinger plan distribution to bars and restaurants, their initial primary retail outlet will be the brewery itself.
For now the big obstacles are the Byzantine hurdles inherent in obtaining a state brewing license, and the physical work of erecting their brewery, cooler and retail space. These challenges don’t seem to faze the pair in the least; the guys behind the Fairport Brewing Company are more than content to put in the effort for their labor of love.
Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at beercraft.wordpress.com. Find him on Twitter @beercraft. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.