Microbrewery Big Lick Brewing Co., one of the Roanoke Valley’s smallest beer producers, is moving down the street and becoming a much bigger player in the local brewing scene.
The owners have planned a new brewery in downtown Roanoke that will cover more than 10,000 square feet and allow for five times more beer production than at its current location, making it one of the largest retail brewing operations in the area. The new facility also will begin to can its products, joining the ranks of local brewers such as Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers, which is just a few blocks away; Chaos Mountain Brewing in Franklin County; and Parkway Brewing in Salem.
The brewer is moving into the old Habitat for Humanity ReStore location at 403 Salem Ave. Richmond developer Bill Chapman recently purchased the building with plans to turn it into apartments, adding onto the Lofts at West Station next door. It’s one of several projects Chapman has launched on that street, including 416 MicroFarms apartments and Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje, a tequila bar, in construction across the street.
The space will be completely redone and transformed into a trendy place to drink.
Artists renderings show that Big Lick’s new location will have nearly 6,000 square feet of outdoor seating space. It will include multiple fire pits, covered picnic-sized tables, a place for games such as cornhole, and a spot for food trucks to pull up. There will also be a stage for live entertainment, something that was important to its owners.
“We’re going to keep doing what we are doing,” said co-owner Bryan Summerson — it’s just going to be bigger.
Big Lick long ago outgrew its 1,200-square-foot space at 135 Salem Ave., which opened in September 2014. Summerson originally brewed as a hobby before he partnered with his friend Chuck Garst and both of their wives to open the small brewery. It operates on just a two-barrel brewing system now, with six taps in its tasting room.
Since it opened, it developed a reputation for its unique beers and constantly changing taps. It’s about to have a lot more room to experiment, with 10 barrels in the new location.
The 5,300-square-foot interior of the brewery will house the brewing operations as well as a bar and additional seating. There will be 12 taps, and Big Lick will have to nearly double its staff.
They also plan to start canning some of their products and add keg sales.
When Summerson and Garst opened Big Lick, they both wanted to expand the business into something larger. They spent the past year looking at locations, but both said they wanted to stay downtown, since many of their customers live and work there.
Chapman purchased the Habitat building for $1.9 million with the intention of turning the bulk of it into additional lofts connecting to the Lofts at West Station, which he also developed. When he examined the commercial space that housed the ReStore, he said he knew he wanted a brewery in there because of its size and open setting.
He worked with the city to find the right brewery and Big Lick, he said, was the perfect match, especially since it was local. He said adding the large brewery downtown will be a “game changer” for Salem Avenue. Construction is expected to begin next month, with plans to open next summer. Big Lick eventually will close its current location when it gets ready to brew at the new site.