Just a few yards from the banks of the city’s scenic river, Manayunk Brewing Co. features a raspberry-flavored ale called Schuylkill Punch.
Until Sept. 16, head brewer Jim Brennan didn’t know how fitting that name might be.
That was the day Hurricane Floyd came through town and pushed the muddy Schuylkill into his brewery.
Within 24 hours, he had water up to his chin. Sacks of grain and hops went soggy, massive fermenting tanks were knocked from their footings and kegs floated off toward Boathouse Row,
“It was a mess,” Brennan told Joe Sixpack yesterday, just hours before the brewpub celebrated its reopening with a frothy beer bash.
The 3-year-old brewpub, located in a the basement of a 175-year-old mill, is a popular watering hole on Manayunk’s trendy Main Street. It was one of dozens of riverside businesses – boutiques, restaurants and clubs – that had to dry out after the worst rainstorm in city history.
Cleaning a flood-damaged brewery, though, was an extraordinary feat.
Since brewing requires absolute sanitation, the cleanup crew at Manayunk Brewing had to wash and rewash each piece of equipment a dozen times or more. Brennan and his crew spent hours just sorting out and sterilizing the web of dirt-filled piping beneath the tanks.
“You can’t take a chance in a brewery with infections,” Brennan said. “We took everything apart, even the hoses we used to clean up with.”
Assistant brewer Rich Wagner said: “I never thought I’d see the floor again. Every time I washed away some mud, it would just wash right back over with more of it.”
The power of the river ripped away tubing and filled pipes with dirty water. The copper brew kettle, where a malt-and-water mix is boiled, was banged around and dented. A heavy steam pipe ruptured. Wagner, a local brewing historian, said the brewery’s flood damage might have been unprecedented.
“At the last meeting of the Master Brewers Association, I asked for advice on cleaning up,” Wagner said.
“One 90-year-old guy who worked at the old Horlacher Brewery in Allentown remembered getting water in the basement, but nothing like this.
“We had five feet of water in here.”
The brewpub’s restaurant reopened within two weeks of the flood.
But without its own beer, the pub – known for its fresh, handcrafted brews – couldn’t simply tap ordinary kegs of Bud or Coors. So, in a tribute to the region’s world-class selection of ales and lagers, it served up pints from local microbreweries, including Independence, Ortlieb’s, Red Bell and Victory.
“So many people don’t realize Philadelphia has some of the best beer in the country,” Wagner said.
The brewery was up and running within six weeks, quickly turning out barrels of its most popular brews, including Bohemian Blonde pilsner.
Yesterday, with all the taps pouring Manayunk’s own brews, Brennan held up a glass of his golden brew and proclaimed, “We’re back.”
Time for a cold one.