Triptych Brewing passes fundraising hurdle


This is an updated version of a story that appeared in print on Feb. 26.

SAVOY — If all goes as planned, Savoy could get a "nanobrewery" this summer, giving area residents a new place to sample and buy craft beers.

Three partners — Anthony Benjamin, Joshi Fullop and Jason Bartell — plan to operate Triptych Brewing, which would make beers for consumption both on and off premises.

Triptych has leased space at 1703 Woodfield Drive, where it will share a building with Paco Office Equipment.

Microbreweries produce limited amounts of beer. Nanobreweries produce even smaller amounts.

"In the initial phase, we're starting as a nanobrewery, the term given to breweries brewing under the 5-barrel scale," Benjamin said. "We're going to brew at the 1.5-barrel size, and initially we'll have a tasting room attached to the brewery."

Most retail sales will be by pints or growlers, with pints and sample sizes being consumed on premises. The 64-ounce growlers will be for consumption off premises.

Several restaurants and pubs have indicated interest in carrying some of the beers on draft, but Triptych has made no commitments at this point, Benjamin said. He said brewers in Illinois can self-distribute if their volume is 75,000 barrels or less.

Benjamin, 30, said he has been self-brewing since 2005 and entering brewing competitions almost from the beginning. His full-time job is team leader for a Web development group in the University of Illinois College of Engineering.

He said he got into brewing as a hobby while his wife, Anna, was in law school. But now that she has graduated and is practicing law, he's looking at pursuing brewing as a career.

"I really wanted to do this full time, as my love of craft beer increased," he said.

Benjamin won the 2009 Midwest Home Brewer of the Year title, based on prizes won at competitions in a 12-state area. Locally, he has been active in the Boneyard Union of Zymurgical Zealots, a home brewing club better known as the BUZZ Club.

Bartell and Fullop have also been home brewers. Bartell is co-founder of the Bartell, Barickman & Powell law firm in Champaign. Fullop is a systems engineer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, spending much of his time on the Blue Waters supercomputing project.

It was Fullop who suggested using a "royalty financing" model to help finance Triptych, Benjamin said. In royalty financing, the borrower pays back the loan with royalties tied to sales, rather than making flat payments, he added.

The partners have used the Kickstarter online fundraising mechanism to gather support for Triptych. The Kickstarter campaign attracted 209 backers and raised $25,312 for their venture, Benjamin said.

Triptych outlines eight kinds of beers on its website. The choices include a golden ale, a pale ale and a dark ale; three low-alcohol ales that have notes of chocolate, caramel and coffee; and seasonal beers designed for summer and the Halloween season.

Benjamin chose the Triptych name because he kept running into patterns of three — the three partners; the three ingredients of hops, barley and water; and the three communities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.

Triptych — the name given to three-paneled works of art — seemed an apt description, he said.

The partners already have the equipment they need, including 65-gallon kettles and 55-gallon fermentation tanks.

But Triptych must first get a license from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a unit of the Treasury Department.

Once that's accomplished, the nanobrewery will need to be licensed through the state and village. Triptych has already had "initial exploratory talks" with the village, Benjamin said.

Village Manager Dick Helton said Triptych should be "a good addition" to Savoy.

"It should be a nice draw and something unusual or different for us," he said.

Helton said the village is trying to figure out what category Triptych fits into under village liquor ordinances, and how it should be handled.

Savoy staff is checking with Champaign to see how it accommodates such businesses and is working with the Triptych partners on codes and zoning, Helton said.

Even though craft beers are readily available at Quality, Destihl, Blind Pig and other places in town, Benjamin said he's confident "there's plenty of craft beer demand in Champaign-Urbana for all of us to live together."

Triptych will have free parking, making it easy to get in and out. Plus, a master brewer will be on hand to share knowledge, providing an educational link, he said.

Plus, the nanobrewery won't be serving food, as brewpubs do.

"By focusing just on beer, we have a lot more time to evangelize about it," he said.

Benjamin said he has his own favorite brews, but he plans to rely on the public to help guide what Triptych produces.

"We'll take advantage of the tasting room and tasting panels to see what the community really likes," he said.

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