WATERVILLE — The city’s first microbrewery will open this winter in the landmark Hathaway Creative Center along the Kennebec River as the popularity of craft beer continues to grow.

Ryan Flaherty, co-owner and co-brewer of the Waterville Brewing Company, said the plan is to open the city’s first brewery in January and schedule a grand opening sometime in the spring when the company’s other brewer, Eric Willett, returns from Army deployment.

“Eric and I have been brewing at home for 10 years,” said Flaherty, a Winslow native. “We always talked about it, but we never thought we’d do it this soon.”

At first, the offerings at the Waterville Brewing Company will be limited. Flaherty, who owns the business along with his wife, Candice, Willett and Willett’s wife, Amber, said they will probably have classic offerings: a stout, a red ale, a saison, an India Pale Ale and a New England-style IPA. After that, he said they will probably brew pilot beers in smaller quantities.

“We want feedback from customers,” he said.

He said the major focus right now is to ensure they provide high-quality beers and not try to have a massive selection. Rather than just make beers they think people want, he said they want to know the desires of those who will be coming into their brewery.

“We want to be creative, but we want to focus on the quality of the beer,” he said.

In the coming weeks, Flaherty said he hopes to finish putting the facility together. Its large, two-room area will be split into the brewing space and a tasting room. He is building the tables himself, which he said are designed to create a communal area where patrons will sit with other people and meet each other.

“There’s some work to do, but it’s getting done,” he said.

Once the brewery opens, Ryan Flaherty said, the plan is to be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, most likely from 11 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. Candice added they could expand their hours in the summertime, but for now, all four owners work full-time jobs, and each family has two children, so finding time to open a brewery hasn’t been the easiest task.

Waterville Brewing Company at the Hathaway Center on Thursday. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

AN ECONOMIC DRAW

Located on the first floor of the Hathaway Creative Center, Waterville Brewing Company hopes to draw other businesses into the building, which already houses 70 high-end apartments on the upper levels and has space for more businesses on the first floor. Candice Flaherty said the building was a great place to set up shop, and that they were happy to help restore a place instead of constructing a new building. Amber Willett said they hope their business can bring even more businesses into the historic building.

“We were lucky to find this place,” Candice Flaherty said.

Garvan Donegan, an economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, a public-private collaborative group based in Waterville, said Waterville Brewing Company is an exciting addition to the downtown area. With plans to open in early 2018 and a grand opening celebration in the spring, the brewery owners have been working quietly behind the scenes to get the business ready, Donegan said.

For the past six months the owners of Waterville Brewing Company had been working with Donegan to procure a site and settled on the Hathaway Creative Center.

The four picked the Hathaway Center because it fit their vision of where they wanted to open. They didn’t want a place that felt like a bar or a club, but rather something more laidback and social.

“We just wanted a place almost like a backyard,” Ryan Flaherty said.

Candice Flaherty said they had been pushing to become the first microbrewery in the region for a while now, ever since they all set their sights on actually opening a brewery.

She said it was a good feeling to bring something to “this amazing building” and contribute to the city’s downtown revitalization efforts.

Donegan said he has been impressed with the owners, saying that while they are young, they are ambitious and thoughtful, and their main priority is putting out consistent and high-quality beers.

“They are being extremely thoughtful and cognizant of providing the Waterville area with a new and interesting environment,” Donegan said.

The Waterville Brewing Company is an important part of ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown area, Donegan said, and he expects it will help draw other food service businesses into the Hathaway Center, which was sold to North River Hathaway LLC last winter for about $20 million. The increased foot traffic the brewery could spur will help bolster other opportunities for more businesses there, Donegan said.

“We’re very excited about this,” he said.

Donegan said the brewery will create the opportunity for food trucks in the area. Breweries have become hotspots for food trucks in recent years with many Portland-based food trucks experiencing enough success to open brick and mortar shops after selling their goods in brewery parking lots. Donegan said he is currently working with two food-truck start-ups, and downtown revitalization designs will allow more space for food trucks. Food trucks will help bolster a walkable downtown area, he said, and are “part and parcel” with breweries.

“It’s a very exciting ancillary benefit,” he said.

Willett said they hope to talk to chefs to see what ingredients and styles work best for beers to pair with food, especially if more restaurants or food options pop up at Hathaway. Candice Flaherty said they have already been in discussions with a food company interested in coming to the area.

Donegan said the Flahertys and Willetts have come up with a careful plan, and he likes their emphasis on a high-quality line-up of beers. Within the context of the revitalization, it says something to be the first microbrewery in town, he said.

“It’s beginning to click on all cylinders here,” Donegan said.

Waterville Brewing Company co-owners Amber Willett, left, Ryan Flaherty, center, and Candice Flaherty, pose for a portrait at their Hathaway Creative Center location on Thursday. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

OTHER POSSIBILITIES

This is not the first time the Hathaway Center has been home to a brewing operation, though. In 2012, a handful of Bates graduates set up shop in the mill. Then in its infancy, Downeast Cider called Waterville home for a short time, selling hard cider to local bars such as 18 Below Raw Bar, Mainely Brews and You Know Whose Pub. Today, Downeast Cider is located in a sprawling facility in East Boston.

Elsewhere in Waterville, rumors of plans for other beer and merriment-related businesses abound. Mainely Brews, a long-standing brewpub on Main Street, has been at the center of speculation. Donegan would not comment on the speculation that a microbrewery may be opening above the restaurant, but he said he is working with others in the town interested in other kinds of microbrewery operations.

The owner of Mainely Brews was not available by phone or email.

Across the street from Mainely Brews sits the former Ken-A-Set building, where a thrift store operated until it closed in 2015. Donegan said the building’s owner, Mark McLeod of Massachusetts, is making plans for the building and while it sits empty, incremental improvements are being made. Donegan said McLeod’s passion would be to put in a gastropub, but he is open to other business partners.

Donegan said that while the design plan is still in the works, there may also be a residential component upstairs.

McLeod was not available for comment.

It’s all good news for a city that has struggled in past decades, Donegan said. New businesses are cropping up alongside Colby College’s revamped Hains building and the school’s massive new living facility for students in The Concourse. From the north to the south ends, Donegan said the city is seeing increased retail and food service accommodations. Waterville Brewing Company will only help to “elongate” the downtown area.

“This is all great stuff,” Donegan said. “You see often that great cities often have a great microbrew pub or microbrewing.”

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

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Twitter: @colinoellis