Rooftop Garden Crowns the Titletown Brewery in the old Larsen Cannery
The former Larsen Cannery at 320 North Broadway is barely recognizable from how it looked not much more than a year ago. The building across from the now revitalized shopping district on Broadway Street stood empty until Titletown Brewery took an interest in the property, and last October it opened with a new lease on life.
These days the building is as busy as it gets. The old cannery now has a tenant in every available business space, from chiropractors and financial advisers to The Cannery, an upscale market and restaurant. But that’s not to say Titletown is being outdone. By the time you read this article, they will have put the finishing touches on the third of their public-facing facilities in the building, the rooftop garden, an indoor/outdoor bar and eatery.
The man behind the design of the garden, and much of the restoration project is Pat Ostroth, who is overseeing the fitting of a sleek new fireplace with an antique steel fire door. He said the redesign of the cannery is just as intimately concerned with restoring and salvaging materials, as the original restaurant in the old train station.
“All the old wood you see,” Pat said “that came out of the house that was built in 1898 in Broadway, De Pere next to the Lawton’s house. Those are actual fans we pulled out of the other [cannery building].”
Brad Weycker, Titletown’s president, showed us one of many old photos they found, one with a delivery man in it is the grandfather of Lea, one of the managers.
“Her grandpa drove for Rahr Brewing Company,” Brad said “which was the last brewery in Green Bay.”
Weycker was particularly excited about a new system that will allow them to page patrons when there’s a significant wait. Food will be available in the garden. They’re still planning the final menu, but it looks like they will have a limited version from the restaurant across what he likes to call the ‘Titletown campus.’
The roof area, and the whole building is a beautiful combination of old-meets-new. The industrial concrete and piping preserved from the original building clashing beautifully with the smooth lines and bold colors of newer construction. Touches like the steel and aqua portholes in the Tap Room floor where the cannery cookers were, and the old chimney now holding the Titletown letters, and sheathed in a glass base set the place apart and remind visitors of what used to be, while lending ambiance to what is.
Weycker did complain that the plant was already pretty cleaned out when the restaurant moved in.
“Actually, they kind of scrapped a lot of it out,” he said “So even if we’d wanted some of the stuff it wasn’t here. This building was used up until nine years ago, so there weren’t a lot of cool old antique things in here. But we are keeping the ceilings the way they were, kinda’ the industrial feel. This was a more utilitarian building, and it had a more utilitarian look.”
In fact the rooftop garden is built to take full advantage of the original location. As we looked out over the red brick train depot and the afternoon sun on the Fox River he told us how lucky they were to be in this place.
“Obviously old buildings are part of our culture here,” Weycker said “they make them unique. You can’t build a depot with a five story clock tower down town on the river anymore. We just feel very fortunate to have that building. It’s who we are. The warehouses again, are very unique structures.”
But they don’t just restore, they refurbish and add a modern touch. Everything they’ll be using beyond the superstructure is new, be it plumbing, electrical, doors or fixtures.
And the old cannery has become a brewery, one with more than twice the capacity than the original. They plan to have Comedy City leading the tours and cracking jokes as they make their way through Titletown’s new digs.
We started our tour in the bottling room beneath the facility where the clink of filled containers bounced off walls as the workers oversaw the process. The old facility had 15 barrels fermenting and brewing. The new building has a 30 barrel brewing system and two fermenters, one 90 barrels, and one 60.
“We haven’t been getting our distributors as much as they’d like,” Weycker said. “We’ll hopefully fix those problems by getting more tanks. It’s a good problem. We’ve been running a restaurant brewery and doing limited distribution.”
Next door Weycker showed off their cold storage, a walk-in room full of kegs, bottles and hops.
“We get hops from Yakima Valley, from Oregon, Washington,” he said “and we get [some] from Europe. Not a lot, but some. There’s some special ones. And then we’ve had a couple times where we’re able now to get hops from Wisconsin. There are quite a few growers in the state.”
Up a level are the loading docks and brew house. While the brewing tanks were emptied for cleaning, the sheer size of the shining stainless steel structure required a catwalk to reach the computerized controls.
And one of the last locations on the tour was the cannery building’s banquet hall. Lights hung like a constellation above the polished stone floor. The room, which seats close to 200, had been open for rental since April offering a medium sized space for corporate or formal gatherings.
Back at the Titletown offices we met up with Jim Kratowicz, Titletown COO. He told us they were excited to be able to take a building with so much character, in the middle of downtown Green Bay and bring it back.
“I think many cities experience something like this,” Kratowicz said “when this downtown had the mall, and it moved, and then it died for a while. But you would be hard pressed now to find a city the size of Green Bay that has the growth we’re going through. Whether it’s our project, the KI Convention Center, the Metro, the City Deck, the Northland Hotel, or Schreiber. It’s not just concepts on paper. There are business reasons to do what we’re doing, but it’s also pretty special to be able to change the complexion of a neighborhood for a generation, buildings that were probably destined for the wrecking ball in three years…now we’ve turned it into something not only functional but also a destination in the city of Green Bay.
Between the downstairs tap room, roof garden, tours and banquet hall, Titletown has something for everyone.