Brewerytown going back to its sudsy roots

 Mike Wamboldt is a Brewerytown resident. He is about to open Crime and Punishment, a brewery and pub in a former community center at 27th and Girard Avenue. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Mike Wamboldt is a Brewerytown resident. He is about to open Crime and Punishment, a brewery and pub in a former community center at 27th and Girard Avenue. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia’s Brewerytown has has enjoyed a rebirth recently, with a new grocery store and a bunch of new residents. But it’s been missing one thing that’s vital to its being. Namely, beer brewing.

That’s soon to change said Michael Wambolt, who identifies himself with a laugh as “the Chief Conspriator here at Crime and Punishment.” Crime and Punishment’s the name of the brewery Wambolt’s opening this spring on Girard Ave. near 27th Street. Wambolt’s really the guy who writes the recipes for the beers Crime and Punshiment makes. Wamboldt, who has two degrees in theological studies and a passion for fighting injustice, calls opening this place his “Plan B.”

“The idea for Crime and Punishment came about 4 years ago. I was just a home brewer and I lived in Brewerytown — I’ve been living here for about 3 years — and was like, there’s no brewery here!”

Wamboldt sees Crime and Punishment as an opportunity to open a socially-responsible business in a neighborhood that needs, among other things, jobs. He knows in many lower-income neighborhoods the words “crime and punishment” don’t have great connotations. He wants to make a difference here and plans to hire as many neighborhood people as possible.

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“We want to come in on the ground level, interacting with as many communtiy organizations as we can — fighting the lack of awareness toward things such a gentrficiation and the other social injsutices that may be around us. Crime and Punishment is going to be more than just a brewery.”

Just getting a brewery back in Brewerytown is significant. Pennsylvania brewery historian Rich Wagner said when he goes to the Midwest he explains to people that Brewerytown was the template for Milwaukee.

“All these people in the Midwest you know act like Milwaukee’s the brewing center of the universe and I say you may be bigger than we were but we were first!”

Wagner said as the brewing industry took off with the advent of artifical refrigeration, breweries could get larger. That included in Brewerytown.

“There was a concentration of about 11 fairly large breweries in Brewerytown and that’s why it gave the name to the area that encompassed a much wider area. There were 11 breweries in a seven and a half block area between 30th and 33rd and between Girard Avenue and Oxford.”

Wagner said within a half mile radius there were probably half a dozen more including the Bergdoll Brewery which is on the other side of Girard Ave. at 29th and Parish. That site he said now stands as “our premiere example of brewery preservation in the brewery conduminiums.”

Back in the space on Girard, Crime and Punishment’s Michael Wambolt is opening Crime and Punishment is a typical-looking storefront. The trolley glides by and shoppers pass headed to the store or daycare across the street. The strip has a real neighborhood feel: it’s not unusual for a person to respond to a stranger’s friendly smile with a ‘hello.'”

Wamboldt said opening a business in Brewerytown is a challenge because “it demands a lot of responsibility from someone as a business owner.” But he’s ready to follow through on the gig he took only after he struggled to find other jobs.

“I was working a painting job like 70 hours a week and was so bored and was reading Crime and Punishment during my time off and just was like, ‘Oh this would be an awesome name for a brewery!'”

Wamboldt said he decided to run with the name but, “you can’t name beers Raskolnikov or Marmeladov. People aren’t going to know how to pronounce those things.”

So, Wambolt said the brewery is starting with sort of a silly theme including a single hop thing called Indecent Exposure and a Farmhouse Ale called Conjugal Visit. “We have funny names like that but we’re also going to do a lot of names that shed light on some of the injustices in the prison.”

What about the beer?

Wamboldt said it would be amazing if the opening of Crime and Punishment sparked other breweries to set up shop  nearby and bring the “brewery”  back to Brewerytown.

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