Tell someone you want to go to the Beer Research Institute, and it’s possible – perhaps even likely – they will give you a funny look as they wonder why you are taking them to some sort of school or laboratory. You’re not, of course, but the confusion over what amounts to a kind of inside joke is understandable. In a sense, the name of the brewpub is an inside joke. Or a goof, as Matt Tretheway, one of BRI’s owners, put it.
“Greg (Sorrels, a co-owner with Tretheway) and I went to about 300 different breweries combined, between the two of us, before we opened this place,” he explained. Often times they were together, but sometimes they were not. And when they were not, each made sure to let the other know what he was doing. When we’re doing that, we’re going around and I’d be up in Colorado or over in Wisconsin or wherever, and I’d be drinking a beer,” he added. “Everywhere we’d go, whether it’s business or personal, we’d either eat lunch or eat dinner at a brewery almost every single day we were on vacation or on business.”
Sounds rough, right? Tretheway said they were willing to make that kind of sacrifice so we didn’t have to.
“So we’d be in a place and I’d grab a beer and I’d stand in front of the menu board, and I’d take a selfie and I’d be like, ‘Hey asshole, I’m conducting research.’”
He added that as they went along with their plans to open a brewery, whenever their wives or people would question all their drinking, the reply would be that they were conducting research. A bit further down the road, the two went on a trip and came up with many different names. None wowed them, and it was not until later when “Beer Research Institute” popped into Tretheway’s head. Upon offering it to Greg, the response was laughter.
From there, a brewery was born. And since November 2014, when BRI opened its doors off Stapley Dr., just south of US 60 in Mesa, it has grown into something even greater, to the point where it opened an expansion in January. Tretheway said when the brewpub opened, the hope was that eventually more space would be needed. Success was never guaranteed, however, and being tucked away in a shopping center like BRI is did them no favors. Yet, here they are adding 34 more seats inside along with 10 more outside on the patio, giving them 156 in total. In all, the place is now about 2,300 square feet larger, putting the grand total at 5,300 square feet. It’s basic supply-and-demand.
But along with seating space – which is certainly important – BRI added room to do what a brewery does best: make beer. Because of the expansion, BRI upgraded from a 5 BBL brewhouse to a 7 BBL brewhouse, going from 25 BBLS of fermentation tanks to 110. More BRI beer? Yes please.
“This expansion is to one, make sure that we can always have 15 or more handles of BRI beer on for all the customers that walk into this place and expect it,” Tretheway said. “Two, be able to increase seating capacity, because we were bulging at the seams Fridays and Saturdays.”
He added it got to the point where BRI was having to turn people away, which is never a good thing. They also could not supply their beer to venues around the state, all of whom wanted to serve BRI beers.
“And then the last two years, we’ve had a portfolio, we’ve had a list of about 35, 40 different accounts around town, local chains and craft beer bars, that want to have our product on,” he added. “And I’ve just had to say I’m sorry, we just can’t, because my number one account is BRI.”
That led to a smaller footprint than preferred, with only the occasional keg making its way outside of the brewpub. That should be less of a problem now. Tretheway brought up the adage that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. BRI is certainly growing, and it can do so because it’s thriving. It is thriving, because through all the success, it is staying true to itself and its ideals. As Tretheway pointed out, BRI is not a distribution company or a manufacturing plant. It’s a place people choose to be.
“We’re a brewpub,” he said. “And in that brewpub where we feed people and we provide beer to people, we create a gathering place for people. We create that third space, and that’s our whole M.O. Now, this expansion allows us to keep doing that a high level and get beer off to market. But the foundation is always going to be the brewpub. That’s our heart and soul. That’s where the whole thing has the heartbeat.”