Who knew that behind the brick walls and frosted glass of the Blue Sushi Sake Grill in the Old Market there dwelt an abandoned brew house, including a 7-foot-tall brew kettle and a grain hopper half-filled with stale, 5-year-old barley?
Bill Baburek, the owner of the Crescent Moon Ale House, knew — that's who.
“Everyone in the brewing community knew it was here,” said Baburek, who plans to open a new brewery and tap room in Benson next year.
Last spring, Baburek purchased a building at 6115 Maple St., named the new venue Infusion and hired Aaron Bush as its lead brew master.
But when he looked into buying new brewing equipment, he discovered that it can take six months or more for it to be manufactured and delivered.
“More than 1,000 brewers across the country are at the stage we're at,” said Baburek, explaining the backlog.
Craft beer brewing is undergoing a renaissance, and across the country thousands of small breweries are in the planning or construction stages.
Instead of waiting for new stainless steel vats, hoppers and mash tuns to be fabricated, Baburek remembered the brewing equipment that had been the centerpiece of Jobber's Canyon.
The former brewpub at 420 S. 12th St. closed five years ago, and its owners left the equipment behind.
In 2008, Blue Sushi leased the space, remodeled the former pub and “built around the brewing system,” which is scattered throughout the restaurant.
Three months ago, Baburek struck a deal with the building's owner, DTG LLC, which also owns the brewing equipment, to buy the system and remove it, a spokesman for DTG said. The company wouldn't say why the equipment was left in the building after the pub's closure.
Baburek figured it would take three or four days to remove all the equipment, including 12 brew kettles.
But the project came with a caveat — the work had to be completed each day by 11 a.m., when Blue Sushi opens for business.
Monday, the largest pieces of equipment, the 7-foot tall kettle and its top hopper and a five-foot kettle, which were on the restaurant's first floor, saw the light of day for the first time in seven years.
The kettles, which each hold about 250 gallons, had been built into a narrow storage area that the restaurant had walled up and used as a coat room for employees.
Workers began the project early Monday by removing an outside door, a 5-foot square pane of glass and window frame, a process that required a half-dozen workers, including two glaziers, and a forklift crew.
By 7 a.m., the door had been removed, the glaziers were tugging at a huge glass pane above the door frame, and a worker wielding a metal-cutting saw was cutting the first tank from its six-inch metal base.
“We've got to cut the legs off to get it out of there,” Baburek said.
Clearance would be tight. Both tanks were 4 feet wide around the middle, and the doorway wasn't much bigger.
“We'll have about three or four inches to spare,” Baburek said.
The hopper, which sat atop the first brew tank, was the first item to be removed. A cloud of barley blew to the sidewalk, as the hopper was lifted into the air by the forklift's boom.
“The birds will eat that,” Baburek said.
By 9:30 a.m., the first and largest of the two brew kettles was gently swaying 10 feet above the sidewalk at the end of the boom.
“My fear was we were going to have an ice storm, but we got a good day,” Baburek said, as he watched Will Schmidt, the forklift operator, gingerly load the 2,400-pound brew tank onto a flatbed truck.
“God is looking out for us today,” said Bush, Infusion's lead brewer. “God wants good beer too.”
“We had to do a lot of disconnecting — electrical, plumbing — before we could get to this point,” Baburek said. “And they left beer in the kettles. We had to drain them.”
And this old beer, said Baburek, “is not good beer. There must have been 500 gallons of beer in there.”
Devin Jacobson, Blue Sushi's general manager said he was pleased to see the brewing equipment removed. “The owners were talking about creating some extra seating once this is all out,” Jacobson said.
As promised, the door and window were reinstalled by the time the restaurant opened at 11 a.m., and Baburek's crew had transported the two kettles to their new home in Benson.
“It will be tight in here,” Baburek said Monday afternoon as he surveyed what will become his new 2,000-square-foot brewery and taproom.
Baburek plans to retrieve six smaller brew tanks, weighing 900 pounds, from the restaurant's basement today.
Wednesday, he will tackle the removal of three more 900-pound tanks, which are lodged behind Blue Sushi's second floor bar.
The trio will have to be disconnected, tipped onto their sides and rolled into the restaurant's freight elevator. “If they'll fit,” Baburek said.
“Those are going to be kind of tricky.”