UPDATED: April 7, 2017 11:33 AM — A new craft beer pub, dubbed Wolf Branch Brewing, will lease 1,700 square feet of space in the historic Iron Block Building on Bay Street in the heart of Downtown Eustis, and city development officials are excited.
"We think a brew pub will bring positive activity and energy to downtown," said Tom Carrino, Eustis' economic development director.
The pub is family-owned by locals Jose Villafana, an Army veteran who still serves as a Captain in the Army Reserves, and his brother-in-law Josh Greenberg, as well as Jose's father Jose Villafana, Sr., a retired banker and assistant brewer on board.
Wolf Branch Brewing is planning a soft opening in August, with a grand opening timed for Oktoberfest. The Villafanas haven't procured contractors yet for the interiors.
The group chose the Downtown Eustis site because it has seen the city make significant investment in the area, said Jose Villafana.
"There is so much to see and experience in Eustis, from the beautiful architecture, the serene setting of Lake Eustis, the whole range of restaurants and boutique shops, there really is something for everyone, and we're really excited that everyone will soon have access to craft beer," he told GrowthSpotter on Thursday.
Villafana learned the brewing trade from the World Brewing Academy's Master Brewing program, which is affiliated with the oldest brewing school in America, the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago. He went to work volunteering at a brewery to learn day-to-day operations and took an intensive course in practical brewing as well.
Villafana plans to offer beer with a minimalist approach, veering from current trends of bigger and bolder drink that include Belgian-style witbier, a Biere de Garde (a take on farmhouse ale), a coffee milk stout, tripels Kolsch-inspired ales, and more.
The brewery plans to take advantage of the old building's brick walls to create an industrial vibe. But the pub won't be confined to its storefront spot, as it's planning a beer garden setting in the back of the building with wood planters, tables and "living walls" of plants and hanging lights.
The craft brewery lease is the last tenant space to fill for Iron Block Building owner Wendell Husebo after he and his mother bought the property nearly a year ago.
All three first-floor shop spaces are now leased and the apartments in the top of the building are also at full occupancy, as is most of the downtown residential rental property in Eustis.
"Wendell has made a great investment in Eustis with new ideas," said development director Carrino. "He brings energy and new ideas."
Another developer is proposing to add a multi-story apartment building in downtown on Grove Street near City Hall as well, but there have been no plans filed for the project, city officials said.
Editor's Note: This story was updated Friday morning to correct Jose Villafana's role with the Army Reserves, and that the oldest brewing school in America is the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.