It started with passion, and after last week — is about becoming one of the biggest success stories in the city of Auburn.
On Tuesday, Prison City Pub & Brewery announced that a new production facility would be built and opened at 197-199 North Street. The 2.13-acre property at the corner of North and Standart Avenue, had been home to a car wash, which ultimately closed and was demolished this past summer.
Marc and Dawn Schultz, co-owners of Prison City have gone ‘all in’ on its development since launching; and have become incredibly proud of the story they are telling through the business.
Marc’s background is in brewpubs. Meanwhile his wife, Dawn, brought a restaurant business background — having owned several outside the area, according to Marc.
“We wanted to make beer the counterpoint,” he explained in a conversation with FingerLakes1.com. “Kind of the opposite of what you’re seeing — a departure from the tasting room concept,” he continued.
Marc says the recognition the brewery has received was completely unexpected. “We opted to go with a five-barrel brewery thinking that would be forever enough liquid to handle what we were thinking,” he added, pointing out that the craft beer scene was still ‘budding’ in 2014 when the couple opened up their new business. “There were only two or three places focusing on craft beer at all. The recognition was unexpected.”
Since opening in December 2014 — Ben Maeso has led brewing efforts, and in the process — made Prison City a regional staple in the brew scene. Even more impressive, the national recognition that has come along for Prison City in the process.
In less than five years — the Schultz’s and Maeso have managed to earn a multitude of recognition for Prison City, which includes a Silver Medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, being declared Paste Magazine’s #1 American IPA in 2016 for their ‘Mass Riot IPA’, and having several brews receive gold and bronze awards at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in 2017.
Marc recounts his wife’s approach to their first big win in 2015 at the Great American Beer Festival. “Why not just go and throw a couple beers in there,” he recounted her saying before their silver medal win. “All of the recognition has been surprising — but humbling, and flattering, too. There’s a lot of great breweries out there,” Marc added.
As for what’s to come at that new location? More beer. He says that customers have been clamoring for more beer, but they will be able to accomplish several other things at the new location on North, which haven’t been in downtown. “People will be able to bring their dog, play corn hole — we’ll be able to have live music — something we haven’t really been able to do as of late here because it ties up the entire restaurant, and of course, have more beer,” he continued. “It’s daunting, overwhelming, and scary as hell,” he said, pointing out that a lot of folks in the industry are talking about a craft brew ‘bubble’. “We haven’t seen that yet, or know what that looks like — but we’re going to have a very modest approach to the new facility.”
Of course, there will be a learning curve — but Marc, Dawn, Ben, and Staff are working hard to ensure that they’re ready for what comes next.
“We’re going to have a 20 barrel system. It’ll be a big facility, in regards to this, but our end goal is to produce around 10,000 barrels of beer. How long that takes? We don’t know. We kind of hope it doesn’t. We’re going to have to baby step our way through that process. We’ve never managed a production brewery, just a small pub and brewery,” Marc explained.
That passion connects directly to how personally invested Marc and Dawn remain. “We’ve met so many people, and become close with so many,” he added — pointing out that many of the couple’s friends are either those from within the industry — or customers who they wouldn’t have otherwise met. “Someone it hasn’t just happened with those within the industry — it’s happened with the people who come in here, and end up leaving extended family.”