The sign on the unoccupied space next to reads "Crooked Ladder Brewery, Coming 2011." But Digger's owner and enterprising microbrewer Steve Wirth said that date will have to be pushed back.
"We're still moving forward," he said, "it just seems to be at a glacial pace."
Wirth's project, a that would create craft brews to sell across the island, is in the midst of a redesign. Wirth said he and his partners had planned to use the 1,600-square-foot empty space next to Digger's, the former Crystal Bar, to be the basis of the microbrewing operation. But since applying for the microbrewery's wholesale liquor license, Wirth and his partners have decided to expand their operation by looking into a warehouse on Route 58.
"This [space] is too small," he said. "We really wouldn't be able to sell."
Wirth said the group hopes to get its wholesale license by mid-November and will then apply for a labeling permit, which would allow Crooked Ladder to sell its brews under its name. Wirth said they expect to be up and running in February.
In the meantime, Crooked Ladder will use the site next to Digger's to experiment with different brews using a smaller crafting system and will use the bar at Digger's as their "test kitchen." After settling on six to 12 different kinds of craft beers, Wirth said the Crooked Ladder will then move into the larger location to ramp up production. The old Crystal Bar site will become a retail location, he added.
Wirth said the group hopes that producing at a bigger site will help them become a part of the growing microbrewery community.
"People are starting to see beer as more than just Budweiser," he said.
Digger's is embracing that culture as well. Wirth has slowly been easing the bar into having only craft beers on tap by the time Crooked Ladder is up.
Wirth likened brewing beer to winemaking, saying that Crooked Ladder and Digger's hopes to "be a part of that culture."