Saturday, May 31, 2008

Solidarity with Saranac

To Nick Matt:

Your brothers and sisters in beer are keeping you and your brewery —now 120 years in the Matt family— in our thoughts and hopes. May you survive and thrive.

Brewery inferno's toll: $10M
Posted May 31, 2008

Recovering from what city officials believe to be the most expensive fire loss in Utica history won’t be easy for F.X. Matt Brewing Co.

Yet nearly everywhere the brewery’s officials turned Friday, they found a community offering its support to a beloved local business.

“It’s been really terrific, and I want to thank everybody for that,” a clearly moved brewery President Nicholas Matt said at a midday news conference outside the Brewery Shop.

Matt pointed out that the 120-year-old West Utica’s company ability to brew beer was not in any way affected by Thursday night’s blaze, which may be tied to a welding project in a processing building.

But the company’s canning operation is lost for an unknown period of time, and the status of the bottling operation remains uncertain, Matt said. That could mean filling cans with Saranac and Utica Club brews at other breweries until the processing building can be rebuilt.

“We’ll get it packaged one way or another,” Matt said. “I can assure you.”

Utica remained abuzz Friday over the previous day’s fire, which city officials estimated caused at least $10 million in damage. <...>

The brewery has been family owned for four generations since 1888.

Among the points Matt made:

Beer supply: The brewery does not expect any shortage in its beer supply because no beer was lost in the fire and kegging operations have not been affected. <..>

Saranac Thursday: The weekly festival, which draws thousands each week to the brewery and to nearby Varick Street bars, will continue as scheduled.

“I hope I’ll see all of you here next Thursday,” Nicholas Matt said.

Canning capability: Recovery will not be easy and outside help will be needed.

“Our company has obviously faced a setback,” Matt said. “We have had major damage to our packaging operations. Our canning capability, we think has probably been lost for the short term, at least parts of it.”

Bottling operation: “It looks like the bottling operations are OK and are salvageable,” Matt said. “But we’re not sure of that. We have to get in the building to be able to find out, but we expect we’ll be able to package.”

It could be several weeks before full packaging capabilities are restored, he said. In the meantime, other breweries Matt did not name have called offering help.

“It may be that, on an interim basis, that we are going to be tankering beer to another brewery, Matt said.

Meeting with employees: Company leadership met at 9 a.m. with many of the brewery’s employees. Officials couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be any worker dislocations among the 80 people who work in the affected operations, but “we’re sensitive to that, sensitive to trying to work on that and do the best we can,” Matt said. <...>

Impact on prices: “I don’t know,” Matt said. “We’ll just have to see.” <...>


Thursday's fire.

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