By Dyke Hendrickson
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Riverwalk Brewing Co. is no longer located along a rushing body of water. It recently relaunched in a strip mall on Graf Road that includes a frame shop, glass company and local cable TV operation.
And the brewing company’s transition from cramped quarters in Amesbury to a modern production space in the Newburyport Business and Industrial Park appears worth a toast — at least among the business founders.
“The transition from Amesbury to Newburyport has taken some time, but we are now brewing beer here,” head brewer and founder Steve Sanderson said. “We are going to be reaching out to bars and restaurants in an effort to supply them — and customers now can come here to taste the product.”
Sanderson, a native of West Newbury who studied at New England Conservatory of Music before trying the finance field, has been an amateur brewer for years.
He started Riverwalk Brewery at 44 Main St. in Amesbury, but it was a temporary solution to a long-term goal.
Sanderson acts as the head brewer and in recent weeks has also served as construction majordomo. He said he set up refrigeration units, ran the forklift and helped to actually activate the brewing process.
Riverwalk expects to have weekly tasting sessions on Fridays from 3 to 8 p.m. when those interested can come to the site and taste the label’s four different kinds of beers.
The tasting glasses hold just 2 ounces of brew; managers say there will be no retail operation resembling that of a tavern.
What they will be selling are growlers, 64-ounce containers in which its fresh brew can be transported. The first growler will cost $15; thereafter, to encourage recycling, the second container full of beverage will cost $10.
The company is currently supplying about a half-dozen local restaurants and hopes to expand that roster in coming months.
“We have plans for distribution, but first we had to get the brewery open,” said Alyssa Kirk, Riverwalk’s regional sales manager. “Craft breweries are very popular these days, and I think that consumers will enjoy sampling new products.”
Kirk, whose brewing background includes tending bar at the Ale House in Amesbury for several years, added that Riverwalk’s arrival has been well-received by its dozen neighbors in the mall.
“Whenever we open the back doors to air out the (brewing) quarters, people in the offices come to look and see what we are doing,” she said. “They seem interested that there’s a special new business in their area.”
Sanderson said he and his wife, Elizabeth, are the sole owners and launched Riverwalk without assistance of outside capital.
Another brewery might be entering the mix soon in the city. Local entrepreneurs Bill Fisher and Chris Webb have plans to open Newburyport Brewing Company at 4 New Pasture Road.
The pair, in fact, approached the Zoning Board of Appeals this week as part of a process to gain appropriate approvals.
According to the ZBA, Newburyport Brewing is seeking a use variance to expand “auxiliary industrial retail use to permit use #407, entertainment/clubs.”
Fisher and Webb intend to offer Greenhead IPA, Plum Island Belgian White and Newburyport Pale Ale in cans and kegs. No opening date has been finalized.