The starting line is near for Nepenthe Brewing Co. After about a year and a half of construction and outfitting the business’ sprawling new space at 3626 Falls Road, co-owner Brian Arnold said he should finish kegging the first four beers to be served there by the end of this weekend.
He declined to share what the exact opening to day will be—an announcement is forthcoming—but did say Nepenthe’s opening is just “days away.”
This may not be news to you if you’ve seen Nepenthe’s social media feeds recently, where they’ve teased appetizing pub cuisine like a pit bacon sandwich or pretzel-crusted beer cheese croquettes, or the first kegs of beer from the brewery’s new 10-barrel system. You may also have walked by while strolling through Hampden and peeked through the window to see the co-owners’ handmade, wooden tables lining the space, or the 2,200-pound concrete slab of a bar. The restaurant has seating for 160 patrons in all.
The new Nepenthe is a far cry from the retail store that once operated out of Meadow Mill. Arnold and Jill Antos, who are married, started the business there in 2013, selling supplies and equipment for home brewers and offering lockers for them to make beer on-site. But in spring 2018, after dealing with multiple, devastating floods from the nearby Jones Falls, they left it behind for a larger space and operation up the road, teaming up with former Le Garage owner Brendan Kirlin as a business partner.
Don’t fear, former customers: Nepenthe will still carry the same ingredients and equipment—minus the lockers—to concoct your own recipes at home. But on the main floor, patrons will find a full restaurant and bar with 16 tap lines. And downstairs, next to the new retail shop, they’ll spot the 10-barrel system that Nepenthe will use to make and serve its own beer in-house.
The kitchen will be helmed by Matt Heaton, who served as executive chef at Birrotecca and the recently shuttered Nickel Taphouse in Mt. Washington.
Heaton said the menu will be mostly modern American, with “a lot of rib-sticking comfort food” inspired by Asian or new Southern cuisine. Beyond the aforementioned items teased online, he also mentioned a “Bangkok dog” using house-made sausage, and several burgers, including one made with a house blend of beef, another from duck and served with white cheddar and miso dijonnaise, and a veggie burger that’ll be completely vegan.
Dishes will be almost entirely made from scratch, Heaton said. He’s also planning to serve items made to complement Nepenthe’s beers as they debut, though that’s been difficult to plan thus far, since the brewery just churned out its first batches.
Food will be served from the bar. Antos noted they’ll also plan to host events with table-side service.
As for the aesthetics, it’s both modern and open, intended to give off a “communal and cozy” vibe, Antos said.
It’s mightily different from the former David’s 1st and 10 Sports Bar that occupied the main level. Antos said they removed drop ceilings from the old sports bar to open it up; it now features exposed beams and rafters. To the naked eye, all that remains of David’s are a pair of Cal Ripken’s eyes in the corner near the bar, peeking through from an old mural that’s otherwise been painted over.
“I don’t think people who were in David’s before will recognize this space,” Antos said.
Far more extensive construction took place in the rear and downstairs, which previously housed a multiple meat-packing facilities in a separate property that’s now been merged with the restaurant space. That work included the removal of a damaged, collapsing roof that Arnold said had connected two brick walls upstairs; the demolition of walls and the addition of a new staircase leading downstairs to the brewery, retail store and main kitchen area; and the pouring of new concrete on the bottom level, “which was not part of the original plan,” Arnold said.
In the retail shop remains another playful, if eerie relic of what used to be: a single meat hook. The renovations required removals of hooks, walk-in refrigerators and walls from the old meat-packing facilities, along with exposed wiring and plumbing.
“We pretty much had to tear everything out,” Kirlin said.
And there’s still another yet-unfinished room behind the brewing area, which the co-owners said can be used for outdoor seating and an additional bar in the future. “There’s just so many opportunities to do different things here,” said Antos.
For now, customers can look forward to tasting brews and trying Heaton’s beer-paired dishes in the restaurant, or touring the brewery downstairs. Keep an eye out for an official opening announcement from Nepenthe soon.