Hopskeller heavily damaged by fire

Pictured, firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire at Hopskeller Brewing Company in Waterloo on Sunday morning. (Kermit Constantine photo)
Pictured, firefighters attempt to extinguish a fire at Hopskeller Brewing Company in Waterloo on Sunday morning. (Kermit Constantine photo)

A downtown Waterloo microbrewery that has only been open about a month suffered substantial damage during a fire that broke out Sunday morning.

The Waterloo and Columbia fire departments responded about 8 a.m. Sunday to a fire reported at Hopskeller Brewing Company, 116 E. Third Street.

Steady grey smoke could be seen billowing out of the building upon firefighter arrival on scene. Flames were also seen shooting from the structure.

A ladder truck was used to attack the fire from above, with smoke continuing to show more than an hour after the initial fire call. The source of the fire is believed to have come from the brick oven area used for cooking pizzas, although Waterloo Fire Chief Brett Wiegand said a cause is yet to be determined. Flames breached the wall and the roof line near the pizza oven chimney. There was fire damage to the roof, and a large air conditioner unit fell through the ceiling.

Fire damage was contained to the back east wall area near where the oven and restrooms are located, Wiegand said, with the front of the building sustaining smoke and water damage.

“It’s repairable,” Wiegand said of the building. “They should be able to fix it.”

The extent of damage to the brewing equipment located in the add-on portion of the building was not determined.

Firemen remained on scene until about 11:30 a.m., Wiegand said.

A look inside Hopskeller from the front door following Sunday's fire. (submitted photo)
A look inside Hopskeller from the front door following Sunday’s fire. (submitted photo)

Hopskeller opened for business just recently following extensive renovations and an add-on to the historic building that borders the Monroe County Courthouse.

Just last week, Hopskeller took home the “Best Craft Brewery” award during the Fest-of-Ales event at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. A total of 29 craft breweries representing the bi-state area participated in the event.

Next door to Hopskeller is the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce office, which sustained only minor damage.

“The chamber office/building is fine, and with the exception of smoke and water, our building did not have any damage,” Waterloo Chamber executive director Jenny Bullock reported on Facebook.

Another new microbrewery in town, Stubborn German Brewing Company, expressed support for Hopskeller following the fire.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends and neighbors at Hopskeller Brewing Company while they deal with the effects of the fire,” Stubborn German posted on its Facebook page. “We hope they will be back up and running soon.”

Fortunately, Hopskeller brewmaster Matthew Schweizer was up in Chicago when the fire broke out, accepting an award for a history project he spearheaded during his time as a teacher at Gibault. His apartment sits above the brewery.

“I am, as you can probably imagine, heartbroken and beyond words at seeing something so many people — myself certainly included — have worked on for over two-and-a-half years go up in literal and metaphorical smoke,” Schweizer stated in a Facebook post. “This wasn’t a small fire and the firefighters and police involved were consummate professionals. You have my and our deepest gratitude.

“I can promise you that we will come back from this fire bigger and better than ever before; it’s going to be a long and painful process, but stay tuned for updates as they happen!”

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