Getting the walls even, the floors level and all the physical aspects of the 1920s-era building to square up and mathematically cooperate for the renovation was difficult. Navigating the city of Pontiac’s approvals, permits and building requirements took time, too.
Despite the challenges, Fillmore 13 Brewery opened on March 6 after just 11 months of construction. The space used to be an art gallery and consignment shop with offices in the back, but the transformation to a brewery is complete.
The partially exposed old brick, the bar with the barn wood siding and the eclectic seating all come together now to make this 5,200-square-foot space a great place to meet up with friends for a pizza or sandwich and enjoy a selection from18 beers brewed onsite.
“Our brewery is a seven-barrel system,” Roumaya says. “Bo Holcomb is our brewer, and we have worked together for a long time. He is very particular about brewing and the results show it.”
Amidst the quiet revival of Pontiac’s downtown area, Fillmore 13 Brewery sits right in the middle of the blooming business area, across the street from Pontiac’s theater, which has recently undergone a $20 million renovation.
A self-proclaimed “foodie,” owner Lee Roumaya brings 27 years of restaurant and management experience to the Fillmore 13 Brewery. Menu items are made to order, and hand-tossed pizza is a signature dish and already a house favorite. Appetizer plates range from nachos and wings to cheese platters and charcuterie. Unique sandwiches round off the menu with offerings like the turkey brie with cranberry relish on rustic bread.
I asked Lee where he came up with the name for his brewery.
“After drinking a couple of beers, I went online to look up dead presidents,” he explained. “Millard Fillmore was the 13th president of the United States. I have also always liked the number 13 because when I was younger, Dan Marino [famed quarterback for the Miami Dolphins] was my favorite football player to follow, and his number was 13.”
Roumaya has pride in the fact that Fillmore 13 is composed of many repurposed parts. The barn wood came from a centuries-old barn in Armada. The bar top came from the now-closed Roosevelt Billiards; the pews along the wall in the restaurant area are from a church in Chelsea. The pipe shelving and the corrugated steel used for the brewery doors and hostess stand were made onsite with remnants of materials that were left in the basement.
The bar area is set up with just a few televisions and communal high-top tables where multiple parties of strangers can gather and intermingle. This is intentional. Roumaya declares that breweries are all about bringing people together. He urges people to put down their phones and ignore the television and talk to the person sitting with them.
“It is amazing the conversations that get started just by talking to a person next to you,” he says. Referring to the two or three televisions, he says, “We never turn the volume on high. It is always on low so people can hear each other talk.”
Open only for dinner now, this brewery is already becoming a favorite spot for some local residents and business people. Once a lunch menu and shift is added in the coming months, it will become an afternoon hub, as well.
Fillmore 13 Brewery
7 North Saginaw, Pontiac