Armory turning into microbrewery

HUNTINGDON – A former Marine is targeting new uses for the former Huntingdon Armory.

Local entrepreneur Ron Enyeart, a former rifle infantryman for the Marine Corps, recently purchased the building with plans of opening Huntingdon’s first microbrewery as well as a gymnasium and recording studio.

The auction for the former National Guard armory closed on March 17 with Enyeart’s bid of $75,303.11.

“Back in 1775, my Marine Corps came alive, so I bid $75,000; there were 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae; my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 311,” Enyeart explained.

The building will need an extensive roof repair before opening for business, which Enyeart estimates will cost about $13,000.

Nicole Houck, a Juniata College Class of 2012 graduate who relocated to Huntingdon, is in charge of the publicity and marketing division of Enyeart’s undertaking. Houck has raised about $590 toward the cause.

“I’d really like to see the armory become more of a community focal point,” Houck said. “I’d like to get behind restoring the historic building. I think there’s a lot of potential here, and I think Huntingdon’s a really good place – that’s why I stuck around.”

Houck described Enyeart’s previous event that occurred at the armory on Memorial Day.

“It was really interesting from my perspective (as a nonveteran) to see veterans of all ages coming and making friends with new people. There were kids dancing and enjoying it, and it was a good time. That’s what they plan to do on the 26th (of July) when they do the float and the festival after,” said Houck.

As owner of Johnny’s Bar since February 2012, Enyeart plans to use the microbrewery to supply his local business with its own unique blends of lager in the near future.

“Once I started drinking microbrews, there’s nothing more enjoyable. It’s made on a small scale, and people are pouring their hearts and souls into it,” Enyeart said. “Alcohol has a bad name because people give it a bad name but it’s kind of like an art form. Instead of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, it’s on the tongue of the beer-holder.”

‘Leatherneck Lager,’ the first beer Enyeart plans to release, will be based on the initial test brew that he created. “It should be a black lager because then it’ll be black like the heart of the Marine Corps,” Enyeart said.

Another future beverage in the making, ‘Red, White and Blitzed,’ will begin brewing in October. Enyeart and his collaborators anticipate that this patriotic new ale will be available in time for next Fourth of July.

This past spring, Enyeart participated in a brewing course at Juniata College taught by Jeff Demarest, professor of biology.

“It’s cool that his beer is partially a product of the brewing class at the college. Hopefully he can keep going to the class and get better and better at it. He could even take student ideas for beers or take requests,” said Zachary Lemon of New Bloomfield.

“On the first day of class, the professor said, ‘If you make a good product, your supply will never meet your demand,'” said Enyeart. “With all these microbreweries growing, people just want more and more and more. . people are coming to Johnny’s asking for beers they had in Altoona and State College.”

According to Enyeart, two bars other than Johnny’s have already agreed to sell his upcoming brews.

“I have a lot of friends in the bar industry, and we support each other – it’s not like a competition. They said if I ever get something going, of course they’ll throw it on tap.”

In recent years, Johnny’s Bar has become a preferred location among Juniata College students.

“(Enyeart) made Johnny’s Bar a lot friendlier of a place for college students,” said Kelsey Molseed of Allentown, a recent Juniata College graduate.

“I’m a pretty big advocate for the college. Yeah, they can be loud, but there are 1,600 kids who descend on Huntingdon for nine months out of the year. And it’s a private school that’s pretty pricey, so they’re bringing some money with them and spending dollars in the town. People need to realize that instead of keeping it ‘us versus them,’ they should just get along with their neighbors and everybody wins that way.” Enyeart said.

“If you want to change the world, you have to start by making a difference in the community,” said Enyeart.