By: Felicia Solazzo
Combining modern technology and equipment with ancient fermentation and brewing tricks, the Hell ‘n Blazes Brewery has opened in downtown Melbourne.
The work to renovate and recreate what now is the modern but homey beer bar and brewery was a dedicated effort borne from the close-knit partnership created by owners Don and Claire DiFrisco and Adam Broadway, president and CEO of Certified General Contractors (CGC) in Melbourne.
The 18,000 square feet century-old building was formerly the home of a local bank, a hardware store and a glittery, happy place called the Christmas Cottage.
After researching the needs for the transformation from retail space to brewery and pub, Don began asking colleagues and business professionals in the area which company was up for the task. “Certified General Contractors’ name repeatedly came up,” he said.
After meeting, it soon became clear to Broadway that the owners had a very clear vision about what they wanted: Don and Claire were very involved with the design and construction, creating a collaborative team project.
And so CGC began work on its first brewery and a complete renovation of a historically significant site.
A Historic Challenge
“There were a lot of challenges in retrofitting a historic building to a brewery,” he said. “A brewery has a lot of specific design and construction requirements that aren’t [found] in a typical building.” They had to gut almost everything. The plumbing, electrical and HVAC is brand new. Certain parts of the flooring were torn up and repurposed wherever possible.
One of the more troublesome decisions of this design and build process was where to locate the large, cumbersome and very heavy brewing equipment, now located at the middle point of the facility. CGC had to beef up the building’s foundation to carry the load and get all the equipment to fit, and then decided to enclose it in glass to make it a centerpiece of the facility.
That equipment can be viewed from the tasting room: Bar stools, high top tables, low top tables and lounge furniture surround a large bar. “The Vault,” a private party room that features the safe from the building’s bank days, seats roughly 25 people. In the back is a large game room with tabletop shuffleboard, foosball, darts and a variety of other games.
Decidedly modern in application and technology, Hell ‘n Blazes takes its name from a lake 10 miles southeast of Melbourne. It is filled with historical significance as navigation challenges on the lake spawned the name, “Lake Hell ‘n Blazes.”
“We thought it was a great name that was historically relevant; it was kind of edgy, and it tied us to the local area in Melbourne,” said Don.
Building A Legacy
The DiFrisco family took the responsibility very seriously of creating not only a family legacy with their business, but also a legacy for Melbourne and for Brevard County. They worked closely with the South Brevard Historical Society, having the group present during a lot of the construction to help dig through the dirt, find artifacts, validate some dates and invalidate others. This follows a similar process that has repeatedly played out at Lake Hell ‘n Blazes, where ancient artifacts from Paleo Indians (prior to 8000 AD) and later cultures were found on the site.
“It was a very educational experience to the benefit of all of Melbourne through the Historical Society,” Don said.
The relationship between the DiFrisco family and Certified General Contractors that began as a business transaction has evolved into a great friendship.
“CGC has been great, honestly, said Don. “While doing a renovation – especially historical – you don’t know what you don’t know. Certified did a really good job of preparing me properly so that I was not shocked by anything unusual that popped up. They work hard to over-deliver on every one of their promises.”