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Portage Brewing Co. in Walker heavily damaged in fire

WALKER--Portage Brewing Co. sustained massive damages from a fire on Sunday, destroying a historic building nearly a century old and forcing the business to temporarily close.

Portage Brewing Co. in Walker was heavily damaged in a fire Sunday. (Portage Brewing Co. via Facebook)
Portage Brewing Co. in Walker was heavily damaged in a fire Sunday. (Portage Brewing Co. via Facebook)
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WALKER-Portage Brewing Co. sustained massive damages from a fire on Sunday, destroying a historic building nearly a century old and forcing the business to temporarily close.

According to the company's post on Facebook, no one was hurt in the incident. Prompted by an outpouring of support for the business, the company also reported that they plan to rebuild and eventually reopen.

"Before anyone heard about it, we were all like 'This could be over; this is it.' But throughout the day, thousands and thousands and thousands of people reached out," said Jeff Vondenkamp, co-owner and head brewer. "The only reason this is coming back is because of that."

Among those who showed support for the small business was Bemidji's own brewing company.

"Our hearts are with all of the incredible people behind Portage," Bemidji Brewing wrote in a Facebook post.

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A passerby first reported the fire just before 7 a.m. Sunday. Walker Fire Chief Scott Winter said although they don't know when the fire started, the flames were well underway by the time the firetrucks rolled onto the scene.

"The fire was through the roof and basically fully involved in the top floors," Winter said. "The damage is pretty extensive."

A second building apart from the brewery also received minor damage from the fire.

It took about two hours to contain the fire, although firefighters were on scene for a total of about seven hours. The Hackensack Fire Department also responded to the scene. Between the two departments, approximately 30 firefighters turned out for the incident. The state fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.

Portage Brewing Co. was established in April 2017, according to its website. Vondenkamp said they plan to rebuild the brewery on the same plot of land.

While the company was relatively new, the building itself was not. It was built in the early 1930s and was used as a hospital in Walker at the time, Vondenkamp said.

The brewer estimated they had about 1,200 gallons of beer either in barrels or in the fermenters they can no longer sell after the fire.

"Some of these barrels have been sitting for a year; you don't get that back-you don't just remake that," Vondenkamp said. "It's gone."

Related Topics: FIRESWALKER
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