Category Archives: Ohio

Lime City Brewing

One of Cedar Creek’s Church buildings

A few weeks ago, on April 1 to be exact,  my wife sent me a YouTube video via Facebook messenger. It was a video about a new brewing initiative that was in the process of being launched in the northwest Ohio area -Lime City Brewing. The video (which can be viewed here) is just over three minutes long. It was produced by Cedar Creek Church. Cedar Creek is a large non-denominational church which has five campuses throughout  northwest Ohio. According to the video Cedar Creek was getting into the craft beer brewing business.

Cedar Creek’s video was filmed inside the Black Cloister Brewing Company
Martin Luther was known to enjoy a few beers

The video caught me by surprise. I had not read anything in local media about Cedar Creek brewing beer. There had been no mention of it on social media. None of my craft beer friends had said anything to me about it. So as I watched the video I found myself trying to process and make sense of what I was hearing and seeing. There were parts of the video that seemed to add up (yes this looks real) and parts of it that had me scratching my head. The video opened with a representative of the church introducing the audience to Lime City Brewing. As he did so I quickly recognized where the filming had taken place; Black Cloister Brewing Company in downtown Toledo – the huge black and white wall mural was unmistakable. Why had they filmed the video here? Was their brewery still under construction? After watching the video a second time I realized that there was never any actual reference to a physical brewery – this was a “brewing initiative”. The thought then quickly passed through my mind that perhaps Lime City were contracting with Black Cloister to brew their beer for them. Knowing what I knew about the brewing set-up at the Black Cloister this did not make sense to me so I dismissed that possibility. The tag line associated with the new brewing initiative was introduced as  “Brew Well Do Well”. This seemed like an appropriate tag line for a church-sponsored brewery. Yet it sounded familiar. Then it struck me that it was very similar to Black Cloister’s tag line – “Brew Good, Do Good”. The presenter then noted that there is a long history of brewing being associated with the Christian faith. He mentions Martin Luther and the tradition of beer being brewed in monasteries. This was correct. It is well documented that Martin Luther enjoyed a few pints, while his wife Katie brewed beer for the household. And there is a tradition of European monasteries brewing beer since the Middle Ages. Today some of the best beers in the world are brewed by or under the supervision of Trappist monks. The video then cuts away to the brewmaster who runs through Lime City’s portfolio of beers – Perrysburg Porter, Findlay IPA, South Toledo Stout, West Toledo Weiss, and Whitehouse Wheat. The brewmaster looked the part, complete with beard and a Lime City Brew t-shirt. At various points during the video you see bottles of Lime City’s brews. I am not sure what is inside the bottles but each one has a very authentic looking label. I must admit the labels impressed me – they were, in my opinion, both attractive and well-designed. The video finishes with the individual who introduced the new brewing initiative standing behind the bar at the Black Cloister. He has six packs of the five Lime City beers in front him. He tells the audience that supplies of the intitial batch of Lime City beer is limited, but that an order can be placed at livingitstout.tv. So I went to the website and scrolled down until I found the “Buy Now” icon. I clicked on it, not sure what to expect next. This took me to a YouTube video in which Ben Snyder (lead Pastor at Cedar Creek Church) informed viewers that the church was in fact not brewing beer and that it was all an April Fools prank. In producing the video he hoped that it would “create conversation about Church”. He then spent the next minute or so inviting viewers to worship at Cedar Creek while also noting that a lot of time, energy, and talent went into the making of the video I had just watched.

The video caused quite a firestorm on social media across northwest Ohio. Quite a few people were upset and/or offended by it. This included both those who worship at Cedar Creek and those who do not. Cedar Creek’s Facebook page was inundated with comments about the video. A number of my own Facebook friends posted their own thoughts on their own personal Facebook pages, with each of these postings generating a number of comments. Some of the opinions expressed were knee-jerk, while others were carefully thought out and very well articulated. Some  people were upset that their church produced a video about alcohol, seeing it as condoning its consumption. They were particularly upset about the timing of the video; just a few days before its release a drunk driver had caused the death of three area residents. Others were upset at the Black Cloister Brewing Company for allowing Cedar Creek to film the video at their brewery, thereby being complicit in the prank. I have my own personal opinion and perspective about both the video and the resultant backlash against it. But I am going to keep those to myself. This is a blog about beer. It is not a blog about theology or religion.

So let’s turn to the beer aspect of this. In this regard I want to make a couple of points. First, it is not out of the realms of possibility that a church might consider getting into the brewing business. In fact, go to Orlando, FL and you will find Castle Church; a Lutheran church that owns and operates its own brewery. The brewery cleverly leverages its Lutheran connection – among the beers brewed at Castle Church Brewing you will find  Katie’s Kölsch (named after Martin Luther’s wife), Mighty Fortress Doppelbock (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is one of the best known hymns written by the Luther) and Indulgences IPA (Luther was against the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church). Now I really do not know enough about Cedar Creek to say whether they would pursue such a venture. But if they did, they would not be the first. And as noted in their video, beer and Christianity have a long relationship  dating back to medieval times when European monasteries brewed beer. The monks would drink beer during the Lenten period as a source of sustenance. Tom Schaeffer, the CEO and co-founder of the Black Cloister Brewing Company, where the video was filmed, is an ordained Lutheran pastor.  The congregation at his church, Threshold, supported his decision to establish Black Cloister. Last year I attended Threshold’s Easter worship service which was held in the Black Cloister’s tap room.

Second, the fact that Cedar Creek opted to pretend that they were going to brew beer is informative of the status of the craft brewing industry in the United States. Craft beer has arrived, it is here to stay, and increasing numbers of people (even those who do not drink craft beer) are aware of its existence. It is not a passing fad and indeed one may even argue the case that it is now part of mainstream American culture. I suspect that the folks at Cedar Creek were clearly aware of craft beer’s rising star when they brewed  up their April Fools prank. This is not a video that would have been produced twenty years ago.

Third, I was intrigued, and frankly impressed, by the lengths to which Cedar Creek had went to pull off their prank. The name, Lime City Brewing was appropriate. The original Cedar Creek campus is located on Lime City Road in the suburban community of Perrysburg, OH. But it was the bottles and labels that really impressed me. It was clear that a great deal of thought had went into designing and producing what, to all intents and purposes, were authentic-looking beer labels. Not only that, but considerable thought had also went into the naming of their five beers. All five beer names – Perrysburg Porter, Findlay IPA, South Toledo Stout, West Toledo Weiss, and Whitehouse Wheat – were named after the five locations in northwest Ohio (Perrysburg, Findlay, South Toledo, West Toledo, and Whitehouse) where Cedar Creek have campuses. Naming beer after local places, people, and historical events is not uncommon in the craft beer industry. Indeed, in collaboration with two colleagues (Peggy Gripshover of Western Kentucky University and Tom Bell of the University of Tennessee) I am currently working on a project examining the names that Ohio breweries give to their beers. We are particularly interested in those beers that are named after Ohio places, people, and events. To date we have identified over one hundred and sixty such beers in Ohio. Naming beers in this fashion is tied to with the broader neolocalism movement, by which the names given to beer (and other products) are one of the numerous ways in which beer both reflects and promotes its localness.

So at the end of the day I am not sure to what extent Cedar Creek Church achieved their intended objective (“create conversation about Church”) with their April Fools prank. They certainly attracted a lot of attention and generated a lot of chatter on social media. Much of the response that they received was negative. I suspect that Cedar Creek, in making the videos, knew that this might be the case. As I read much of the critique of the video I was reminded of Oscar Wilde’s Lord Henry, who said in The Picture of Dorian Gray, “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Over-the-Rhine

A few weeks ago I spent the weekend in Cincinnati, OH. My oldest daughter moved there back in February.  She recently graduated from Nursing School at the University of Toledo and is now working as a Registered Nurse at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. I like Cincinnati. It was, in fact, the first large American city that I visited after I arrived in the United States from Scotland in 1985. I was a graduate student at Miami University in Oxford, OH. Oxford is a college town and so a day-trip to Cincinnati, which was a short fifty minute drive to the south, was arranged within the first few weeks of arriving on campus. It was the first of numerous trips I made to the Queen City during my two years as a student at Miami; on one of those I even toured the now closed Hudepohl Brewery.

Bill (left) and Mike (right), our highly informative and entertaining brewery tour guides

For the beer lover, Cincinnati is a wonderful place to visit. Not only does the city have some fantastic craft breweries but it also has a rich brewing history. On this particular visit my wife, daughter, and I decided to spend part of Saturday afternoon learning about some of this history by taking a tour of the city’s historic Over-the-Rhine brewery district. We opted for a one hour walking tour that was offered by the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (BDCURC).  The BDCURC was established by local residents in 2005 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It’s mission is to “make the Brewery District a healthy, balanced and supportive neighborhood economy by preserving, restoring and redeveloping our unique brewing history and historic urban fabric.” The tour started at the Rhinegeist Brewery on Elm Street. It was led by two volunteer guides, Bill and Mike. Mike, as it turned out, had a connection with the city I live in, Toledo, OH. He is a retired English teacher who completed his undergraduate education just down the road from Toledo, at Bowling Green State University. He had done his student teaching at McTigue Elementary School in Toledo. Mike and Bill’s tour was well-organized, did not involve too much walking, and was highly informative. The cost was $15, with the money being reinvested in the neighborhood; some of it going to help preserve historic brewery buildings.

The Over-the-Rhine District was settled by German immigrants. Overall, during the 1850s close to one million Germans arrived in America, making it the  peak decade for German immigration to the U.S. Not surprisingly, as was the case with migrants from other countries, the Germans tried to preserve many of their cultural values and traditions after they arrived in the United States. According to one commentator “when they settled, they often established German-speaking communities, setting up their own churches, schools, newspapers, and other institutions, and keeping their cultural traditions alive in the New World.” Many of the German immigrants settled in the industrial Midwest in cities like Milwaukee, WI, St. Louis, MO, and Cincinnati, OH. Indeed, such was the size of their German populations, these three cities comprised points on what was referred to as “the German triangle“.   By the end of the nineteenth century an estimated sixty percent of the Cincinnati’s population was of German heritage.

Preservation of cultural identity is easier when immigrants cluster together in space and interact on a daily basis at work and at home. In the case of Cincinnati, German immigrants settled primarily in what would become known as the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. According to Colin Woodard, contributing editor to Politico Magazine:

“By the 1870s it [Over-the-Rhine] was one of the densest neighborhoods in the Western Hemisphere, with German-speaking churches, German-language schools and newspapers, and a network of breweries built atop enormous beer cellars, themselves connected to taprooms and beer gardens by clandestine tunnels, built to circumvent city ordinances.”

The name, Over-the-Rhine was coined by locals who would visit Cincinnati’s German neighborhood. The Germans had settled in a part of the city which was close to the Miami and Erie Canal. Residents often referred to the canal as “the Rhine” and so crossing the canal to visit the German neighborhood became known as going “Over-the-Rhine”.

Italiante architecture in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The building on the left was a home for a member of the Christian Moerlein family while the one on the right served as office space for the brewey.
The old Cristian Moerlein bottling plant where our walking tour started

As we learned on our tour, the Over-the Rhine neighborhood is an architectural gem. It is one of the largest historic districts in the United States, boasting over 350 acres of densely-packed 19th century brick Italianate and German Revival buildings. We saw many of those buildings on our tour. These included buildings that had been homes to some of the Christian Moerlein family, as well as buildings that had served as offices for brewery operations. The Rhinegeist Brewery, where our tour started, was an old Christian Moerlein bottling plant. Christian Moerlin was a German immigrant who established a brewery in 1853. The Christian Moerlein Brewery was one of over three dozen breweries in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. It grew to be the largest brewery in Ohio and the fifth largest in the United States.

By the end of the nineteenth century Cincinnati breweries were producing over a million barrels of beer annually. Almost all of this beer was consumed by the local population, In 1893 forty gallons of beer were consumed for every man, woman  and child who lived in Cincinnati – this was two and a half times the national average. Cincinnati was home to over 1,800 saloons; one for every one hundred and sixty residents. The brewery workers themselves were huge consumers of beer, receiving free beer as a perk of the job. The volume of beer consumed by brewery workers was astonishing. Employees at the city’s Kaufmann Brewey, for example, typically drank 18 kegs of beer a day. This was an average of  35 glasses per worker.

The old Jackson Brewery – lagering tunnels are accessible via grey doors
Nineteenth century lagering tunnels under the old Jackson Brewery

A love of beer was one of the cultural traditions that the German immigrants brought with them to the United States. Up until around 1840 American beer was dominated by ales, which are darker beers made with top-fermenting yeast. Ales were popular in the United Kingdom and had been brought to the Americas by the first British immigrants. In contrast, in Germany, lager was the preferred beer style. Unlike ales, lagers are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast. Lager yeast was introduced into the United States in 1840 by a German immigrant by the name of John Wagner. Wagner, who was from Bavaria, arrived in Philadelphia, PA, and used the yeast to brew lager for his friends and neighbors. He gave some of the yeast to a fellow brewer, John Manger, who then opened a brewery in Philadelphia . One of the key differences between between ales and lagers is that, as part of the brewing process, the latter undergo what is termed cold conditioning. During this cold conditioning stage, which may last anywhere between four and ten weeks, the beer is stored at a temperature between 33 and 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Indeed the term lager is a German word meaning to store. So the process of lagering is that of storing the beer. During lagering some of harsh flavors that result from the fermentation process are mellowed. Prior to the advent of refrigeration, breweries would lager their beer in lagering tunnels that were located underneath the brewery. These tunnels provided an environment that was cooler than above-ground storage facilities. As part of our tour we visited the lagering tunnels of Cincinnati’s old Jackson Brewery. The Jackson Brewery was open for thirty-two years, between 1887 and 1919.

Patrons enjoying a beer at Rhinegeist Brewery

The walking tour finished where it had started, at the Rhinegeist Brewery. Back at Rhinegeist we were given a tour of that brewery’s facilities. Rhinegeist is a relative newcomer to the craft brewing landscape, having been founded in 2013. In that short time it has experienced phenomenal growth; in 2016 Rhinegeist brewed fifty-seven thousand barrels of beer.  The name Rhinegeist translates as “ghost of the Rhine”. It seems an appropriate name for a brewery that is (a) housed in an nineteenth century bottling plant and (b) is a key player in the brewing renaissance that is occurring in Cincinnati. In addition to Rhinegeist I also enjoyed a beer at Rivertown Brewery and Madtree Brewing Company on this visit to Cincinnati.  On a previous trip back in February I had lunch at the brewery Taft’s Ale House.  All the breweries were full of young people enjoying the fruits of the brewer’s labor. Today’s brewing landscape in Cincinnati is quite different than it was in the nineteenth century. The breweries are more geographically dispersed and are producing a much greater variety of beer styles than their nineteenth century counterparts. But there is no question that locally brewed beer in Cincinnati, as in almost every other American city, is back in vogue. To that I say “Prost”.

Further Reading:

Stephens, Sarah. 2010. Cincinnati’s Brewing History. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

Morgan, Michael D. 2010. Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King. Charleston, SC: The History Press.

 

 

 

Moses’ Acquittal

Jackie Robinson is famous in the world of sport for being the first African-American, in the twentieth century, to play Major League baseball. Robinson’s first professional game occurred on April 15, 1947 when he played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers were the only Major League team for whom Robinson played; his final game for them was on October 10, 1956. Among other achievements Robinson was named Major League Rookie of the Year in 1947, chosen as the National League MVP in 1949, and won the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955.

Advertisement for the Blue Stockings vs. Eclipse game that appeared in Louisville’s Journal-Courier newspaper on May 1, 1884

Robinson was not the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, however. On May 1, 1884, sixty-three years before Robinson played his first game for the Dodgers, a twenty-six year old African-American made his Major League debut. His name was Moses Fleetwood Walker and he turned out for the Toledo Blue Stockings in a game against the Louisville Eclipse. The game, in which Fleetwood played catcher, took place at Eclipse Park in Louisville, KY. ; the Eclipse won 5-1.

Moses Fleetwood Walker (back row center) and the 1884 Toledo Blue Stockings team

The Toledo Blue Stockings were established, as a minor league team, in 1883. That year they played in the Northwestern League, which they  also managed to win. In 1884 the Blue Stockings joined the American Association. The American Association was an alternative professional baseball league to the National League. The Blue Stockings lasted just one season in the Major Leagues (finishing eighth out of thirteen teams)  and in 1885 were back in the minors, before being disbanded at the end of that season. They played their games at League Park which was located on a city block in downtown Toledo; the block being bounded by Monroe Street, 15th Street, Jefferson Avenue, and 13th Street. This meant that League Park was located just a few blocks northwest of the Fifth Third Field, where the present-day Toledo MudHens currently play.

Moses Fleetwood Walker Ohio Historical Marker

Walker was born in Mount Pleasant, OH on October 7, 1856. He was the third-born son of Moses W. Walker and Caroline O’Harra Walker. In 1879 the Walker family moved to Steubenville, OH and it was probably here that Moses first played baseball. In 1877 Moses enrolled as a student at Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH) where he played catcher and lead-off hitter for the Oberlin College prep team. In 1888 Oberlin fielded its first varsity baseball team, of which Walker was a member. In the final game of the season Oberlin defeated the Univetsity of Michigan, 9-2; so impressed were Michigan with Walker’s performance that they invited him to join their team. So Walker transferred to the University of Michigan in 1882, where he spent his junior year studying Law and playing baseball. The  following year he decided to not return to Michigan, opting instead to sign for the Toledo Blue Stockings. And it was with the Blue Stockings that Walker made history when he became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.

An excerpt of the letter warning the Toledo Blue Stockings not to play Walker in their game against the Richmond Virginians appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer.

As an African-American it is perhaps not surprising to learn that, during his career, Walker faced opposition because of the color of his skin. There were a number of times when opposition players and managers objected to his playing against them. For example, on September 5, 1884 prior to a visit to Richmond, VA Charlie Morton, manager of the Toledo Blue Stockings, received a letter from the Richmond Virginians which contained the following:

Dear Sir: We the undersigned, do hereby warn you not to put up Walker, the Negro catcher, the evenings that you play in Richmond, as we could mention the names of 75 determined men who have sworn to mob Walker if he comes to the ground in a suit. We hope you will listen to our words of warning, so that there will be no trouble: but if you do not, there certainly will be. We only write this to prevent much blood shed, as you alone can prevent.

As it was Walker was released by the Blue Stockings prior to the trip to Richmond and so this particular situation never came to a head. After being released by Toledo, Walker bounced around from one minor league team to another before finally retiring from the game in 1889.

Richard Reed’s painting of Moses Fleetwood Walker inside Fleetwood’s Taproom
Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theatre put on a play about Walker’s murder trial

Although not from Toledo, it was in Toledo that Walker made history. And it is a history of which an growing number of Toledoeans are increasingly aware. And beer is playing a part in this increased awareness of Walker. In April 2016 a new bar opened in downtown Toledo. In honor of Walker, it is called Fleetwood’s Tap Room. It is a bar with a craft beer focus and Fleetwood’s menu includes over one hundred craft beers. One of these beers is called Moses’ Acquital, a Brown Ale brewed exclusively for the tap room by the nearby Black Cloister Brewing Company. The brew is the creation of Black Cloister’s Head Brewmaster Shannon Fink. The name of the beer refers to an event that has its beginnings in Syracuse, NY in April 1891. Walker was walking home from a bar when he was challenged by a group of white men. Words were exchanged, Walker drew a knife, and killed a man by the name of Patrick Murray. Walker was tried for second degree murder; the jury, which was all white, acquitted him; hence the name of the beer.  Interestingly, in 2015 a Chicago theatre, the Black Ensemble Theater, told the story of Walker’s trial in a play. Titled The Trial of Moses “Fleetwood” Walker, the play was met with acclaim from a number of theatre critics, with one describing it as a “brave, honest, and powerful drama”.

Island Sanctuary for the Ghost of Moses

Inside Fleetwood’s Taproom there is a painting of Walker that was done by local artist Richard Reed. The artwork in Fleetwoods is not the only image of Walker you will see in Toledo. There is a wall mural in downtown Toledo that bears his image. Completed  in October 2015, it is the work of artists Natalie Lanese and Douglas Kampfer and is called Island Sanctuary for the Ghost of Moses. The mural, at 19 St. Clair’s Streer, is about a block from Fifth Third Field, home of the MudHens.  Walker is the central figure in the mural, which also includes other Toledo-related content such as the city’s High Level Bridge and Mud Hens among the rushes.

In March of this year the Ohio House of Representatives voted 92-0 to designate October 7 (Walker’s birthday) as ‘Moses Fleetwood Walker Day’ throughout the state of Ohio. It still has to be approved by the Senate and the Governor. But if it is, and hopefully it will, this will be a fitting tribute to a great Ohioan.

Further Reading:

Zang, David W. 1995. Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer. Omaha, NE; University of Nebraska Press.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to my friend and colleague Peggy Gripshover of Western Kentucky University for providing me with old newspaper articles about Moses Fleetwood Walker.

The Upside of Nano Brewing

A few weeks ago I visited a new brewery. Upside Brewing is, according to Google Maps, 9.4 miles from my house. The brewery is located in Sylvania, OH, a suburb of Toledo. Upside opened in September 2016. You’d think that The Beer Professor would know about the opening of a new brewery so close to his home but I did not know of its existence until about a month ago when I read this article in The Toledo Blade. Shame on me, but from what I can tell the brewery opened up without a great deal of fanfare. The Sylvania Advantage had ran a story back in May 2016 about the upcoming opening of the city’s first brewery. But I do not read the suburban community’s newspaper that comes out twice a month.

Upside Brewing is a nano brewery inside J&G Pizza Palace in Sylvania, OH

Upside Brewing is located inside J&G Pizza Palace on Sylvania’s Main Street. J&G’s has been part of the Sylvania landscape since 1971; its current owners, the Dallas family, took over the business in 1979. Along with my wife and two friends I visited J&Gs on a Saturday evening. The place was packed; we waited forty-five minutes for a table. Such waits, especially on a Saturday night, are not unusual apparently. Having been around for over thirty-five years this pizza joint has a loyal customer base; plus it has a relatively small seating capacity. As we stood at the front of the restaurant waiting for our table I watched pizzas being made; many of which were picked up by customers for home consumption – J&Gs was doing a brisk take-out trade.

Upside Brewing is inside J&G Pizza Palace

The evening we were there J&Gs had four of its own beers on draft – Palace Cream Ale, Division Street IPA, Ten Mile Amber Brown Ale, and Bavaricana Witbier. The also had one guest tap – Sunshine Daydream Session Ale from Fat Head’s Brewery in Cleveland, OH. I opted for the Palace Cream Ale with my pizza. The beers are brewed onsite by Nick Dallas, son of owners Mark and Jill Dallas. Dallas  started homebrewing a little over five years ago and now uses a one-barrel brewing system to make J&G’s beers.

Upside falls into the category of a nano brewery. There is no official definition of what constitutes a nano brewery although the generally accepted definition is a brewery that uses a three-barrel brewing system or smaller. Nano breweries produce small amounts of beer. For example, Vine Park Brewing Company in St. Paul, MN brew only six to eight gallons per month.

Nano breweries have a number of advantages over their larger peers. First, they are relatively inexpensive to start and operate. Start-up costs are generally somewhere in the five figures. According to Mark Garrison, a writer for Slate, nano breweries provide “an opportunity for skilled homebrewers to dip a toe into the commercial market, without having to find investors or take on crushing debt to secure the kind of funding required to start a microbrewery or brew pub.” This is especially the case when the nano brewery is an add-on to an existing successful business, as is the case with Upside Brewing. If a nano brewery does have plans to grow, however, a couple of years as a successful nano brewery strengthens the position of the brewer when he or she goes seeking investment to expand.

Long Island Oyster Stout – one of the beers brewed by The Blind Bat Brewery

The small size of nano breweries affords brewers with a lot of latitude to experiment, which is good news for beer drinkers looking for new innovative brews. As noted by Derek Pettie, writing in Beer West, “nano breweries are able to experiment at will because of the low stakes and freedom to, well, brew whatever they want.”  Paul Dlugokencky, owner of of Blind Bat Brewery in Long Island, NY stated “I brew what I’m interested in drinking, as well as what I think might be interesting to brew. At my size, I can afford to take a chance on what might be considered to be an odd or weird beer. Commercial appeal [hasn’t] been a factor in anything I’ve brewed.” A nano brewery allows brewers  to test the market for their beers, while developing a customer base. This reduces the risk should they decide to scale-up and invest in a larger brewing system. Nano breweries also tend to get to know their customers fairly well. According to Tony Ammendolia of Final Gravity Brewing Company in Richmond VA, “being as small as we are allows us to have face-to-face interaction with all of our customers, since the only place you can get our beer is in our tasting room.” Indeed a couple of years as a successful nano brewery strengthens the position of the brewer when he or she goes to seek investment to expand.

Three different models of nano breweries have been identified:

1. Proof of concept. These are started by brewers who have plans for larger scale breweries. However, they refuse to or do not have the capital to invest in a larger brewery. They use the nano brewery to test the market for their beer. One example of such a brewery is 56 Brewing of Minneapolis, MN. They started out in a 700 square foot space in the northeast of the city in 2014. They very quickly outgrew this space and in 2016 vacated it to move to a larger facility. Starting out small, however, proved to be a smart business move according to 56’s co-owner Kerry Johnson. Commenting about their growth strategy Johnson noted that “starting small and building our reputation is a huge asset.” The space that 56 moved into in 2014 had previously been occupied by NorthGate Brewing who, in a similar fashion, vacated it when the space was no longer large enough. After 56 moved out another nano- brewery, Broken Clock Brewing, moved in and are now brewing there.

Chris Harris, owner of The Black Frog Brewery in Toledo, OH

2. Second income. In these cases passionate homebrewers want the best of both worlds – to run a brewery while maintaining the security afforded them by their regular jobs. While keeping their day jobs these individuals brew in the evening or on their days off. The Black Frog Brewey in Toledo, OH is an example of such a brewery. Owner and brewer Chris Harris works full time as a claims representative for the Social Security Administration. His brew days are Wednesday and Sunday,  while the Black Frog taproom is open on a Friday and a Saturday.

3. Add-ons to existing restaurant pubs. Many restaurant owners recognize the value of brewing their own beer on-site and adding it to their menu. Lack of space means that a nano set-up is ideal. Upside Brewing is an example of this model. To some extent this is a low risk approach as the brewery is being added to what is hopefully an already successful business. There is a built-in potential customer base and, as long as there is space to add the brewing equipment there is no additional outlay needed to acquire space.

It was the Austrian economist Leopold Kohr who championed the idea that small is beautiful- if you want to see evidence of the efficacy of this idea look no further than your nearest nano-brewery.

Black Swamp, Black Frog, Black Cloister

There are five breweries in the city I call home, Toledo, OH. Three of these have one thing in common; they all have the word Black in their name; Great Black Swamp Brewing Company, Black Frog Brewery, and Black Cloister Brewing Company. Despite this Continue reading Black Swamp, Black Frog, Black Cloister

The Columbus Ale Trail

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Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus – one of the breweries on the Columbus Ale Trail
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The Columbus Ale Trail Passport

I was in Columbus, OH a few weeks ago. I was there for a couple of conferences – CEOs for Cities and Data Driven ’16. While my days were spent listening to presentations my evenings were free. My colleague Margie, who arrived in Columbus before me, picked up a small booklet titled
Columbus Ale Trail. It is a pocket-sized, passport-type, booklet that contains information on the twenty-eight breweries that comprise the Columbus Ale Trail. The basic idea is that as you visit an establishment on the trail you get a stamp verifying your visit. Visit four establishments and you receive a complimentary ale trail beer glass (shaker style); visit all twenty-eight and you get a complimentary pack of ale trail playing cards. While most of the breweries on the trail are located in the city of Columbus there are a few that are to be found in outlying communities such as Westerville Continue reading The Columbus Ale Trail

Buy Me, I’m Local

I'm Local - a six-pack of Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale from Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, MI
I’m Local – a six-pack of Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale from Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, MI

I was in my local Kroger grocery store last week. Those of you who are Facebook friends with me will know it as Scary Kroger (yes people have been shot in the parking lot). I pretty much follow the same pattern winding my way through the aisles every time I go there. The last aisle I usually wander down is the one with beer in it. I do not buy much beer from Kroger but always like to check out what they have to offer. Last time I was there I noticed that a number of beers had the words “I’m Local” next to or incorporated into the price tag. Kroger have been using these “I’m Local” designations for quite some time but I never paid much attention to them before. So noticing them got me thinking – what does it mean for a beer (or any Continue reading Buy Me, I’m Local

Rose of Shannon: A Conversation with Shannon Fink

While archaeologists are confident that the brewing of beer occurred in ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around 3,500 BC there is some evidence that people living in the same region were quite possibly brewing beer as early as 10,000 BC. In these
ancient societies brewing was a task performed by women. In medieval Europe and colonial America much of the beer that was consumed was produced in the home, with Continue reading Rose of Shannon: A Conversation with Shannon Fink

The Black Cloister: Challenges, Creativity, and The Future – A Conversation with Tom Schaeffer

The Black Cloister Brewing Company opened its doors for business in downtown Toledo one year ago today. An anniversary, particularly a first one, provides an opportunity to reflect upon the past and think about the future. With this in mind I sat down with Black Cloister’s CEO and Founder Tom Schaeffer. I wanted to chat with him about the ups and Continue reading The Black Cloister: Challenges, Creativity, and The Future – A Conversation with Tom Schaeffer

Norwalk This Way: Back To The Barley Future

In the 1840s, newspapers in Norwalk, Ohio, published numerous advertisements for breweries begging farmers to sell the beer makers more malting barley. Today, over 170 years later, Norwalk home brewers and craft brewers alike could make the same largely
unanswered request. In fact, in most places in the U.S., local malting barley production does meet the needs of beer makers. The same could be said for hops, but that is a story for another blog entry. Continue reading Norwalk This Way: Back To The Barley Future