Former scientists, stay-at-home dads celebrate two years of DogBerry Brewery
What do you get when you take two former scientists and give them an open garage, some brewing equipment, and the task of being stay-at-home dads?
The answer: A successful brewery that is expanding more quickly than the founders could have imagined.
In 2014, co-founders Chris Frede and Tony Meyer opened DogBerry Brewing (7865 Cincinnati Dayton Rd) in West Chester, Ohio, a suburb just north of Cincinnati.
The two met years ago at work, where they served as research assistants specializing in vaccines for infectious diseases at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. After they left, each for different reasons, Frede joined in on Meyer’s homebrewing hobby.
“It started in our kitchens, then took over basements and my garage,” said Meyer. “Once we started realizing that people were willing to pay for it and (non-family members) really liked the beer when they didn’t have to, we thought maybe it was time to give it a shot.”
They named the place DogBerry, a combination of each of their street names—Dog Leg Court and Twinberry Court.
“When we met at work, we would go out and drink different beers, try different styles. When I started staying home with the kids, (I thought) what’s going to happen when they go back into school and I can get back into the work force?” said Frede. “I knew he had done homebrewing and I was like, why don’t we try making beer?”
It started as a hobby, Frede said. About once a week, they’d brew a new batch to see what happened. Many of the beers were great, but like many starting brewers, others flopped.
“It was a hobby that got out of control,” said Meyer.
The place has a friendly atmosphere for parents who have kids to come, too, with school desk chairs, a dartboard, and coloring pages scattering some of the walls.
On the right side of the brewery, an entire wall features Meyer’s collection of bottles and cans of beers he’s tried—about 1,000 are on display, and that’s not even half of what he has.
This Sunday marks two years that they’ve been open to the public, and they don’t have plans to stop.
The duo is expanding to a 10-barrel brewhouse on Crescent Park Drive with plans to open in late February or early March.
“We thought maybe (expansion) would happen, but certainly not within the first two years…we thought maybe after three, four, five years we’d be looking into it,” said Meyer.
While they’ll still be in West Chester, they hope the new facility will allow for more beer, more free time on their end, and more customers (their current parking lot is about 50-by-80 feet, enough to hold eight or nine cars).
Within the first day of opening, Meyer said all four lanes of traffic across the street were stopped with people parking elsewhere and running through the busy roads to make it into the brewery.
The influx of customers was surprising, as the two lack experience in marketing, sales or business. Although they’ve had mentors helping them out, the success is largely due to the two figuring it out along the way.
Meyer said he believes DogBerry was largely successful because of the expanding craft beer industry, the demographics in West Chester, and the lack of craft breweries in the area.
“It’s an honor that people like something that we have created, and that we stand here and make,” said Frede. “We make 31 gallons of something, and people show up, and it’s available Thursday and gone by Saturday night.”
They are constantly rotating their tap handles, but you can almost always expect to find some of their most popular beers on tap.
Undone is one of their most popular, a 6.1% single-hop citrus IPA. They also have found a lot of success in their Bray’s Brown, a 5.8% brown ale. They have a beer named after each one of their kids—like Reagy Rye, Caroline’s Cozy Christmas, or Nat’s Nightcap stout, and also name several with baseball references, such as Turnin’ Two IPA, a homage to a double play in baseball and a nod to their use of American 2-row malt.
Eclipse Craft Beer Hall opening in Athens
Athens may soon have another reason to become Ohio’s bike and brew destination hot spot.
Eclipse Company Store Craft Beer Hall will open to the public on March 14. The space will feature 45 taps—40 for craft beer, and five for craft sodas. Many of these will be from Ohio, with a small portion set aside for international and other national beers.
Eight of the taps will be outside and available for use in the warmer months. The hall will also feature its own locally sourced burger-heavy menu, including turkey and vegetarian burgers.
“In Germany, they have these beer halls—bigger buildings, larger ceilings, a big area where people all sit together, enjoying music and drinking beer. We’re trying to replicate that a little bit,” said Sean Kiser, owner of the hall. “It’s an ode to people doing the brewery, so instead of doing our own beer, we’re kind of highlighting everyone else’s beer.”
On opening day, visitors can come for lunch starting at 11am and participate in the grand opening at 5pm, when Deschutes Brewery out of Oregon will take over five taps. They will also have a representative present to pass out samples and talk about the beers.
Eclipse is located along Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, a path that runs through Hocking College, Athens and The Plains. This makes it one of many places to stop in for a craft beer along the path, including Jackie O’s Taproom, Devil’s Kettle Brewing, Little Fish Brewing Company and West End Ciderhouse, which is located a block and a half off the path. Parking is also available at Eclipse.
Once known as a Hocking Coal Mining Town, the 127-year-old building and surrounding area have a rich history. The largest building, known as the Company Store, served as a pay station and general store for the miners. The company town sat atop Eclipse Mine, the reason for its name today.
Next month, the venue will be home to live music events and beer talks. Kiser hopes to, eventually, open up a pedal cab system to make transportation to and from the bike path breweries accessible to more people.
Kiser also owns Kiser’s Barbeque and Shop Athens Ohio. Despite his full plate—and being a non-drinker himself—he knows how to run a business.
“The craft beer world right now is just exploding throughout the state of Ohio and the nation,” Kiser said. “We’ll always have different beers coming in and off the tap so it won’t always be the same beer.”
He and Brandon Lackey, who will be the general manager of Eclipse, have a history of working together, dating back to when they worked at Buffalo Wild Wings together several years ago.
“We just got these pool tables in and played a game of pool and I told Brandon, ‘This is crazy, man. When we were in school shooting pool, I’d never even thought about it back then, owning a bar or a place like this,’” said Kiser. “I’m glad Kiser’s Barbecue was able to do well and cement itself in the community, and I’m hoping to do the same here.”
While Eclipse used to be rented out as a wedding venue and event space, it wasn’t until holding a spur-of-the-moment Memorial Day concert at the space that Kiser and Lackey realized the potential for the beer hall.
“We decided what the heck, we’ll have a concert on Monday just to see what happens. We were expecting maybe 50 to 100 people, and it ended up turning into this huge event,” said Lackey. “It just reinforced our idea and we were like, ‘why aren’t we doing this every day?’”
In short, Kiser said he hopes opening Eclipse will be like Ohio Brew Week, every day.
“We want to highlight what the craft is of making craft beer,” Kiser said. “We’ve been working closely with other breweries in Athens and the Visitor’s Bureau to not just say ‘come here,’ but ‘come here and experience Athens breweries.”
Small space, big flavor: Multiple Brewing opens in Nelsonville
Opening a brewery isn’t easy. It’s even harder to open one in a small town, when many locals, unfamiliar with craft beer, say their beer of choice is Bud Light.
But high school sweethearts and husband and wife co-founders Jason and Michelle Warren saw opportunity in Nelsonville, Ohio; they opened the doors to Multiple Brewing on Nov. 6.
Nelsonville, a city in Athens County, is home to just 5,400 people. And Multiple Brewing fits right in to this tiny town — it is Ohio’s smallest brewery at only 1,100 square feet.
“We’re on a single barrel system, so everything we do is like cooking a big pot of soup,” said Jason. “I think us being so small makes us like a Ma-and-Pa restaurant, like a home-cooked meal.”
The Warrens expect to get craft beer-loving crowds making the 30-mile trek from the Lancaster area or the 15-mile trek from Athens. They’ve already seen hikers come down from Hocking Hills to give the place a try.
Converting the locals to craft beer, however, is a more daunting task. It’s Nelsonville’s first brewery since Hock Hocking Brewery opened in 1906, which closed twelve years later due to Prohibition.
And although their initial surveys showed locals interested in light beers, their porters and stouts have been the most popular, particularly the 6.4% Rational Rye Porter. Jason also recently released a 6.1% Volume Robust Porter, which Michelle describes as smelling “boozy,” but tasting smooth, nutty and chocolatey.
“We’d ask around the different styles what people would like, and most of them was like, ‘Well I like Bud Light.’ That was all the response. So that’s when we decided ‘Okay, we’re going to go light beers and light hops’—and then all of a sudden, everybody’s drinking porters and stouts,” said Jason.
He added that many non-craft drinkers typically enjoy the light Absolute Clementine, a 5.7% pale ale made with clementine rinds and fresh juice.
Jason and Michelle reside in Columbus with a 9-year-old son and a Great Dane Mix puppy (who was very excited about the interview and insisted on being pet). Michelle mans the brewery during the week while Jason works 45 hours a week, coming to Nelsonville to brew on Saturdays.
While they looked into spaces in Columbus, they found that Nelsonville, home to much of Jason’s family, best fit their business model of starting small and slowly growing—no investors and no loans.
This wasn’t without struggle.
Because of paperwork and filings, (Jason strongly advises future brewery-openers to get familiar with dealing with government officials), the grand opening was about six months later than originally anticipated.
This meant that they had to make ends meet; at one point, they sold their cars for needed money.
“This was Jason’s dream. I want to see him succeed. This was literally our blood, sweat and tears put into this. It was work,” said Michelle.
Jason cited many specific laws around opening a brewery that proved difficult; because of laws stating that beer must be sold in a separate room from where brewing equipment is, he had to build a cooler from scratch out of a room.
He also had to improvise when they found that Nelsonville water was full of chloramine and “all kinds of components” that he has to buffer out to reduce unwanted flavors in the beer.
“We pretty much boil the water before we brew to sterilize it and get it to scratch, then we build the water profile from there,” said Jason, who home brewed for ten years before opening Multiple Brewing.
This experience has been worth it to create a variety of beers on tap. The Warrens aim to keep a Variable single-hop IPA on tap, changing the hop with each new batch. They also offer an Obtuse Chris, an approachable, American amber ale. The names of the beers reflect the theme of Multiple Brewing—math.
“Jason was like, ‘What would you name a brewery if you ever opened one?’ And we were just playing around, because breweries always have themes, and I was like ‘I like math, I would name it multiple, and then come up with math terms and stuff as the (beer) names,” said Michelle, adding that she went to school for education to teach fourth through ninth grade math, and Jason had worked pharmaceuticals for almost ten years. “When we came around to actually starting to do it, he was like ‘What if we just take that name you did and spun with it?’ So that’s what we did.”
Multiple Brewing is open 4-9 Wednesday and Friday and 1-9 Saturday this week for Thanksgiving. From then on, it will be closed Sunday through Wednesday and open 4-9 Thursday and Friday and 1-9 Saturday.
Jackie O’s to hold largest ever bottle release
Fans of Jackie O’s Brewery may want to consider making the trek to Athens the first weekend of the New Year — on Friday, January 6, Jackie O’s will hold their largest ever bottle release in celebration of their 11 year anniversary.
The bottle release begins at 11am at the Taproom (25 Campbell St.), and people are welcome to get in line prior to the opening. While waiting in line, patrons can enjoy 16 Jackie O’s drafts, including a variety of barrel-aged and sour beers.
Last year was the first year Jackie O’s held a large bottle release at the Taproom, and because they were under construction at the time, many patrons had to wait outside in the cold. Because the expansion is well underway, there will be room for everyone to wait inside the heated Production Brewery.
The release usually wraps up by 5pm on Friday, but party-goers are welcome to stay until the Taproom closes at 9pm. The party will continue at the Public House & Brewery (22 and 24 West Union St), where 48 Jackie O’s specialty beers, including new varieties, will be featured on tap.
“We are most looking forward to spending time with so many of our awesome return bottle customers,” said Sophia Karageorge, event coordinator for Jackie O’s. “We are also looking forward to meeting new customers and celebrating 11 years of hard work with everyone that has shown us so much support and allowed us to all do what we love.”
Jackie O’s has not yet announced the exact number of bottles and styles that will be available, but Karageorge says this information will be posted to their Facebook event prior to the Extravaganza.
Takeaways from Ohio University’s brewers panel
Entrepreneurs from five Ohio breweries, distilleries and cider houses participated in a panel with Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Among these were Bobby Slattery, co-owner of Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing; Jason and Michelle Warren of Nelsonville’s Multiple Brewing; Jimmy Stockwell, co-owner of Athens’ Little Fish Brewing Company, and Kelly Sauber, co-owner of Athens’ West End Cider House and Meigs’ Fifth Element Spirits.
The panel comes at an important time for craft brewers. According to one 2016 Ohio Craft Brewers List, the number of craft breweries has grown from about 25 to 119 in the past few years. In June, Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 37, eliminating Ohio’s 12 percent ABV limit for beer. This action alone opened up the freedom for brewers to create bolder and more flavorful recipes.
At the panel, micro-brewers discussed what it means to be a craft brewer today. As the industry booms, some fear that the craft brewing “bubble” will burst, and the excitement of the culture will wear off in a few years.
“People have always asked me, for the last five years, ‘When’s the bubble going to burst?’” said Slattery, who had such a large demand at the beginning of Fifty West’s opening that they could barely keep up with brewing and eventually opened more tanks in a building across the street. “It’s not like (eventually) all these breweries are going to go away. There’s going to be different types of them. Some will succeed in some areas, and some will succeed in others.”
Slattery said that he had to find ways to make Fifty West stand out. Waiting longer than other Cincinnati breweries to begin packaging their beer, he said, was a strategic move.
“We had a strategy when we opened, but we didn’t think big enough. All these breweries were coming in the market, and they all started going into package. The easy answer was to roll out packaging,” Slattery said. “But we were like: how will that make us any different than anyone else? We’re going to be draft only…when we finally roll it out, people are going to be asking for it. They’ll want it.”
The brewers also discussed the pros and cons of using local ingredients. Kelly Sauber, who owns both a cidery and a distillery near Athens County, said that when he was a brewer, it was almost impossible to use all local ingredients. Making cider was much easier to go fully local, although more expensive.
“Is it worth it? Yes,” Sauber said. “I think the quality of the product shines through with the flavor profile.”
Jimmy Stockwell of Little Fish Brewing Company echoed the importance of local ingredients, and also touched on being a smaller brewery in Athens, where Jackie O’s Brewery’s business is booming.
“You’re there to build friendships and relationships more than (you are to) drink beer…although that’s part of it,” he said with a laugh. “But we were content to be a little fish inside this growing brewing industry.”
Jason and Michelle Warren, who are content with owning Ohio’s smallest brewery at only 1,100 square feet, talked about the importance of community within the craft brewing industry, no matter where that community is.
“A lot of times we feel that breweries are trying to out-hop each other; we try to focus on balance,” Jason said. “Nelsonville is low income. It’s small. We thought we could develop it into a craft beer community…we didn’t want to become the next Stone.”