Jon Newberry is the co-founder of the Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Co. He and his wife Betsy revived the iconic Cincinnati-area brand a few years ago as a contract brew and they are now opening a brewery and tasting room in St. Bernard on Tuesday. (June 26)
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: Well that’s a deceptively simple question with a complicated answer. Mainly, I became a brewer because I love to drink good beer, and making the kind of beer I like is a great way to ensure it’s always in supply.
On another level, my wife Betsy and I decided to revive the Wiedemann’s Fine Beer brand because the opportunity to do so presented itself, and it was too good to pass up. We figured we could make a lot of great beer … and maybe a lot of money, too … and do something really good by restoring this historic Cincinnati-area beer to its proper place in the world.
Betsy and I fell in love with all the tasty Bohemian lagers when we lived in Prague in the early 1990s, so it was a natural to revive Wiedemann’s flagship Bohemian Special Brew as an authentic Bohemian-style lager.
Q: What has been the highlight of your brewing career so far and why was it so special? (Maybe it’s been a beer that you brewed, an award that you won, an idol you’ve met …)
A: Working with and becoming friends with Dan Listermann, the godfather of Cincinnati’s beer revival.
Q: How difficult — or easy — has it been to revive an older brand?
A: It’s been as helluva lot harder than I ever imagined. Despite the enthusiastic support of tens of thousands of loyal Wiedemann’s fans in Cincinnati and all over the country, the system is really stacked against independent brewers in Kentucky, which is where we initially relaunched Wiedemann’s several years ago as a contract brew.
Now that we have our own brewery, taproom and beer garden in Ohio – where the laws are much more brewer-friendly — we’re expecting great things. And we’ve already got seven great things on tap, with more in the tanks and many more to come from Steve Shaw and Austin Smith.
Q: What’s your best-selling beer and why do you think it’s so popular?
A: Our best-selling beers to date have been our Bohemian Special Lager and Royal Amber, two beers that Wiedemann’s made for many decades and sold all over the country. They are flavorful, sessionable beers that encourage you to have more than one, maybe quite a few.
I think a lot of beer drinkers are turning to lower-alcohol, refreshing beers that they can drink more of without over-doing it. In Bohemia and Bavaria, drinking beer is an everyday part of enjoying life, family and good friends – that’s what we’re trying to bring back. And that’s what we mean by our tagline “Let’s Get Together!”
Q: Which beer – any beer in the world – do you wish that you created/brewed and why?
A: Prazan Holesovice, a Bohemian light lager that was brewed by a brewery in Prague near where we lived in the Kobylisy neighborhood. It was a 10-degree beer – relatively low ABV of about 4% – the kind Czechs drink all day long. (They also made a 12-degree version that was just as good.) It was a great beer that brings back so many magical memories of the people we met in Prague. I can only hope that on some level we can do something like that for people who stop in at the Wiedemann Brewery and try our beers. That’s really what “beer culture” is all about. http://www.pivovary.info/historie/pa/holesovice.htm.
Editor’s note: The Five questions with … appears each Friday. If you would like to participate or would like to nominate someone to participate, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some interesting Ohio-related beer stories (because I can’t write them all):
— Columbus Business First reports on Parsons North Brewing Co. opening in Columbus. “We just want to make quality beer,” co-founder Seth Draeger says. “If you think you don’t like beer, we want to find you one you will like. ‘I don’t like beer, but I like this,’ is a great compliment.” To read the full story, click here.
— The Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Co. is opening its new brewery and taproom Tuesday (June 26) in St. Bernard. “I think people will find it a good atmosphere to lay back, relax and enjoy some really good beer,” founder Jon Newberry tells the Cincinnati Business Courier. You can check out all the stories about the new operation here: Cincinnati Business Courier, Cincinnati.com, WCPO, WLWT and CityBeat.
— The Columbus Dispatch reports that Actual Brewing Co. is set to open its new Clintonville brewpub. To read the full story, click here.
— Cleveland.com reports that changes are coming for the 2018 Cleveland Beer Week. The biggest change is that Brewzilla — the big beer fest that traditionally ended the week but disappeared two years ago — is returning. To read the full story, click here.
— Columbus Alive reports that the ComFest, which runs June 22-24, will feature local beers from Four String and Columbus this year. “Building community has always been the focus of the festival, so this is a natural progression,” Kevin Brammer, ComFest Libations Committee co-chair, says. “This highlights our commitment to supporting local entrepreneurs, and brings the quality craftsmanship of local brewers to ComFest’s diverse community.” To read the full story, click here.
— The Associated Press reports that an Ohio-based glass company Owens-Illinois Inc. is closing a Georgia bottling plant because people are drinking less beer and when they are drinking, they are opting for cans. To read the full story, click here.
The festival will showcase more than 30 breweries and wineries, along with food trucks and live entertainment.
The following breweries are slated to participate: Black Cloister, The Brew Kettle, The Brew Mentor, Brick & Barrel, Brim, Cleveland, Columbus, Cornerstone, Double Wing, Fat Head’s, Forest City, Goldhorn, Great Lakes, Hansa, Hofbrauhaus, Jackie O’s, Lager Heads, Lockport, Market Garden, Masthead, Millersburg, Platform, Rhinegeist, Royal Docks, Sibling Revelry, Thirsty Dog, Wild Ohio and Willoughby.
The event runs from 5 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $35 online or $45 at the door.
For more details, including a list of wineries and the musical entertainment, click here.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” Land-Grant co-founder Adam Benner said.
The Columbus brewery has been self-distributing in Central Ohio. The move will free up space at Land-Grant — known for beers such as Stiff Arm IPA and the special Sea-Grant, Space-Grant and Sun-Grant series — for additional fermenters to increase production and to further expand distribution in the Columbus market.
There’s also the potential for expanding outside Central Ohio in the future, Benner said, but there are no specific plans now to do so.
Land-Grant also plans to expand its quality control laboratory.
Columbus will take over Land-Grant’s wholesale distribution in Franklin County starting July 29.
Benner said the brewery selected Columbus because of its experience, expertise and focus on the Columbus market.
“As a family-owned Columbus business for 85 years, we look to partner with companies that are invested in the future of our shared community and want to build the success story that is Columbus, Ohio,” Columbus Distributing Vice President of Sales Erik Jenkins said in a prepared statement. “We admire Land-Grant’s charitable involvement and dedication to our community, and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of bringing these phenomenal beers to beer lovers all over Columbus.”
In other Land-Grant news, the brewery is converting a vacant lot next door into a 7,500-square-foot outdoor beer garden. People will be able to order beers in the beer garden, which should be operational next week, Benner said.
The Akron-based grocery chain has teamed up with Hoppin’ Frog Brewery to produce The California Turbo Shandy — a grape-infused lemon shandy that’s designed to replicate the taste of the famous California grape drinks served at local drive-ins Swensons and Skyway.
Of course, there is one big difference. This one has alcohol.
“It’s an awesome summer refreshing drink that’s near and dear to the hearts of Akron,” said Jon Albrecht, director of center store sales at Acme. “I remember going to local drive-ins as a kid and getting that drink and it reminds me of summer.”
Albrecht and Sara Marino, who oversees adult beverages for Acme, devised the idea while chatting with Fred Karm, the award-winning brewmaster and owner at Hoppin’ Frog.
Karm, who also had the drink as a kid, said it was fun replicating the California flavor, noting that it even has a purple hue.
The California, which is 7 percent alcohol by volume, will be sold in individual 16-ounce cans and retail for $4.99. It is expected to hit all 16 Acme stores next week (June 26) and be sold on draft at the Acme store in Montrose.
The beer, available through the summer, also will be available at the Hoppin’ Frog Tasting Room.
It’s the first time that Hoppin’ Frog has released a 16-ounce can.
But it’s not the first time that Acme has partnered with the Akron brewery on a shandy.
Acme and Hoppin’ Frog released a limited-edition grapefruit shandy called Five Freds’ Grapefruit Shandy to celebrate the grocery chain’s 125th anniversary in 2016. It was named after the four generations of Fred Albrechts who worked for Acme and Karm. That beer was sold in 22-ounce bottles.
Albrecht said it was an easy decision to team up again with Hoppin’ Frog given Karm’s reputation in the craft beer industry.
“When he stamps his name on a beer, the public knows it’s going to be great,” he said.
The celebration kicks off today (June 20) at the downtown Akron brewery and continues into Sunday.
The special activities and promotions include a raffle Thursday to brew alongside the head brewer; the owners picking up two tabs for lucky customers Friday; the release of a barley wine and saison on Saturday; and 25-cent hot dogs from Stray Dog on Sunday.
The groundbreaking will be followed by a reception at the Christian Moerlein Malthouse taproom, where the Brewing Heritage Trail store and gallery space are located.
The two-mile Brewing Heritage Trail winds its way through historic buildings and sites and features special signage, public art installations, digital experiences and guided tours. The first phase is being built this summer.
LeBron James just can’t catch a break from craft breweries.
A San Francisco brewery is piling on after the Golden State Warriors swept the Cavaliers in this year’s NBA championship.
Barebottle Brewing Co. has produced LeBron Tears, a 6.5 percent hazy IPA, to help celebrate the Warriors’ third title in four years over the Cavs.
“We took the tears from Sir James’ Game 1 loss and distilled them into a hazy IPA, just for you,” the brewery wrote on its Instagram page. “We also decided that Tears pair well with Mosaic hops. Sad!”
The beer is available only on draft at the brewery.
This isn’t the first time that King James has gotten some shade from the craft beer industry.
Cleveland breweries poked fun of the NBA superstar when he took his talents from Northeast Ohio to Miami several years back.
Anyone recall Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Quitness or the former Buckeye Brewing Co.’s Witless? Both beer names were a play off Nike’s Witness campaign.
Of course, not every craft brewery has teased James. Some have celebrated him.
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron was inspired to create King Gose Home, an imperial gose, when James decided to return to Cleveland after his stint in Miami.
Akronym Brewing, 58 E. Market St., Akron, has been open for a little while but the downtown brewery is holding a five-day grand opening celebration starting Wednesday.
The activities include raffling a chance to brew there on Thursday; the owners picking up two tabs on Friday; releases of a barley wine and a saison on Saturday; and 25-cent hot dogs from Stray Dog on Sunday.
For a full rundown of activities, check out the Akronym Facebook page.
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery, 1680 E. Waterloo Road, Akron, is celebrating the five-year anniversary of its Tasting Room this week.
The brewery tapped three special beers Monday: Blueberry Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale, 2017 Maple Whiskey Barrel-aged B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher and 2014 Gulden Fraug Belgian Ale.
Meanwhile, Killa Vanilla Extraordinary IPA was tapped Tuesday, while Cherry Barrel-Aged B.O.R.I.S. Van Wink will be released Thursday.
The brewery also is releasing a new menu this week as part of the celebration. It’s a little more upscale, founder and award-winning brewmaster Fred Karm said.
He’s happy that the Tasting Room has made it five years, saying he focused on creating a place that family and friends would enjoy.
“I figured that everyone else would like it, too,” he said.
Ohio State Fair winner
A Wayne County homebrewer took home the Best of Show runner-up award at this year’s Ohio State Fair Homebrew Competition.
Edward Mack, 62, of Marshallville, who’s a member of the Society of Akron Area Zymurgists (SAAZ), received the honor for Maple Red Ale in the alternative fermentables beer category. He made the beer with his son Eric.
“We all get lucky now and then,” joked Mack, who has been homebrewing since 1999.
Mack, a geologist by trade, runs a maple syrup farm and used his syrup to create the beer.
“The aroma and the flavor came through in this beer and it was a really nice beer,” he said.
He also noted that it was an extract brew.
“I’m kind of amazed that an extract brew would beat some of the fancy all-grain brews,” he said.
Craig Davis of Columbus won the Best of Show award. His “I Ain’t No Bmc,” a Czech-style premium pale lager, bested 538 other beers, meads and ciders entered. Davis is a member of the Scioto Olentangy Darby Zymurgists (SODZ) homebrewing club.
No Stark trail
The Lincoln Highway Ale Trail won’t begin this year after all.
The brewery passport program was supposed to kick off earlier this year and focus on Stark County breweries. But after some delays and brewers getting busy with other projects, organizers decided to scrap it for this year and focus on launching next year, said Jake Turner, the award-winning brewer at Maize Valley Brewery in Marlboro Township.
The trail — modeled after the successful Summit Brew Path in neighboring Summit County and named after the famous roadway that passes through Stark County — was set to feature all the breweries in the county: Canton, Fat Head’s, Maize Valley, Muskellunge, Paradigm Shift, Royal Docks, Sandy Springs and Shale. It also would include the nearby Lockport in Bolivar, Millersburg in Millersburg and JAFB Wooster in Wooster.
Canton beer tour
The Canton Craft Beer Tour is Saturday.
The tour, sponsored by the United Way of Greater Stark County’s Young Leaders Society, runs from noon to 6 p.m. and features Basil Asian Bistro, Grapes in a Glass, Canton Brewing Co., Street Side, George’s Lounge, Cultured Coffee & Waffles, Fronimo’s Downtown and Buzzbin Art & Music Shop.
The event works like this: Participants receive a wristband, a 4-ounce tasting glass, a T-shirt and map of participating locations. They can then visit the pubs at their own pace and sample special craft beers.
Proceeds benefit Young Leaders Society’s activities and community service projects such as Hoodies for the Holidays and Tiny Libraries. Last year’s event raised $4,300.
The brewery, which relocated from downtown Canton to nearby Jackson Township, will be open from 4 to 10 p.m. and have nine beers on draft.
“I’m pretty thrilled to have the beer on the faucets and ready to go out to customers rather than sitting in kegs,” brewer Jason Gasper-Hulvat said.
Shale previously operated a production brewery that wasn’t open to the public, meaning Shale fans had to go out and find the beer in the market. It was one of the few craft breweries in Ohio without its own tasting room.
The brewery, which distributes its beer on draft and in bottles, opted to move into space vacated by the former Scenic Brewing Co. at 7253 Whipple Ave. NW. But Gasper-Hulvat said people likely won’t even recognize the space because it has been renovated into a brewpub.
Shale also imported its 10-barrel system, as opposed to taking over the existing Scenic operation.
“Our business has no relationship with the former Scenic other than taking the space after they abandoned it,” Gasper-Hulvat said. “It’s more coincidental that a brewery was here.”
Shale is still waiting for a power upgrade to run its brewhouse. The beers available now were produced at the former location in Canton.
The nine beers available are:
• Cold Rolled Ale
• Roughneck Red
• Deep Driller Porter
• Coffee Cream Stout
• Blackberry Ale
• Golden Ale
• New England-style IPA
The brewpub will offer sandwiches, salads, appetizers and desserts. Once the power is upgraded, flatbreads also will be available.
Shale is treating the opening today as a soft opening because it’s still waiting for the work on the power. A grand opening hasn’t been set yet.
The regular hours are: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday; and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday. The brewpub is closed Sunday and Monday.