Our trip to Main Street Brewing Company in Garrettsville, OH was one for the record books. Fifteen minutes after we arrived in Garrettsville we literally watched the block across the street burn to the ground (See that article here). Our parked car was surround by a wall of firetrucks so brewmaster Mike and brewer Brian graciously allowed us stay with them for the night. Not only did they provide us with a place to stay, but they shared some great beers from their private collection with us, along with some equally amazing stories! Luckily we were able to get into the brewery the following day for our interview and some great pictures.
We will be returning to Main Street Brewing on May 3rd for their Beer Feast if you would like to join us! The feast will feature other Ohio craft breweries and some delicious food.
Can you walk us through the history of the building and how it became a brewery?
The building was built in 1804. It was the first gristmill in the area. It was built to grind up grain for all of the local families because the public grain mills were overloaded. In 1994 the brew system was installed and brewing began. The current owners have had it for the past 8 years.
How has the brewery become part of the community.
Well on May 3rd, 2014 we are having a beer feast. The hope is that the event will alert more people that there is a brewery here. Most people are surprised that there is actually a brewery in small town Garrettsville, OH. After the recent fire we are planning some charitable events. Donating the profits of some of the beers to help rebuild the town.
So you told me last night that you are the youngest head brewer in Ohio. Can you talk tell us about how that happened?
Yea! How the hell did I end up here? First and foremost it’s the love of beer. I love making it. The whole thing is fascinating. Obviously the drinking of it is the best part. I met Joe Kerns at a beer festival in 2012. We tried some of Main Street’s beer and throughout it was very good. We started coming up here every Tuesday. One day the brewer was doing a meet and greet and 5 days later we were coming in and brewing and apprenticing with him. Before we started he asked me to email him my schedule and if it worked with his he’d have us come in. I said, “I’m unemployed right now… so everyday works for me.” His big thing was that you determined your own level of involvement. If you worked with him he would teach you everything he could. I worked with him for at least a year and a half and he taught me everything I needed to know about running a brewery.
Was it paid?
No. It was pure volunteering. I’ve heard that’s pretty common in the industry. This place was cool because you get to wear 20 hats here. There is no real brewery staff so you have to do everything.
So how did you go from apprentice to head brewer?
I worked for Ohio Brewing Company in Akron for 6 months. They had called Joe and asked him to brew for them. He said that he couldn’t and sent me, his apprentice, over there. So I brewed for them for 6 months. They shut down so I came back to keep apprenticing with Joe. He ended up having to leave to take a position in Ireland. He highly recommended me as his replacement and here I am! I’ve officially been leading the brewery since January.
Can you talk about some of the interesting special brews you have coming up.
I’m taking the Main Street Joe and adding coffee and vanilla beans. I’m working with a local farmer in Aurora who has a lavender farm. We are going to put it in the White Walker, which is our version of a Blue Moon. I’m working on a Ginger Ale.
How do you come up with your special brews?
Sometimes I build special releases off of current beers, but other times I build the beer from the ground up. I have never done a ginger ale before, so for that one I started by doing a bunch of research. I also went out and bought a bunch of beer: Crabby’s, Old Jamaican, Good Joojoo. I’ll taste those and come up with what I think they did. We will try it as a homebrew first. If its good we’ll scale it up and do it here.
We had a lot of fun with you guys at the Cleveland Winter Warmer Festival. How do you reflect that fun into your beers and into your work. Does that wacky personality come out here a lot?
Into the beers definitely. We have a birch beer. Nobody does that really. We are definitely a lot crazier at the beer festivals because of the atmosphere. Here I’m by myself a lot so I’ll catch myself saying something funny to myself and giggling, but then there’s nobody here to enjoy it with. I’m always trying to do something new and creative.
We try to be on the leading edge of the beer market. We have our staple beers, but we like having the beers that pop out from the others.
Can you talk about the future of the business?
We are working on opening a distribution facility. It will be 15BBL and will be located right across the creek. It will have 6 fermenters and 2 brite tanks. Right now I sell kegs around town and out to Kent. We are trying to get our name out at beer festivals before we start distributing.
Do you have any crazy stories?
Hmm, just the one time we sprayed a guy with beer. We had a T coming off of our fermenter, which was facing outward over our balcony. I was standing by the bar and a guy was sitting by the bar. All of a sudden Joe opened up the valve, a gasket failed, and the beer came down right on top of the guy. I felt like we were in the splash zone at SeaWorld. I looked up and I just saw a wall of beer coming down. Not to mention it was the porter, so his shirt went from baby blue to brown.
Do you brew a lot when people are in here?
I like to because this is a brewery and I think that some of the customers are interested in seeing the process. Every once in a while I’ll look down and see people staring up here like “what’s he doing up there? That’s cool.” I think before I knew about the brewing process I just assumed people would hit a button on a machine and beer magically was made. I think people appreciate seeing that’s not the case.