Just a week ago, we officially declared 2012 The Year of the Beer, and since then we’ve come to find out about three additional local breweries currently in the works. One of those three is The Oval Brewing Company, which is the brainchild of Adam Benner. Benner is a Columbus ex-pat currently living in Chicago, but looking to return to Columbus to start up his new microbrewing adventure. Additionally, Oval is utilizing Kickstarter.com to help secure additional funding to launch the business.
We spoke recently with Adam for a Q&A session to find out more about OBC:
Q: To start, can you tell us about your background with beer. When did you get started with an interest in brewing?
A: I started homebrewing in 2009 and from the beginning I was hooked. It really became an obsession, and I finally found something where could mix passion with my entrepreneurial bug, so I’ve been researching and planning for the past two years. I love the creativity that can be expressed through beer, but also the technical process. I built a semi-automated 3/4 BBL electric brewing system from scratch last year, which I currently brew on. I have taken classes at the Siebel Institute here in Chicago to supplement my self-obtained brewing knowledge with some international-level expertise.
Q: So you’re in Chicago right now, but planning on relocating to Columbus to open the brewery? Can you tell us more about that?
A: There are a couple of reasons as to why we believe Columbus is the place for OBC. I’ve lived the majority of my life in Ohio, and spent some great years in Columbus. Since leaving, it has always been my plan to return. While in Chicago, I have witnessed the energy and growth of the craft beer industry here. The city has gone from a couple of good beer bars and a handful of breweries (Goose Island, Rock Bottom, and Piece) to a myriad of great bars and restaurants dedicated to craft beer, and the opening of several high quality breweries.
I can see a similar energy growing in Columbus. When I was in school it was pretty much just Barley’s, CBC and Elevator. I see more and more bars with expanding beer lists, and places like the World of Beer doing really well. Though I wasn’t able to attend the Winter Beer Festival, it seems to have been a great success. With that groundswell of interest, and the enthusiasm for the new breweries opening in the city, it is just a natural fit to head back home open the Oval Brewing Company.
Historically, microbrewing in the state of Ohio was focused on Great Lakes in Cleveland, but now there are great breweries all over the state. Having Eric Bean from CBC as the head of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association can only mean more events and more focus on the craft beer movement in Central Ohio.
Q: So where exactly will the facility be located in Columbus?
A: Long story short, we are still in the process of nailing that down. We have identified a couple of potential sites that we are very interested in. We are working out the details on those and should have a better idea in the next couple of weeks.
Q: I saw that you’re using Kickstarter as a funding platform for the brewery. Can you tell us a bit about why you choose to go that route for your business?
A: I was first introduced to Kickstarter at the end of 2010. I had been following several blogs of where people were documenting the process of opening breweries and one of the groups — Pipeworks Brewing — started a Kickstarter campaign to help fund their efforts. They reached their goal on New Years Eve of 2010, and should be opening a production location in Chicago soon. I thought it was an awesome idea to get your customers involved in the early stages, and since you can’t legally do crowd funding, it is the closest thing to it. Backers don’t get to share the profits like traditional investing, but they do get great rewards for their support. It’s been a pretty amazing week for us since our Kickstarter campaign started. Obviously, many of our backers so far have been friends or family, but it has been awesome and humbling to see random strangers who believe in what we are doing and show support by backing the project. Opening a brewery is not a cheap endeavor, so in addition to the ambitious $30,000 Kickstarter goal, we are still raising additional funds through more traditional methods.
Q: What types of beers will Oval focus on producing at the start?
A: Our plan is to have a few beers that will be available year round. We’re inspired by breweries like 3 Floyds in Munster, Indiana (my wife’s hometown) that really try and pioneer new flavor palates by constantly pushing themselves further. Our Pale Ales and IPAs push the envelope, tending to be on the hoppier end of the spectrum. Having said that, we don’t want to scare away the casual craft beer drinker, and we’ll have beers that will hopefully convert some light beer drinkers. We also plan on making seasonal and special release beers that will be available at the tap room, which will allow us to experiment with new styles and get direct feedback from our customers. Our plan all along has been to crowdsource beers from our customers through our website, so I thought it was great when I saw Sam Adams doing it as well.
Q: What is the timeline of the brewery opening, after your funding is secured?
A: The Kickstarter deadline is 11:59 PM March 31st, which is also my birthday. So I’m looking at either a great birthday present, or a nasty April Fools joke. Since the Kickstarter campaign is ongoing, we are currently working hard to secure the additional financing needed. We are also narrowing our real estate search, so when everything falls into place we’ll be ready to go. We would be looking to start renovations and the licensing process in late Spring with the goal of a late Fall 2012 or Early 2013 opening.