Echo Spirits Distilling Co. Plans Fall Opening for Facility & Bar
After a decade of home brewing beer, mead, and sake, five years of distilling training and two years of venue hunting, Echo Spirits Distilling Co. will celebrate a grand opening this fall. Their distilling facility and bar will open at 985 W. Sixth Ave., in the former Four String space.
The distillery is a product of two longtime friends, Joe Bidinger and Nikhil Sharoff. Bidinger initially started home brewing beer with some friends while attending college at the Ohio State University, and Sharoff later joined in when he moved back to Columbus after attending university in Cincinnati. Out of all their friends, Sharoff and Bidinger were the two with the most serious dedication to the brewing process. “Every home brewer wants to open a brewery at some point in their career,” says Bidinger. “We were like, no guys, we’re serious”
Right around the time they were considering a dive into the brewery scene, others like Seventh Son, Hoof Hearted, and Rockmill were already in the market. Bidinger remembers thinking how far behind they were with 10 other brewers already operating — “and now there’s like, 30, 40” — and how it discouraged him and Sharoff from starting their own. They began looking for the “next big thing,” and from there, they found spirits.
Tours of Middle West Spirits and Watershed, and a week-long distilling course in Seattle helped solidify their passion for the process. With desk jobs in IT and civil engineering, Bidinger and Sharoff were ready to find a hands-on practice that not only created a physical product but required a good amount of creativity.
Always keeping their competition in mind, Bidinger and Sharoff are putting out spirits they see as underrepresented in the Columbus market, including a rum and a Jenever. Known as the “grandfather of gin,” Jenever was first produced before more efficient distilling technologies were discovered. It typically has lower levels of juniper and more of a malt whiskey base.
Citing what they see as an increasingly collaborative distilling community, the Echo duo have also paired up with Middle West Spirits to begin distilling a rye whiskey that’ll be aged and ready by next summer. They say, as Ohio becomes more distillery-friendly — allowing distilleries to open tasting rooms, taprooms and restaurants — the move away from a manufacturing-based business model for distilleries has opened up more opportunities for them to work together in the same way that breweries have for much longer.
“I think the problem was, before, in order to be successful without a taproom, you had to be purely on the manufacturing model, and the manufacturing model is all about eating up market share and territory,” says Bidinger. “And I think that is what slowed the collaboration, too, because when you’re making products in the same lines as each other, it’s a direct competition.”
Historically, distilleries have benefitted by banding together, particularly through the efforts of the Ohio Distillers Guild. The organization works with legislators to pass laws that have helped distilleries catch up with wineries and breweries. House Bill 351, which passed in 2016, increased the amount that distilleries are allowed to produce and enabled them to serve food, putting them on the same level as brewpubs.
The Guild, of which Echo is a member, is currently working on another piece of legislation with Representative Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) that would make permanent a current two-year reduction in taxes on proof gallons.
“It’d put us a lot closer to breweries and wineries, who already receive [tax] reductions,” says Bidinger.
Further collaboration with other local distillers may have to be in the form of warehouse space. At present, Echo is working with about 2,500 square feet of space total, half of which is dedicated to the bar. They’ve got enough room for a still, a masher, fermentor, and some other equipment, but once they up their production, the need for more space will become more pressing.
The two have no plans of outright moving spaces, acknowledging that bar space near Grandview is a coveted scenario, but they’ll soon be on the search for an external facility.
“We’ve been looking for a location for about two years before we finally got in here,” says Bidinger. “The bar location is so great, the Grandview community is so good. Being here just makes a lot of sense.”
Upon opening, Echo Spirits Distilling Co. will host food trucks at their operation. Look out for the bar come fall of 2019.
For more information, visit their website.