Homebrew & Microbrew with Neil House Brewery
Both the homebrew and microbrew scenes in Columbus recently gained a notch in their belts with the opening of the Neil House Brewery & Homebrew Supply store. This Reynoldsburg-based business not only sells the supplies needed for brewing up your own beer at home, but they will also soon be selling their own batches at a store or bar near you. We recently caught up with Patrick Kelleher, Brewmaster, Owner and Founding Member of Neil House Brewery to find out more about the new operation.
Walker Evans: So tell us a bit about how you originally got interested in brewing beer.
Patrick Kelleher: I started brewing in college at Ohio State. I was studying chemistry there. At the time, I was doing research into glycobiology and carbohydrate chemistry, which is basically just sugar sciences. Sugars, enzymes, fermentation… stuff like that. I also started getting into drinking microbrews and craftbrews; some of the really good beers like that. But, like most college age people… I didn’t really have the money to support that hobby. So, I had a friend who was home-brewing and I started doing that as a way to save money. Right from the first batch, it was fabulous. It felt very natural to me because a lot of it was similar to what I was doing in the lab. Except that you couldn’t drink the stuff you were making in the lab. I was having some good luck with it and I had a lot of friends who were really impressed by my beers. They all told me I should start a brewery and that they would invest in it. So we all pulled together our resources and here we are.
WE: So did you start the home brewing supply store as a way to ease into the actual brewery business?
PK: Actually, I decided to add the home-brew supply store to the business as we were getting all of this stuff set up on paper. At the time, a friend of mine was getting married and he wanted me to brew all of the beer for his wedding. Which was pretty awesome. That was the last set of beers that I did as a home-brewer. It made me remember all of the things I really loved about homebrewing and all of the things I really hated. The thing I hated the most was getting the supplies. You could either buy them from a home supply shop, and pay two or three times what you would pay on the Internet… or you could buy on the Internet, where the availability of ingredients is terrible, and you never know what anyone will have from one day to the next. Customer service for these online shops was just plain awful too!
WE: Ha! That’s the industry standard for online customer service!
PK: So, as a home-brewer there was not really any easy way to do it. So I decided I wanted to open up a shop that was run by a brewer, for brewers. I order most of my ingredients for the brewery directly from the manufacturer in thousands of pounds of quantities. I also buy in bulk and repackage it myself so that I am able to keep in line with the prices that you find on the Internet, if not cheaper. I decided to open the shop early to make a little bit of money but also to help the people who are where I was with home brewing. It is nice to bring those people into the store and talk with them one-on-one about brewing. A lot of people have responded really well to that. I’ve got prices that make brewing beer much more affordable, and I also have people tell me that it’s nice to buy their supplies from a brewer where that they can ask questions.
WE: So the store is up and running and open to the public now, correct?
PK: The storefront is open and we’ve been doing pretty good business. The hours are Monday through Thursday noon to 5pm, Friday noon to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 3pm. As far as everything else goes, we are opening the brewery and winery soon… as soon as the government says they can be open. They keep asking us for more paperwork!
WE: So those will be housed in the same facility here in Reynoldsburg?
PK: Yes, right in our other room behind the storefront.
WE: What type of signature beers you are going to focus on to start?
PK: I’m going to make the beers that got the investments from the start. The most popular being my stout called Black Mountain Stout. It is very dark and very very smooth. It’s one of the smoothest beers I’ve ever had. It’s got some roasted notes, hints of chocolate and caramel. It took about six months to develop the recipe to get the head retention and level of full-bodied smoothness I really wanted out of a stout. It’s been very well received. I cannot brew it fast enough. I’m also known for my Cranberry Cider. Not technically a beer, but I can’t keep this one available either. I think cranberry juice is too tart by itself, but as it ferments it looses some tartness and reveals the subtle sweetness of the cranberries. The third product is the newest, an India Pale Ale. Again, very well received. Some of my bigger critics really liked it.
WE: So you’re also going to be making wine as well?
PK: Well, the cranberry cider is considered a wine by the federal government. I may also brew small batches of wines and meads and offer those for sale at the shop as well.
WE: What are your distribution plans?
PK: I’m working with Hill Distributing for the Columbus area. I’m self distributing now to a couple of area bars. We are currently working on developing a house beer for DeepWood. We’re also a member of the Small Business Beanstalk. They are helping us get exposure in the Columbus area. A lot of the Short North bars and restaurants are SBB members, so there’s been some talk and excitement about that. That’s how I got hooked up with Amber at DeepWood.
WE: Any other opportunities for folks to taste your beers?
PK: We have a tasting planned at Sandbox Columbus in early June… as soon as we have approval from the Federal government. There has also been a lot of interest in a “Beer 101” class, so we may teach home-brewing classes. Home-brewing is pretty easy, but it can also be pretty intimidating.
The Neil House Brewery is located at 6575 East Livingston Avenue in Reynoldsburg. More information can be found online at www.neilhousebrewery.com.