WILLIAMSBURG, Ohio -- A former firefighter is heading back to the firehouse, but instead of gearing up he’ll be brewing beer.
Williamsburg resident Adam Cowan plans to open a brewery at the site of the village’s old firehouse.
Cowan said the Old Firehouse Brewery should open by early July but not official date has been set. The brewery will be located at 237 W. Main St.
“I couldn’t be more excited that the perfect location seemed to just fall into place,” Cowan said in a release. “The layout is ideal for the model I want to bring to life. We will have an open concept where the brewing equipment is part of the atmosphere along with a tap room and ample seating.”
Cowan said he plans to launch the brewery with five beers to start including an American pale ale, an India Pale Ale, a porter, a Scottish red and “probably a Kolsch or a pilsner.”
“I’m working closely with our brew master, Ben Ramsey, to finalize the selection for the brewery’s first taps. We will announce new beers with the seasons and hope to grow the number of taps over the next 12-18 months,” Cowan said.
In addition to the taproom, Cowan plans to market kegs in the greater Cincinnati area. Craft beer fans will also be able to fill up their growlers at the taproom.
Cowan said he got the idea to start a brewery while on vacation with his wife in Asheville, N.C.
“We were at dinner chatting away about beer and she made the ultimate statement to me. ‘For as much as you love craft beer, you ought to make it for a living.’ That one statement spurred me to learn everything I could about craft beer, the brewing industry, etc. I spent about a year researching along with visiting numerous craft breweries so I could talk to owners/brewers. Once I learned something new, I shared it with my wife and finally convinced her last summer to take the plunge,” Cowan said.
While he has never worked in the industry before, Cowan said he is a businessman and knew that he needed to find the right expertise.
That’s where Ramsey comes in. The pair met while Cowan was in Lexington doing research on starting up his brewery.
Ramsey was a brewer previously at County Boy Brewing and had also worked on a large-scale system at the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company.
Cowan said Ramsey started as a homebrewer and actually got his Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice – similar to Cowan’s background as a firefighter.
While working in Lexington, Cowan gained experience work on 20-25 bbl systems, as well as 10-15 bbl systems.
“Initially it will just be myself and Ben at the brewery. We have plans to bring on Nathan Spencer as an assistant brewer when we get things going. Once operations get underway and we have the need for more folks, we will decide what to do at that point,” Cowan said.
While initially setting up the plan for the brewery, Cowan said he and his wife thought about getting investors but decided to keep their ownership to themselves. The pair has invested their own savings and got a loan to get work started on the project.
The Old Firehouse Brewery will start out with a 15 bbl brewhouse with 30bbl fermenters and a bright tank. Cowan said the system is capable of producing 3,600 bbls annually and they hope to expand to 6,800 bbls annually. He said the plan to produce upwards of 2,000 bbls in the first year.
Cowan said they contracted Diversified Metal Engineering in Canada for all the equipment. Currently the brewhouse is being custom fabricated before being shipped to Ohio.
“We see our brewery as a compliment to the Cincinnati beer scene in that we bringing craft beer to an area east of Cincinnati that is rapidly expanding with folks who desire great craft beer,” Cowan said.
The brewery is getting strong support from city government.
“The Village of Williamsburg welcomes the Old Firehouse Brewery with open arms,” Williamsburg Mayor Mary Ann Lefker said in a release. “We continue to promote our village as being open for business and continually reach out for new economic development that will keep Williamsburg vibrant and viable.”
The mayor said she believes the brewery will bring renewed energy to Main Street.
City officials said the brewery was previously home to Luce Electric, and before that is served as the firehouse. It also housed village offices such as the police department.
Cowan said while searching for the right location to start the brewery, some friends turned him on to the old firehouse.
“Given my background as a firefighter and the building being a great layout to rehab into the brewery, we couldn't find a single reason not to proceed with the firehouse. The Village of Williamsburg is not assisting us in the rehab. They did unanimously pass the conditional use permit to change the use of the building though,” he said.
Cowan said he plans to keep the firehouse theme strong in the brewery. He is trying to salvage memorabilia for the building and that people have offered to add to the collection. The business name, logo, and décor will also evoke a firehouse vibe.
on the camaraderie of firefighters, we want to make this a place where friends and families will come to enjoy each other’s company and have fun. We want to offer corn-hole tournaments and other fundraisers that will benefit local organizations, such as the fire and police departments,” Cowan said.
The brewery won’t offer food but Cowan plans to partner with local restaurants to provide food options. Families are also welcome to bring their own.
Cowan said they are planning on packaging the beer at some point. His team is leaning toward canning the beer versus bottling it.
He said they are working with some local graphic artists to create some labels and will send the final designs to the TTB in the next few months.
“We have not ruled out bottling but we are more focused at this point on canning in the beginning,” Cowan said.