CINCINNATI -- Whether you’re making beer in your home, or looking for a pint, chances are you will find yourself drawn to the Listermann Brewing Company.
What started as a homebrew supply store nestled across the street from Xavier University has grown into much, much more, and turned its creator into something of a local legend.
Dan Listermann started the business in 1991 to sell homebrew equipment that he would design. Since then, he opened his own microbrewery and a second label when he hired Kevin Moreland as head brewer.
Now not only is Listermann making beer under the Triple Digit and Listermann Brewing Co. labels, his store is at the center of the brewing community in Cincinnati.
Listermann said he got his start in brewing by making beer at home in 1973.
“(The beer) was horrible and got worse,” he said.
He didn’t return to beer making until the early 1980s when he brewed some beer with some old friends and they determined that the beer wasn’t half bad. As his homebrewing grew, Listermann kept thinking up new and innovative homebrewing equipment that he would go on to sell.
“I started getting into making these bottle fillers and by 1993, despite being offered a raise a manufacturing engineer, started full time doing this, and two years later I bought the building and opened the business. At the time I didn’t have a deep passion to do this, it was just a thought, ‘Well that’s the next thing to do,’” Listermann said.
Those little innovations soon took off and if you ask many in the homebrew and production brewing communities, they’re still an important part of the industry today.
“You would not believe the amount of respect that big brewers give Dan because when they were homebrewers, they used the tools that he created,” Moreland said.
Listermann opened up his brewery in 2008 after buying a small two-barrel brewhouse and puttered right along before deciding to hand off operations to Moreland.
As it happens, Moreland also got his start in homebrewing and even shopped at Listermann’s supply shop. After making many of his own beers and even doing some work in recipe development, he asked if he could buy Listermann’s equipment. Instead, Listermann offered to make him the head brewer.
Moreland said his experience on the business side of the beverage industry often comes into play as they try to expand the brewery.
“My advice to anyone wanting to get into the business is to try and get into it that way. It has helped the company tremendously,” Moreland said.
Since the brewery’s small start, it is now producing 10-barrel batches and they sell the beer in either 22-ounce bottles, or half-barrel and six-barrel kegs. You can also fill your growlers in the brewery’s tap room.
Moreland said their capacity used to be about 50 to 100 barrels per year; they are now up to the 1,000 barrel per year mark. He says he would like to maintain a production of 1,000 to 2,000 barrels per year to focus on making artisan-style beers.
“If we try to start doing anything about that, you gotta go outside the market and then people will want the same beer all the time,” Moreland said. “We’re trying to base ourselves off of ‘Lets take one leap at a time.’”
Moreland said they’re gaining more capacity with their brewhouse. The idea is to get a six-head automated bottling machine and release six-packs to the market.
After that, Moreland wants to be noticed locally.
“That’s our big thing, if we can’t be noticed here locally, I don’t want to branch out to other states,” Moreland said. “Until I get the feeling that ‘we are Cincinnati’ and people know us, I don’t see us moving outside the market too fast. The simple fact is that customers tell us what to do. If they’re buying it, we’ll make more of it.”
To that end, Moreland is expanding Triple Digit and Listermann in different trajectories. Triple Digit will focus on high-gravity boutique beers, many of which will be aged in whiskey or wine barrels. Listermann Brewing will focus on more accessible beers.
“Most of the barrels we use are from Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill distilleries. We do some wine barrel aged beers too,” Moreland said.
Some of those projects will include triple-smoked whiskey barrel beers, sour beers and gin and rum-aged beers.
The head brewer said he’s also been keeping tap on what’s developing in the micro-distilling industry to keep out of ahead of what’s going on in the brewing world. Moreland said many distillers are approaching the process with an artist’s flair; it’s something he’s trying to emulate with the Triple Digit brand.
“Granted you have to pay for what you’re doing at the end of the day and make a living but we’re trying to do it in a boutique style and give the customers something to appreciate. We don’t want to be a cookie-cutter brewery,” Moreland said.
One of the reasons that Listermann’s has such a foothold in the Tri-State is its dedication to education and community. Besides being a physical resource to homebrewers with equipment, Listermann and Moreland