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 said they are happy to help foster the growth of all the local brewers.
“We’re on really good footing with a lot of the brewers in Cincinnati because a lot of them got their start right here. We talk to some of them on a weekly basis, because when they run out of something they often come over here and pick it up,” Moreland said.
The boys say they’d like to put Cincinnati back on the map and eventually bring in an event such as the Great American Beer Festival or a World Beer Cup. To that end, they’ve been hosting no end of beer festivals locally that feature not only their own taps, but beers from the other brewers as well.
“We want to get back to that day when Cincinnati was the seventh-largest beer market in American before Prohibition,” Moreland said. “I think by having the festivals we put on, it’s educating the public about what beer is being made here. It spurs people to ask their bars and restaurants to carry local beer.”
The head brewer said Ohio is one of the strongest states in growth by brewers per capita, according to the Brewers Association.
“You always hear the saying that Cincinnati is behind the times, well we’re trying to speed that process up. I think now matter how you look at it, it’s going to be a benefit to us economically. I think it’s going to be a benefit to how to build our business and it’s going to bring back that hometown feel to our brewing heritage,” Moreland said.
Listermann shares those notions with Moreland and thinks there is a sea of change just beyond the horizon when it comes to craft beer in America.
“We don’t look upon ourselves as competitors,” he said. “We look it as, ‘Look at this forest of Bud Light drinkers we can log.’ All these guys out there that drink this crap, sooner or later there’s going to be a tipping point where Bud Light is an ‘old man’s beer.’ When these guys came up, Bud Light was the cool beer to drink; there wasn’t the microbrewed beers. Now there are microbrew beers out there and it’s the cool thing to drink. There are those guys that drink Bud Light, they’re always going to do that. But they’re getting older, grayer, and at some point people will say, ‘Eh, that’s an old man’s beer, take a look at this.’ And that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Photography by Emily Maxwell, WCPO Digital photojournalist
Listermann/Triple Digit Brewing is located at 1621 Dana Avenue in Cincinnati.
They can be found online at: http://listermannbrewing.com/
Tap room hours:
- Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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