Urban Artifact Brewing: Old Northside church comes to life once more as brewery, event space

Grayscale team hopes to open in early spring

CINCINNATI -- If at first you don’t succeed; try, try again. That old adage is ringing true for a new brewery that will open in the next few months in Northside.

Developers Scott Hand and Dominic Marino had originally planned on opening their Grayscale concept space in Over-the-Rhine.

The duo wanted to launch their brewery and event space in the old Jackson Brewery in the northern heights of the community. At one point, they launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign but that fell short of their goal.

Urban Artifact/Grayscale

Photos courtesy of Grayscale Cincinnati

Undeterred, the team pushed ahead and eventually decided on a new space in a new community. They also secured $1.4 million in bank loans and are moving forward on the build out of the facility.

The team purchased the former Queen City Cookies commercial bakery that is housed in the old St. Pius X church at 1662 Blue Rock St.

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Hand said while they don’t need to try crowdsourcing again, they are considering opportunities for their early backers and patrons. The pair plans on opening the Urban Artifact brewery in the early spring.

Hand said both men are from Cincinnati but have spent time in Chicago. During his time there, Hand specialized in designing theaters and performing art spaces and has several projects in his portfolio.  Marino has taught at the University of Cincinnati and is an artist and producer.

Urban Artifact/Grayscale

Photos courtesy of Grayscale Cincinnati

Brewers Bret Kollmann Baker and Scott Hunter will round out the founding staff. 

While the project used to be called "Grayscale," it will now be called "Urban Artifact." The Grayscale moniker will remain as the digital distribution arm for their arts performances.

“The main reason for the change was our desire not to push the application of the Grayscale name to several different business sectors (beer, performance, etc.) The new name ties into our reuse of a historic building and space located in a great neighborhood and revitalizing it as a craft cultural center. The branding ties the brewing and the music elements together into one business,” Hand said.

The developers said Urban Artifact will start out with a 30 bbl brewhouse and a goal of producing about 3,000 bbls in their first year. They will also make use of a 1 bbl pilot system to try out new recipes and supplement production.

“These two systems allow us good creative freedom while still being able to expand the business for years,” Hand said.

Urban Artifact/Grayscale

Photos courtesy of Grayscale Cincinnati

The brewery took delivery of their fermenters in mid-January and the rest of the equipment is arriving daily.

For their part, Hand said Baker and Hunter come with experience in the brewing game. The duo met in college and started Ohio University’s first homebrew club while earning degrees in chemical engineering.

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Hand said Baker also has a degree from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in Brewing Science. Baker has also worked at a winery as a vintner and at a distillery in Albany, N.Y. Hunter has a complimentary background in management and engineering in addition to experience homebrewing.

The team is also looking for one more brewer in addition to Baker and Hunter.

In addition to the brewery, Grayscale will also still deliver on the promise of being a performance space and more.

“We specifically went in search of a facility that would accommodate the many pieces of the business plan that we consider unique and important: taproom, full bar, live music, performing arts, beer garden, outdoor stage,” Hand said.

Meanwhile, the team is hard at work coming up with their first few beers.

Urban Artifact/Grayscale

Photos courtesy of Grayscale Cincinnati

“The basis is a very locally-inspired brewing philosophy,” Baker said. “We will initially have three flagship beers, a selection of rotating seasonal beers, and myriad of barrel aged beers of all kinds.”

The brewers said also want to have a continuously rotating list of pilot beers for people to try in the taproom.

Despite all the setbacks in the past, the Grayscale team has been very active on social media and transparent on their process. While searching for a new space and developing a new plan, the team regularly published music updates on performances and other events across the Cincinnati area.

The group said fans should continue to watch their Facebook and Twitter feeds for more updates as the project nears completion.

WCPO will update this story as more information becomes available.

For the latest Cincinnati beer news and entertainment, go to wcpo.com/beer or follow Jesse on Twitter at @wcpojesse .

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