Sonder Brewing putting more than beer on tap in Warren County

Posted at 10:09 AM, Mar 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-21 12:25:46-04

DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio – When Sonder Brewing opens this fall in Warren County, its founders promise visitors will find more than just good craft beer on tap.

The brewery also will offer sand volleyball, a fenced-in lawn and fire pit area and a two-story outdoor patio on 6.5 acres of land at 8460 Duke Blvd. in Deerfield Township, near Kings Island. 

“We wanted to be more than just a production brewery,” said Sonder Brewing president Justin Neff. “We want to have this place where Mom and Dad really feel good about coming, and your kids have fun there. Every night of the week it will have direct line of vision of the Kings Island fireworks during the summer.”

Sonder Brewing co-founders (l-r): Daniel Schmerr, Justin Neff and Jennifer Meissner stand on the site of their future brewery.

Neff, along with partners Daniel Schmerr and Jennifer Meissner, plan to begin construction on Sonder’s 16,000-square-foot indoor brewery and taproom and its outdoor facilities by late May.

The group is currently finalizing details for a U.S. Small Business Administration loan and awaiting final approval of outdoor zoning variances from the Deerfield Township Board of Trustees. The board approved the brewery project late last year, Neff said.

The brewery will have eight to 10 beers on tap and also serve cocktails and up to 16 white and red wines. It will contract out food services. The owners plan to rent out the brewery’s second floor and outdoor facilities for corporate private events.

Neff, who began home brewing 10 years ago, said he started planning a brewery five years ago after he and his wife moved from Chicago to Ohio for work. Neff’s initial business plan called for a 5- to 20-barrel brewhouse but he increased it to 30 barrels after discussing the idea with Schmerr, his friend and now business partner.

“There was one Saturday we went to Rhinegeist, then to Taft’s Ale House and then to MadTree,” Neff said. “We saw people we knew who lived in the 'burbs at each place. We decided there was a need for a destination like those places north of I-275.”

The two recruited Meissner as the third partner after asking her to help with marketing ideas for their brewery concept.

“Jen is a neighbor of ours and happens to be really good friends with my wife,” Neff said. “She’s owned a design firm for about 15 years.”

The trio decided to call their brewery Sonder because of the word’s unique but obscure meaning.

“It basically means that everyone has a story; every beer has a story to tell,” Meissner said. “It’s just a word that we really liked.”

The group hired Chase Legler, a lead brewer with New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin, to handle Sonder’s brewing operations. Neff said under Legler’s guidance, Sonder will focus on brewing Belgium-style sours and wild ales, in addition to barrel-aged and other types of beer.

“That is something we can bring to the table that hasn’t quite infiltrated the Midwest yet,” he said of sour beers.

The partners' long-term plans include growing their own hops and fruit for brewing purposes by their second or third year in business. They also want to can beers for distribution, as well as add live music and a growing list of family-friendly activities at the brewery.

“What we don’t want for it to feel like is a place for people to come for a beer and then leave because their husbands or wives or kids are bored,” Neff said.