CINCINNATI -- The wait is almost over for craft beer fans in East Walnut Hills.
The Woodburn Brewery is putting the finishing touches on its taproom and fermenting opening recipes to be prepared for its Aug. 26 grand opening.
It's a bit later than the owners had originally wanted to open, but as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
“We’re just a year behind. It’s taken a little bit longer, but the good thing is, we know this place inside and out,” co-owner Chris Mitchell said. “We’ve done a lot of the work ourselves, all the framing, the bar, all the cosmetic stuff."
The building, at 2800 Woodburn Ave. in DeSales Corner, was originally built in 1909 as a theater for the Cincinnati Motion Picture Co.
“This building was abandoned for a few years. It was a bank at one point, and we demolitioned out the vault ourselves,” Mitchell said.
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Mitchell and assistant brewer Nate Lovitt both have experience in the local craft beer scene, having each been employed at Listermann Brewing Co. on the supply side. Lovitt also has bartending experience at both Ei8ht Ball Brewing and Taft’s Ale House.
They are currently brewing on a 20-barrel system for their big batches, which will be going to 36 taps in-house.
“We will have between 15 and 20 beers on at a time and probably a couple of guest taps,” Mitchell said.
“The system is just like Taft’s, with dispersal straight from the tanks to the taps,” Lovitt said.
The Woodburn has the ability to ferment 189 barrels of a beer at a time, as well as a hot water tank that allows it to brew at any time. It also has a smaller, 3.5-barrel system that gives them a couple of options, both using it for experimental batches of beer and to allow others to brew. This is a nod to the roots of the brewers, who both started out home brewing.
“There has definitely been a learning curve,” Lovitt said. “It’s been fun, though. A lot of our beers are recipes Chris has worked on for years.”
Those recipes at opening will include a pineapple saison, made with real pineapple; a chocolate cherry stout; a cedar IPA; a lactose IPA made with peaches and vanilla; a Belgian wit, possibly with honey and lavender added; and Stein Pils, a recipe that won gold medals for Ingolf Steinkamp, owner of a brewery in Germany called BrauHaus Espelkamp. The Woodburn has exclusive rights to brew this recipe in the United States.
“I really like the lactose IPA,” said Lovitt. “I’m not huge on big, bitter IPAs, and this puts a different spin on it.”
Another local spin is having three beehives on the roof, which allows for the possibility of having fresh honey for certain beer recipes. The bees are part of the Queen City Bees project started by Cincinnati firefighter Carlier Smyth.
“The bees are doing really well, although we will probably send them off for the winter soon,” he said.
Mitchell also said he has been trying to locally source many of his ingredients.
“We use Carriage House Farm for other ingredients. We have given them wort to turn into malt vinegar, and we use whatever is available at the time,” Mitchell said.
The customer experience at the Woodburn will fall under the experienced purview of general manager Tim Hollenbeck. He worked at renowned Delaware brewery Dogfish Head and also ran his own place, Timothy’s Tap House & Raw Bar, for a time in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Hollenbeck spent some time managing Silver Moon in Bend, Oregon, then found a good fit with Mitchell and co-owner Dennis Chacon.
“I thought I wanted to open my own brewery, but I worried about the sustainability,” he said.
Hollenbeck said the Woodburn and many of its Cincinnati area-brethren are the future of bars in this country.
“We’re going to get away from the corner bar – it will be the corner brewery,” he said. “That’s how it used to be, especially in this city. In Bend, it was about the street. Well, this is our street.”