NEWPORT, Kentucky -- After two years in the works, Wooden Cask Brewing started pouring three traditional-style beers in its taproom Saturday, joining Ei8ht Ball Brewing as only the second brewery in Newport.
Owner Randy Schiltz, a co-founder of Rivertown Brewery who sold his shares in 2014, wanted to create a brewery “for the love of beer,” encompassing English, Irish, Scottish and Belgium-style beers rather than sours or anything too experimental. (However, he plans on experimenting with yeasts and barrel-aging cider.)
Schiltz grew up in Kansas and was accustomed to mass-produced beers. Then he tried an English bitter beer while in the Navy stationed in Bahrain.
“It was so much more flavor than the Coors Light I was used to,” he said. “You learn there’s much more to beer than just the alcohol level. Beer should be about fun.”
Schiltz partnered with his wife, Karen, to open Wooden Cask, purchasing the former Yellow Cab Co. on York Street in September 2015 after searching all over Northern Kentucky for a space.
“We wanted to stay on the Northern Kentucky side, because Cincinnati already has a lot of breweries,” Karen Schiltz said.
At one point the building housed a 26-lane bowling alley, so the couple pulled up the old pinewood and hand-crafted a 15-seat bar counter and tables for the 4,400-square-foot taproom. They refer to the design as “industrial English pub,” with a lot of space to add games such as foosball — but no giant Jenga, said Karen — and chess and checker boards engraved into a couple of tables.
The taproom has 12 taps, two of which are reserved for nitro beers and another for a guest tap. Randy, a homebrewer, developed his own recipes based upon many European styles of beers, including an English ordinary bitter and a stout.
Kind of Light is 4 percent ABV and consists of one grain and one hop. It is based on his experiences traveling for a previous job at Toyota, during which he noticed that when people at bars would ask for a light beer, the bartender would respond, “This one’s kind of light.”
“They’re not looking for light in color; they’re looking for light in flavor,” he said.
He’s also brewing a fuller-body American Blonde; a West Coast-inspired IPA; an American Wheat in which drinkers will be able to taste the breadiness of the wheat (it won't be too hoppy); a 7.5 percent ABV chocolate stout; and a brown ale called 7th Street Runoff, named for the muddy water that flows down Newport’s Seventh Street during a storm.
The brewhouse is in a separate room adjacent to the taproom, and he and his team will brew 3,500 barrels. It's a small amount to start, but he and his wife want to keep it that way.
“We don’t want to be a regional powerhouse with massive distribution,” Karen said.
“It seems like everybody is like, ‘We gotta grow, we gotta grow and get regional,’ and it seems somebody lost the love of the beer,” Randy said. “Beer should be about people getting together and having a good time, communicating, talking. It’s not really about trying to get that 10,000 barrels out. It’s not something that we feel an urge or a need to get as big as you can or as big as your wallet will allow. It’s more about brewing traditional styles of beers.”
Despite staying micro, the Schiltzes want Wooden Cask to be profitable and they have room for more tanks. However, the brewery’s focus is geared more on the taproom, as well as offering a gathering place for social activities (the taproom currently has only a few TVs -- one shows the beer menu) and for those who want to educate themselves about different styles of beers.
“A lot of times people don’t really understand what they don’t like about beer,” Randy said. “If you can sit down and go through a couple of things, they’ll get a better understanding of what they do and don’t like, and they can sit down at the next place. They can order intelligently and get what they want — not just a beer that’s light in color.”
Wooden Cask Brewing Co.
Address: 629 York St., Newport
Current hours: 5-11 p.m. Friday; noon-midnight Saturday; noon-8 p.m. Sunday; starting Nov. 9 also 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
Grand opening: Noon-11 p.m. Nov. 12.
Information: 859-261-2172; www.facebook.com/WoodenCask/