Microbrewery offers customers experience of craft brewing
When congress repealed federal prohibition restrictions legalizing home brewing in 1978, the doors swung open for D.I.Y. beer lovers. And by the 1990’s a craft beer movement was sweeping the nation. The microbrewery/craft beer industry now accounts for 20% of America’s $100 billion market.
Early pioneers, like Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman, and Pete Slosberg of Pete’s Brewing Company, started out as home brewers. In fact, 90% of all craft brewers began as home brewers. Dayton entrepreneur Neil Chabut wants to give others a chance to taste that experience first hand.
Neil got his first taste of home brewed beer in college. ”One weekend my cousin was like, hey, you guys should come over, I’m going to actually brew some beer in my garage. I bought this home brew kit,” he recalled. “I don’t think we joined him that first time because we thought (the) beer’s probably going to taste horrible, whatever.”
But, eventually, Neil did check out his cousin’s home brewing setup. “And it was really cool. I really liked the scientific aspect of brewing, and learning about fermentation, and learning about recipe development. Of course you're drinking beer the whole time too, that’s a big part of it, but there is also a bit of an artistic quality to it.” Neil said that he “just fell in love with it immediately, and I was obsessed with it. From there it was just, like, 'Ok, how do I turn this into a career?' ”
So Neil started working at a home brew shop to gain more experience while formulating a business plan to start his own brewery in Dayton called Eudora. Eudora is a Greek word that means gift. A percentage of every sale is set aside and once that reaches a certain level it’s donated to Charity Water, which does water projects all over the world. Eudora sales have already funded projects in Nepal and Malawi.
Neil was 22 when he started Eudora at the time. “I’m super young and naive, but bold,” he said laughing. “We started down the road at a tiny place.” The brewery has now expanded into a bigger space, with a rotating selection of around 30 - 40 seasonal and specialty craft beers.
“I’m proud of a lot of the beers that we’ve made,” he said looking around the brewery. “Especially, ones that we’ve kind of worked together on and it’s not just one person's recipe. One example of that is The Maniac, which is a tart cherry ale. We try to have it on tap all the time. Me and Jeff and Ryan, that’s our brew team, we all really worked together on that one.”
Ohio ranks 5th for craft breweries in the U.S. with over 360 companies. But, what really sets Neil’s microbrewery apart is that at Eudora, customers can experience making their own craft beer.
“Working in the home brew shop for a year or two, you’d get a lot of people that would come in and say, 'Oh, yeah, I’ve always wanted to try it, but I don’t want to sink two hundred bucks into a kit, and then not like it and have it sit in my garage for the next ten years,' ” Neil says. “So, I thought this would be a great way for people to try it out. That process was so cool to me when I was learning, I’d love to share that with other people. And then it became more of a social thing. Let’s go out with our buddies and make some beer together - bachelor party, birthday party, whatever, just a fun afternoon.”
On a Sunday afternoon. A group of aerospace medicine research scientists are gathered around Chris, one of Eudora’s brew technicians, in the B.O.P. section. That stands for Brew-On-Premises. With drinks in hand, the session starts off with a behind the scene tour and an overview of the brewing process. After another trip to the bar to sample more of the craft brews on tap, Chris leads them through the process of making their own beer.
This group has chosen to brew 2 different styles - the Saison 2 Electric Boogaloo, a farmhouse ale and a Belgian Dubbel.
Mike, who pulled this session together, picked the Belgian. “ I love Belgian,” he told me during the brewing process, “ I don't drink it very often, but yeah, they're just very tasty.” Rick told me that he and Mike have done this previously at Eudora’s old facility. “I’m an old home brewer,” Rick said, and “he’s a big beer lover.”
Kaila is the only woman in this boisterous group and she says she’s excited to try the process.
“I am," she said. "I haven’t done any brewing before, and I also don’t drink a lot of beer. But, I was invited and I wanted to come and try it out, and just have a good Sunday with friends."
Today’s batches of beer will go through a fermentation process and in three to five weeks the group will come back to bottle and label the finished product. Along one wall are framed labels previous customers have made for their beer, celebrating everything from weddings and anniversaries, to milestone birthdays. When I ask this group what ideas they have for naming their beer, one person suggests Mad Scientist.
Neil said that “People get really creative with it, and that’s awesome, that’s our goal is for people to do their own thing. Some people ask to come up with their own recipe, and we definitely don’t discourage that. We do also have people that make small adjustments to our recipes, and that’s fine too, we encourage creativity.”
When asked if anyone has ever made a beer during a BOP session that made it onto the Eudor list he responds, “I have yet for someone to come in with their own ideas and just blow our minds with it, but I’m open to it.”
Support for Culture Couch comes from WYSO Leaders Frank Scenna and Heather Bailey, who are proud to support storytelling that sparks curiosity, highlights creativity and builds community and Ohio Arts Council.
Culture Couch is created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.