JW: Mike, please tell the users of Ratebeer.com who you are (and who your brewery is): Background, capacity, initial capacity etc.
MD: Hello, my name is Mike Dewey. My wife Kathleen and I founded Mt. Carmel Brewing Company in 2005. My background is in office, medical, and retail development. Kathleen worked as a realtor. The brewery, in the basement of our home at the time, consisted of a 80 g. 36kw steam jacketed soup kettle, 100+ g. mash tun, three 60 g. FMís, and three 60 g. SVís. We were able to
produce approx. 165 g. per week or 330 1/2 g. growlers. Initially, I continued to work in development as I grew the brewing business. In October of 2005, I left my full time job. I felt the brewery had more potential for growth than originally thought. I also realized the business would need to grow in order to continue. We have since built a new facility behind our
home to lend space to a modest 7 bbl. brew house with a current annual production of 1100 bbl. per year.
JW: How do you feel about the Cincinnati market? It has had many breweries in the past, several have gone down in the last ten years.
MD: I believe the number of breweries that have failed and the few that remain says a lot about the greater Cincinnati market. Our belief when starting up a brewery was that if it were small with little overhead, we could overcome the challenges that other breweries encountered. We very much tested the waters before diving in. The tri-state area has very devoted craft beer
supporters, however there are simply not nearly as many as other areas of the country. Only in recent years have the Cincinnati Regional Chamber and area retailers added routine beer events/festivals to the mix. This is a great indicator for beer lovers. This has been going on in places like Oregon, Washington, and California for many years. People sometimes make
reference to the fact that Cincinnati is the place to be in case of WWIII because it could take 10 years for anything to reach us. Perhaps we can model the potential growth of craft beer in Cincinnati after Portlandís success and expect the same great results minus ten tears. You can dream!
JW: You started out small, almost as small as many homebrewers, many of which on this site dream about starting their own brewery, what advice can you give to them?
MD: For starters, donít ask me how difficult it has been because I wouldnít want to discourage anyone from following their dream of owning a brewery. Let me follow up by saying it has been the most difficult yet most rewarding challenge in my lifetime. Yes, you can start small. Donít think youíre going
to do it with a few hundred dollars though. I have heard that others have gotten started on dime size budgets in the past, Iím not buying it. Unavoidable startup costs include such things as license fees, bonds, brewery insurance, product liability insurance, commodities, and of course a brewery. The list goes on. If you do intend to start small, my advice is to have a plan for rapid expansion. If things go well, it will ultimately come
down to volume. One more thing. If you intend to open a brewery for the sole purpose of being able to enjoy brewing and all of the terrific things associated with the hobby, take note. I spend less time brewing and more time reacting to the same challenges most small business owners encounter. Unfortunately, I drink less too.
JW: You have four beers now on the shelves in Ohio, how do you decide on which beers will be part of your portfolio?
MD: Because of our initial size and fermenting/cellaring capacities, I kept with ale styles that have flexibility with regard to malt inventory. Our products had been on the shelf as soon as 7 days in the beginning. I had to be able to brew any of our three styles on any given day. Keeping with similar yeast
strains was important as well. Two and a half years later I am just now able to introduce new styles like our brown ale. We will be adding a new style this winter and now have the capacity to lager as well. Hops may have influence over many beermakersí lineups in the years to come, but thatís a loaded discussion worthy of its own article.
JW: I donít mind buying growlers(which is how your beer is sold), but I really like to know that I like the beer. Iíve seen you & your wife at many tastings at stores in which your beers are sold. Iím betting that many people miss seeing you and thus wonít buy a growler. Any chance you will be bottling in 22 oz or 12 oz bottles soon?
MD: We hit the bricks putting on tastings every chance we got to promote our beers in lieu of adding twenty thousand advertising dollars to the for mentioned list of startup costs. I donít think we would have had a chance otherwise. I agree most people wouldnít choose to purchase a 64oz. bottle not knowing if they like it. Our beers started out on the retail shelf only
and were not available on draft making it a hard sale. Sales figures show it is most popular around the holidays or when groups of people are gathering. Already having a specialty size bottle, we will be introducing a 12oz. bottle to compete with the everyday choices. As far as when... we have to get through the holiday season first. We typically sell more beer than we
can produce between October and December.
JW: How about a Mt. Carmel tasting room or beer pub in the future?