The original article seems to have been lost, much like the Ark in Indiana Jones, in the archives of The Score, where it was first published. This article has been reconstructed from Scribe’s fading memory… as he referred to it, a few readers we contacted and a rough/unfinished draft Scribe still had. This column was published about 1999.
-Professor Good Ales
The Death of a Brewpub
What kills a brewpub? Certainly the homebrewer should support any business that promotes knowledge, taste, an appreciation for good product and intrigues potential new homebrewers. Anything which kills it is our foe. There is an added incentive. It’s quite possible these very personal horror stories can serve as warning buoys for where the monsters might be; what NOT to do as a homebrewer.
Crawling down the steep hill towards Cincinnati you will stop. . . go. . . stop. . . go. . . That’s because they’re always working on these interstates. Maiden Millie and Ye Old Scribe have passed through this tri-state area (Indiana, if you must ask what the third state is.) for over 21 years. Cinci doesn’t have interstates. They have very dangerous slow-states.
So you’ll have plenty of time, once you reach the bottom of the hill, to shed a tear for the big yellow ex-brewery (twice over; once many moons ago before BrewWorks, it was a local Budweiser wanna-be as many breweries were back then.) It’s on your right, eastern, side. Scribe believes it has been repainted. Maiden Millie says it might be orchid now.
The sign will read “Jillian’s.”
(Note: Jillians in Covington is gone now too and the complex is for sale. Is this building cursed?- Prof. GA)
It used to read “BrewWorks.”
Let’s reverse the tape. Let’s hop in Well’s proverbial time machine and go back to this particular place and time.
But first, what was BrewWorks? BrewWorks was a multi-floored extravaganza with two full service bars. One was dedicated to “Beer Geeks!” (Don’t hit Ye Olde Scribe; that’s what THEY called it.) Another had an eye bugging out selection of 21 BrewWorks ales and even a 40-tap microbar. They had a full service BOP. (Brew on the premises.) They had a large comfy lounge chair filled cigar or pipe study that would make Sherlock Holmes feel right at home. It just needed a real large fireplace and collies to curl up at your feet.
Damn the health codes! Full speed ahead!
Oh well . . .
They even had an adjacent complex: “Party Source.” It had the largest selection of bottled beers in the universe.
No, they didn’t over build.
No, the food didn’t rot like not so freshly crushed armadillo in mid-day Texas summer sun, except towards the brutal end and therein lies our story. . .
Introducing Tim Rastettler, now brewing at Liberty Street in Akron, OH. (And now at Thirsty Dog in Akron, OH.-Prof. GA) Tim was the SOUL brewer at BrewWorks, not just the “sole” brewer. Tim, about 5’8”, graying hair, lightly frosted with silver, is a straightforward type of guy. He’s so dedicated to good product, after BrewWorks kacked, he started a line cleaning service because he found the scum clogging Ohio’s brew veins disgusting. He lives in Kentucky but commutes to Akron, OH. Ye Olde scribe commutes long distances but 400 miles a pop? Ach du meine gute! That’s a polite German way of saying . . . never mind!
“I left Liberty for what I thought was the brewing opportunity of a lifetime.”
They really missed him. A former owner sued Tim for the recipes. Talk about a “goodbye kiss of death!”
The owner of the future BrewWorks said, “You have free reign; design the best brewpub in the country: funds unlimited.”
Mr. Rogers says, “Boys and girls can you say, ‘pressure?’ ”The owner also said, “Brew the best ale in the country and prove it or you’ll be gone.” Mr. Rogers says again…
To compete with Tim the owner opened a 40-tap microbar… and then closed it. You see Tim’s ales outsold the micro’s 80%! Then they made him brew more. Isn’t this how they treated those who built the pyramids before they locked them inside forever?
This kind of pressure sphinx.
It’s just not phar-oah.
Sorry . . .
But Tim danced to this particular Tom Lehrer’s “tango” quite well. He brewed more than what was asked. All this with 3 dedicated mash tuns and a kettle whirlpool combo.
The quality of these ales, Maiden Millie can certainly attest to (sometimes detest, she was not as much a hop fan as Ye Olde Scribe was and still is, but tis growing on her . . . wish Scribe could pick one right . . . never mind.) Gravities so thick and chewy you would swear they were brewed on another denser planet. IBU’s were well over 100+. If he tasted these hop heavy ales, even a “Hop God” might hop so high he would miss the heavens and splatter Pluto. Even Ye Old Scribe had to cut it on a rare occasion. Scribe distinctly remember a delightful “Mephistopheles” and “Son of Mephistopheles” series. Tim brewed an Ice bock rumored at well over 30% alcohol. There is some controversy about the percentage. Several people who Ye Olde Scribe talked to differed with Tim. One professional brewer probably sums up the various comments best, “Yes, it WAS very high but it didn’t taste like it was ‘well over 30%,’ but it was at least 28… and it didn’t taste like motor oil.” Tim’s stated goal as per one newspaper of the time was “30% and not tasting like motor oil.” (Take that Mr. Adams!) Tim said to Ye Olde Scribe, “It was actually 42%, SP: 1.400, Final: 1.100 and they made me dump $50,000 worth of it when they closed.” What did they do to Mel Gibson at the end of “Braveheart?” “Nice slow pastrami thin slices please Mr. Marquis. . .”
His one suggestion for homebrewers? “Take a recipe change only one thing and reassess. Too many brewers change recipes too fast. . . too erratically.”
So what killed BrewWorks?
Note: Ye Olde Scribe promised not to be too specific. So you will have to infer what Scribe means. However, Scribe must do this, not to protect the innocent, but to keep the guilty from filing lawsuits and further bruising those already hurt by the death of BrewWorks.
(Scribe got rather unspecific here for legal reasons, but the Professor filled in some of the meaning. Any mistakes are the fault of neither Mr. Rastetter nor Scribe. Blame moi’. -Prof. GA.)
So again, what killed BrewWorks? Trivia: Do you know what the scarecrow asked the wizard for? This scarecrow couldn’t have asked the wizard for his brain… for the wizard-owner of Oz may have been pre- lobotomized.
Another example of a similar case that may clarify what Scribe’s trying to relate…
Ye Olde Scribe is proud to say he played morning music at a Music Row (Nashville) restaurant for 3 years. That’s because the lady who owned this establishment took great pride in publicly humiliating and/or firing her employees. Every week she came in and at least one employee was the assigned target. She lost at least one employee every week. Ye Olde Scribe saw 20-30 total changeovers in staff over 3 years. This lady went from owning a restaurant with a dedicated staff to a staff Satan would lock the gates of hell to avoid.
Can you imagine working for someone like that? Scribe can; as can Mr. Rastetter… of this Scribe is sure.
Anheuser and Miller are big enough to manage a few captains from Hades or maybe even a CEO from Hell. Large but still pipsqueak in comparison, competitors like brewpubs aren’t that big. They can’t survive such nonsense.
Now BrewWorks sits looking more like the silenced villain from “Scream” than “Jillian’s,” to those who love good ale.
What can homebrewers learn from this? Yes, you can be too experimental, as Tim suggested. BrewWorks customers lined up around the block to taste Tim’s very radical, experimental and push the limits style of brewing. People will enjoy your brewing more if you treat it as the adventure it is and not simply an effort to fit some stylistic guidelines. Yes, such advice is helpful and if you wish to follow guidelines as an adventure please do. Don’t let them rule you or your brewing.
But constant changes and shifts can also keep you from excellence in brewing. Whether you are a homebrewer, or the owner of a restaurant where beer is brewed, if you want good product then it’s all about the beer and the brewer… not a rather strange need to keep things shaken and stirred.
Hop-ing Around was a column written by Ye Olde Scribe and Maiden Millie that was published in The Score, a publication of The Music City Brewers and, occasionally, Beer at the Porch, from about 1998 until about 2005.