PORT CLINTON — Quintin Smith bends and scoops up a piece of trash pinwheeling across an open field on his 60-acre peaches and apricot farm on Catawba Island.
Behind him, water trickles over sheets of bedrock into a man-made lagoon. Above, a pair of oasts rise toward a crystal blue, late-summer sky.
“We’ve been talking about doing this for 10 years,” he says.
“This” is putting a brewery on the property that his family purchased in 2009. An oast is most often found in Great Britain. It is a kiln used for drying hops. On Catawba Island, the Smith oasts are decorative and are the signature landmarks for the Twin Oast Brewing
Since Memorial Day, Twin Oast, open daily from noon to 11 p.m., has been operating as the newest brewery in northwest Ohio. It joins Catawba Island Brewing Co. in the tourist hot spot.
“When we were putting the business plan together, we wondered, can we get 300 people a day?” general manager Cory Smith, Quintin’s son, says. “But we have been doing 500 to 600 a day. It’s been overwhelming. At events, we have been getting 1,500 people.”
Over the Labor Day weekend, the brewery went through 25-30 kegs. With a 15-barrel system that uses four 30-barrel fermenters and a 60-barrel fermenter, Twin Oast has the capacity to produce 3,000 barrels a year. It is expected to make at least 1,000 barrels in its first year.
“We’re trying to grow slowly within our city, then neighboring cities. We’re not looking to go outside Ohio. We want to go deep, not wide with our distribution,” Cory says.
As he talks, an outdoor bar inside one of the oasts is packed. A fire pit on an outdoor terrace is surrounded by a ring of chairs that will be popular in the fall chill. On the lawn, picnic tables are all occupied with moms and dads keeping watchful eyes on children chasing each other across the field. On some days, the lawn turns into a Wiffle ball field.
“We’re a park and a brewery,” Cory Smith jokes.
Inside, there is another bar with eight Twin Oast beers on tap, all of them sessionable (between 4.5% and 6.5% alcohol by volume). Head brewer John Novotny was a lucky find for Twin Oast. Cory has been a home brewer for years, but the family wanted a veteran brewer to help launch the business. An ad was placed on probrewer.com and Novotny, an award-winning brewer who was instrumental in launching California’s BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse chain, responded.
“The first thing he did was say that we are making clean beer. We’ll get to know our system, then we’ll make more exotic beers,” Cory says.
The lineup bears that out. The Legitimate Swells IPA is not overpowering or bitter, and, at 6.3 percent alcohol, a Catawba Island visitor can safely enjoy more than one. Two fruit beers, the ApriCatawba and Cherry Chasis, fulfill the business’ farm-to-fermenter mission. The Old Ohio blonde ale is one of the brewery’s most popular beers. There is also a porter, milk stout, kolsch, and wheat ale on the menu. As production ramps up, the plan is to get the menu up to 12 Twin Oast beers, including an Oktoberfest, some stronger porters and stouts, and a few sour beers.
“The whole goal was to have something for everyone. We’ve got the blonde ale to appease all those Bud Light drinkers,” Cory says. “We have a flavor for every palate.”
The brewery is jointly owned by Quintin Smith and wife Donna; sons Cory, Tyson, and Dustin, and daughter Haley. Cory’s wife, Katie, also helps out. The couple were married in August.
One of the challenges for a brewery in a region bustling with tourists in the summer is to continue drawing traffic when those tourists leave. The family plans to hold several events over the fall and winter. A new beer will be released Oct. 6 at the brewery’s Oastoberfest, an event that will include at least five other breweries, a polka band, and dancers from the Bavarian Sports Club of Toledo. Around Christmas, the plan is to string lights across the nearby orchards and erect a giant Christmas tree.
Quintin Smith openly admits that the family is growing into this new venture and will have to adapt.
“Since I have never been in this industry before, I don’t know what great is or what good is,” he says. “But I know I walk by the parking lot on weekdays and it’s always at least 80 percent full.”
Patron Saints Brewery on West Bancroft will host a pregame party Saturday before the Toledo Rockets play football powerhouse Miami at the Glass Bowl.
Rodney's Coast 2 Coast Cuisine food truck will serve breakfast, and the brewery will release its Saint Benedict, a scotch ale. The event goes from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. Kickoff is at noon.
Earnest Brew Works has reached a deal with Heidelberg to distribute its beer to 14 northwest Ohio counties.
“We self-distributed our beer the first 1½ years we were open, and as the demand for our beer increased, we increased production,” co-owner Scot Yarnell says. “We have increased our production so much that I can no longer distribute the beer any longer in my Jeep Cherokee.”
The deal means Earnest will now be on tap at several additional bars and restaurants throughout the region.
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