Gavin Meyers and Tim Ward learned an important lesson while getting their masters of business administration degrees from The Ohio State University: Look for underserved markets when launching any business venture.
They think they’ve discovered a major underserved niche in the craft beer community in Columbus.
While craft breweries are popping up fast and furious around central Ohio, Meyers and Ward are focused on opening a brew-on-premise brewery and bar in a renovated building on North High Street in the Short North. Their business, called Bru, is a brewery where people can come in and pay to make their own beer on professional equipment under the tutelage of a professional brewer.
The hope is to open in late summer or early fall.
The brew-on-premise concept is well-known in northern Ohio – the most famous place being The Brew Kettle in Strongsville. But there’s also Little Mountain Brewing Co. in Kirtland and the BottleHouse Brewery in Cleveland Heights.
Of course, there’s nothing like that in the rest of Ohio. (Although, there’s a similar effort under way in Bryan in western Ohio.)
“Tim and I started talking about why there isn’t one of these in Columbus,” Meyers said. “The craft beer market is super strong and we have a lot of microbreweries opening and bars featuring craft beers are doing well. It seemed like a no-brainer.”
He also noted that Bru will have no direct competition in the region.
Brew-on-premise operations sell the brewing experience. Bru will have a custom-made, eight-kettle system from Price-Schonstrom Inc.
People come in, pay anywhere from $100 to $200 depending on the recipe, and make 15-gallon batches of beer. All the ingredients are at their disposal. They can use provided recipes or their own. Bru hopes to have a catalogue of about 100 recipes developed within the first year.
At the end of the process, customers walk out with several cases of beer that they made – and bottled -- themselves.
The best part, according to many folks, is that there’s no messy cleanup. Or at least, you don’t have to do the cleanup like you would if you made the beer at home.
Meyers said the goal is to become central Ohio’s craft beer headquarters. In addition to the brew-on-premise aspect of the business, Bru will make its own brands. (Meyers, who has a bar and marketing background, and Ward, who’s an engineer, are in the process of searching for a full-time brewer. Both are homebrewers.)
Bru plans to offer about 10 to 15 of its own beers on draft in its bar, along with other draft beer from Ohio and beyond. If that weren’t enough, Bru also will sell homebrewing equipment and offer homebrewing classes.
“The only place you can talk beer, make beer, buy homebrew and drink it while you’re making it,” Meyers said.
One thing missing will be Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors products. Meyers said Bru will offer only beer from small craft breweries such as the new Zauber Brewing and Four String Brewing in Columbus.
Bru also will dedicate a tap at the bar to homebrewers. The plan is to hold a monthly homebrewers competition and then sell that beer in the bar, with the proceeds going to charity.
It’s unclear yet whether the Bru brands for retail sale will come in bottle or can. “I really like the comeback the can is having and its recyclability,” Meyers said. “In the end, it will end up being the container that best conveys our taste while matching our image. We’re still undecided on that.”
The building, a former Ford dealership in the early 1900s, should be an attraction. Meyers and Ward have collected windows and doors from Ohio State buildings that have been torn down to install at Bru. “You’re going to be surrounded by the look and feel that will transport you back to pre-Prohibition times,” Meyers said. “Our building is perfect for it. It’s all exposed brick.”
The building is more than 12,000 square feet. Bru will use about 4,000 square feet, with about 1,500 square feet will be devoted to the retail bar, and 2,000 square feet for brewing.
Meyers and Ward have pretty lofty goals for Bru. In fact, they hope to franchise the concept down the road.
“We do want to be the first multi-location brew-on-premise to find success in the United States,” Meyers said. “That’s our blue sky goal.”