One of Ohio’s most popular summer tourist destinations is getting a new brewery. Catawba Island Brewing Co., a production brewery and tasting room, hopes to open in May just as tourist season begins in full force for the Lake Erie Islands region.
Partners Shad Gunderson and Mike Roder are launching the brewery with a 10-barrel brewhouse on the mainland between Catawba and Port Clinton.
"It’s an incredible place," Gunderson said about the area. "We all live here. We all love it. It’s definitely my home. Reality is that you look around and you wonder why nobody else is [opening a brewery]. And eventually you say, ‘I could do it.’ "
The plan is to offer six regular beers, including a pilsner, red ale and porter, and four seasonals at the tasting room on East Harbor Road. The beer names will incorporate family colloquialisms and local attractions, such as Pebble Beach Porter.
The brewery also will distribute draft beer to bars and restaurants in the area. There will be a pilot system to brew exclusive beers for the tasting room. And the brewery might offer 22-ounce bombers.
Catawba Island will join several other breweries in the area, including Kelleys Island Brewery and Put-in-Bay Brewing. But those other operations are brewpubs and because they are on islands accessible only by boat or plane, they close down during the winter when the tourists dry up.
Catawba Island will be a year-round attraction and focus on distribution, setting it apart from the other breweries, said Gunderson, a former homebrewer who works full time as an information security consultant.
The Lake Erie Shores & Islands region, which includes the Cedar Point amusement park, attracted nearly 7.6 million visitors in 2011, the latest year that statistics were available. It is well-known for its party reputation, not necessarily its love of craft beer.
The Catawba Island owners know that well.
"We’re going to have to carve out our market a little bit and that’s going to involve a bit of education for a lot of folks," said Gunderson, who will split the brewing duties with Roder, who used to work in the nuclear industry. "This is the land of Bud Light and Miller Lite, unfortunately.
"We’re looking to build on something that isn’t here. It’s a vacuum and we hope to fill it."
In a humorous nod, the brewery plans to make a beer called Intentionally Sh*#$y Lager. At least, that will be its non-legal name. The idea is to provide a gateway beer for those interested only in macro-brews. And there are plenty of those people among the tourists.
"The analogy we use is there are a ton of fish swimming up the river and if you’re a bear, you only have to grab one or two of them," Gunderson said.
For more details, check out the brewery's Facebook page by clicking here.Fo