Cellar Rats Brewery in Madison is Ohio's only brewery located at an estate winery, Debonne Vineyards. (At least until Valley Vineyards opens its brewery this year.) Winery workers Tony Debevc Jr. and Ed Trebets launched Cellar Rats in 2008 and the brewery has steadily grown from having only draft available at the brewery-winery to selling several of its beers off-premise in bottles. For those unfamiliar with the winery business, "cellar rats" is a term used to describe workers who toil long hours in the winery cellar.
Question: Cellar Rats Brewery is located at Debonne Vineyards, your family-owned estate winery, and is one of the few winery-breweries in the country. Why did you decide to get into the brewing business?
Answer: I decided to get into the brewing industry because of the passion for craft beer and the brewing of craft beer. Plus at the time it seem like it would help our family business separate us from the other wineries in the Grand River Valley growing region. The once idea of being a winery with another option as a craft brewery has now turned into building a new brewery after three years and it's five times bigger.
Q: You offer both wine and beer sampling. What are the major differences between wine drinkers and beer drinkers?
A: There is really not that much of difference. Both craft beer and Grand River Valley wine drinkers are smart, educated people who are more into flavor and not just a buzz. Even though we make some sweeter wines and some session beers, people are still looking for that next level that's not red Bud.
Q: Are there any similarities in making beer and making wine?
A: Beer making and wine are complete opposites except for the long hours and the seven-day work week.
Q: What’s your best-selling beer and why do you think it’s so popular?
A: Our number one selling beer is our Rat Tail Ale. It's an American amber style ale. It's a very balanced beer between hops and malt, which your new craft beer drinker can get into and it still has enough respect in the beer dork world like myself.
Q: Which beer – any beer in the world – do you wish that you created/invented/brewed and why?
A: If there was only one beer that I could choose, it would be surely the beer I love to drink the most. The shocking part is that the beer that I wish I created comes in a can. The beer that I have chosen hails from the Midwest, and it's from Surley Brewing Co. It's their Furious I.P.A. This IPA has such an awesome floral nose with just a killer malty middle and "WOW" hoppy finish.