Growlers are usually hulking, 64-ounce brown jugs. But not at the new Flatrock Brewing Co. Owner/brewer Lawrence Pritchard wanted to bring a little local flavor to his nanobrewery in rural Holgate in Northwest Ohio, where many folks can their own fruits and vegetables.
So Flatrock sells a 16-ounce — yes, a pint-size — growler that’s actually a mason jar. And the brewery’s tasting glasses are none other than mini mason jars.
“People really like them when they come in,” Pritchard said.
Flatrock, which also offers a 32-ounce growler, opened last month, becoming part of a wave of new nanobreweries in Ohio. Thanks to a change in state law last year, breweries now can open tasting rooms without buying a second, costly liquor license. The change has helped give rise to a whole new breed of nanobrewers like Pritchard who kept his full-time job at a home health care agency in nearby Napoleon.
Pritchard, a Holgate resident, reports that he’s having a tough time keeping up with customer demand for a locally made craft beer.
The difficulty is no surprise given the brewery set-up. He has a small Blichmann brewing system that churns out about a barrel at a time. His fermenters are converted, plastic garbage cans. And when it comes to transferring the beers into 12-ounce and 22-ounce bottles, it’s all done by hand either by Pritchard or his assistant Tim Yoder.
He also has dedicated, temperature controlled space for Belgian-style ales and bourbon barrel aging.
During a visit last week, there were three beers available: Towpath Classic American Pilsner, Pritchard Lane American Pale Ale and Hopgoblin American IPA. A Belgian-style blonde was still aging and he was waiting for government approval on a bourbon barrel aged stout. Towpath is quite tasty and features local honey from Franz Apiaries.
Indeed, nothing about Flatrock is big. The brewery is in a one-story, former barbershop that still has the black-and-white square tiled floor. The bar seats four. And the place has room for about 20 people before it starts pushing the fire code. A railroad runs directly behind the brewery and every so often you hear the loud train whistle and the building rumbles just a bit.
“I feel like I’m in my garage,” Pritchard said, laughing.
It’s a perfect fit for Holgate, a village of about 1,100 people in Henry County. The downtown is sparse. There’s a single bar, a small grocery, gas station, bank and appliance store. And that’s about it.
If demand stays strong, Pritchard said he knows he’ll have to invest in a larger brewing system and possibly move to a bigger location. But he doesn’t want to leave Henry County.
The brewery doesn’t serve food now — heck, where would he put tables? — but there are plans for offering barbecue using local meats in the future.
Pritchard also hopes to brew a special beer called Joe E. Brown Ale this summer to honor arguably Holgate’s most well-known citizen. Joe E. Brown, a vaudeville performer, film actor and comedian, was born in the village in 1891.
And as for those mason jars, Pritchard insisted they are indeed growlers. Old-timers have shared stories of a long ago brewery in the area that handed out samples in mason jars. They were called growlers, Pritchard said, because they hissed when opened for the first time.
The Flatrock tasting room is open three days a week: 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; and 2 to 7 p.m. Saturdays.