The new MadCap Brewing Co. is the epitome of a nanobrewery. Housed in part of a garage — not the full garage, mind you — and tucked behind a yellow house along Graham Road and next door to Stow High School, it’s a mere 200 square feet.
If that big.
With its Brew-Magic system, plastic coffee bean dispensers that now hold grains, and four 14.5-gallon fermenters, MadCap just might be the tiniest production brewery in Ohio.
And that’s fine with owners Ryan Holmes, his wife Gia, and their friend Billy Kalbaugh. The trio, all in their early 30s, are jumping into the growing Ohio craft beer industry knowing they are starting out small.
So small, in fact, that MadCap doesn’t even have enough space for a tasting room and will initially produce only one beer, an India pale ale. And that one beer will be available on draft at only one restaurant, Bellacino’s Pizza and Grinders, which happens to be around the corner on Fishcreek Road.
It’s not that the MadCap owners don’t want to make more beers or have a wider distribution. But that’s really all their nano system can support for now.
Green Bullet IPA could make its debut at Bellacino’s as early as February. MadCap also hopes to make some seasonal beers for the restaurant.
“We’ve done everything word of mouth,” Kalbaugh said about the upcoming, low-key launch. “It’s been all handshakes and smiles.”
Bellacino’s owner Brad Ruth said he’s happy to offer MadCap at the restaurant because he’s passionate about craft beer and wants to help a community business that’s just starting out. “If you help others, it will come back to you,” he said.
MadCap is entering an increasingly competitive Ohio market. The number of craft breweries in the state is exploding, with at least a dozen opening over the last year and many more planned.
The majority of that growth has been concentrated in central and southwestern Ohio. MadCap is the first new brewery to open in Summit County in years.
Akron is home to three established breweries: Thirsty Dog, Hoppin’ Frog and Ohio.
Thirsty Dog co-owner John Najeway offered the following advice for any new brewer: “Consistency and quality. You can’t skimp. No matter what you’re doing, whether you’re on a nano system or a big system.”
Ryan Holmes, who has been homebrewing for about 10 years and got into the hobby when a neighbor offered him a homemade beer after mowing his lawn, knows they have a lot to learn. They have spent several years brewing for family and friends, and honing recipes.
“You’re always a student,” Ryan Holmes said.
While MadCap may be small, its plans are grander.
The Holmeses and Kalbaugh ultimately would like to purchase a larger brewing system to make additional beers, distribute their beers in bottles or cans, and open a brewpub. But those goals are down the road.
For now, Ryan Holmes and Kalbaugh are keeping their full-time jobs while brewing and getting MadCap off the ground. Holmes is an operating engineer and Kalbaugh is a landscaper.
Gia Holmes, a homemaker who takes care of the couple’s children, serves as the company secretary and treasurer.
“We want to brew what we enjoy,” Ryan Holmes, who at one point was in the punk-metal band 21 Gun Solution, said about their philosophy. “And it seems like everybody is going in that direction.”
Their favorites include Belgian-style ales and beers that push the limits of flavor and style. But they also want beer drinkers to get used to the MadCap name before introducing anything avant-garde.
“Once they trust you — ‘Wow, OK, this really isn’t drain cleaner’ — we’ve found people to be a lot more accepting of some off-the-wall type stuff that you want to do or at least out of their comfort zone,” Ryan Holmes said.
As for the MadCap name, it reflects their passion and desire to push limits.
“We’re all pretty mad,” Ryan Holmes said, laughing.