Bill Ryan is the founder and brewer at Dungeon Hollow Brewing Co. in Bloomingdale in Southeast Ohio. The nanobrewery with the interesting name has been open for less than a year.
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: I started homebrewing years ago while serving in the military. Having family roots in Bavaria, good beer has always been a passion for me and it turned into quite the team building hobby for my fellow service members, friends and me. We started with extract, specialty grains and a grain sock from a kit; all thrown together in a pot on the stove in the kitchen. As the batches became better, we became more adventurous and eventually worked our way into all-grain brewing. Everything I learned led to more questions I needed answers to. This eventually led to the building of a 20-gallon capacity, semi automated HERMS system that is very similar to the system we now have at Dungeon Hollow Brewing Co.
To me, brewing is the perfect combination of artistic expression and science. The creativity involved in crafting recipes for flavorful, well-balanced beer is akin to a painter turning a canvas into a one-of-a-kind painting. The science involved ensures one can impart the best qualities of the ingredients to create a full spectrum of complex flavors, aromas, and appearance.
We started Dungeon Hollow Brewing Co. because we enjoy good beer and when we started the process there were no breweries in Jefferson County. Anyone looking for a craft beer had upwards of a 40-minute drive to get it. This part of the state still reflects on the past and it's good to be part of a growing number of businesses and community members that are working to breathe life back into this beautiful area.
Q: What's the story behind the name Dungeon Hollow?
A: The origins of the name have become the root of many interesting theories among our patrons, unfortunately the actual story is a little less exciting than the theories I've heard.
As anyone who has considered opening a brewery has probably already found out, original names for breweries are harder and harder to come by. A quick internet search for any name one might think of quickly shows someone else already thought of and used it. With a bit of frustration, we turned to local geographic areas and it turns out the name of a hollow not far from the farm my wife and I operate returned no results when entered into a number of search engines. So we jumped on the name, still under the impression that the brewery would be housed in a building on the farm.
The farm is a bit difficult to get to and public utilities like water and sewer are not available so we opted for our current location when we were approached by the owner who was looking for a tenant but the name stuck.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite craft beer trends now?
A: I really enjoy the creativity that brewers are bringing to the table. I've liked some trends more than others but overall anything that helps draw new people to the world of craft beer is something I can get behind.
My least favorite trend is the behind-the-scenes political battles that are being waged by large business interests and politicians in some states to limit the craft beer industry and to squeeze more money out of craft breweries.
Q: What's your best-selling beer and why do you think it's so popular?
A: Our best-selling beer is Mad King Ludwig Hefeweizen. It was originally planned to be a seasonal beer for spring and early summer but customer demand has me brewing it almost every other time I head into the brewery.
Mad King Ludwig is a traditional Bavarian hefeweizen brewed with German grain, German hops and finished with a strain of yeast that has its origins in Munich to provide the signature hefeweizen flavors. I think it's light, clean and a refreshing nature makes it appeal to wide demographic ranging from those just entering the craft beer world to the seasoned beer aficionados looking for a refreshing brew.
Q: Which beer – any beer in the world – do you wish that you created/brewed and why?
A: There are so many excellent beers in the world that to pick one above the rest would be impossible for me. I enjoy a variety of styles from a huge number of brewers across the world.
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