The Brew Kettle is making some big moves.
Bottles are on the way out. Cans are in.
A rebranding is coming.
And the award-winning Strongsville-based brewery — known for beers such as White Rajah, El Lupulo Libre and Big Woody — is taking over the former Fat Head’s brewery in Middleburg Heights on a temporary basis until it opens up a new production brewery and tasting room at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.
Oh, and it's opening brewpubs in Avon and Mentor.
The brewery announced the mouthful of news last week.
The most intriguing aspect involves the former Fat Head’s site, which was supposed to be home to the fledgling Rivals Brewing. Rivals encountered “circumstances out of their control [and] they were unable to finalize construction and begin brewing in the facility,” the Brew Kettle said in a news release.
The Brew Kettle, Fat Head’s and Rivals worked out an agreement allowing the Brew Kettle to take over the site, while Rivals will contract brew there. Rivals has agreed to then buy the brewery when the Brew Kettle’s new “forever home” is ready in 2020, the release said.
In a followup telephone interview, the Brew Kettle owner Chris Russo declined to say where the new production brewery and tasting room will be located, but he said the site has been chosen. He had announced plans in 2015 for a new restaurant, production brewery, brew-on-premise business, winery, distillery, outdoor patios and dedicated party room in Strongsville, but said it no longer will be built there. The brewery’s current production site in Strongsville will serve as storage and the equipment will be repurposed, as opposed to being sold, he said.
In the meantime, the brewery said the move to the former Fat Head’s site will allow the Brew Kettle to triple its brewing capacity and make the transition to cans easier because of a high-speed canning line already at the site.
Russo said the brewery opted to go with cans because of the retail demand.
“If you look at all the sales data, everything is trending to cans,” he said.
Columbus-based artist Clint Davidson has been hired to produce updated designs for the brewery. The first release of new cans hit the Cleveland market last week with the launch of Major Lager, a premium domestic style lager in a 16-ounce can starting at a six-pack price point of $8.99.
The refresh will continue as the Brew Kettle launches its year-round and seasonal beers in 12-ounce cans throughout the summer. The next releases are scheduled for June: Shandy Shores and White Rajah.
Russo noted that the brewery’s brand is due for a makeover.
The Brew Kettle is one of Ohio’s oldest breweries, launching as a brew-on-premise operation in 1995. That business — where people come in and brew their own beer — remains wildly popular, as does the attached restaurant. But the brewery has grown quite a bit since the early days when it marketed its beer as Ringneck Brewing.
It now operates the brew-on-premise business and restaurant in Strongsville, a separate production brewery in Strongsville, nanobrewery in Hudson and restaurant in Amherst.
Brewing legend passes
Art Beall Jr., who was once named the best homebrewer in the country and co-founded the Society of Akron Area Zymurgists homebrewing club, died April 25 after suffering a stroke. He was 62.
"Art was a devout Christian and loved the Lord Jesus with all his heart," friend Matt Huber said in an email to fellow club members. "He was one of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of calling my friend. He would drop everything at any time to provide his assistance anyone that ever needed his help, brewing related or otherwise."
Beall, who lived in Hudson, won the American Homebrewers Association's Ninkasi Award in 1998 for being the best homebrewer in the United States. He also had co-founded the SAAZ homebrewing club in 1995, and designed and constructed the club's brewing system.
"Art was a close friend and the guiding mentor in my long journey of brewing beer," said Jack Kephart, the award-winning brewer at The Brew Kettle in Strongsville. "... I humbly believe that I owe my brewing career in part to Art's influence and friendship."
Beall was a 1974 graduate of Ellet High School in Akron. He graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in engineering and worked as a contracted computer programmer for the Timken Co.
He is survived by his wife, Cindy, and other family. A funeral service was held Tuesday.
Millersburg Brewing Co. will celebrate its sixth birthday with six anniversary beers.
The celebration runs from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at the brewery in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country. The party will include not only special draft beer releases but also live music, food specials and the first six-packs of Beclouded, a New England-style IPA.
“It’s amazing,” award-winning brewer Marty Lindon said. “I just can’t believe it’s been six years. It’s just slowly grown and slowly grown. Hard to believe.”
Millersburg, which is distributed statewide on draft and in cans, produced 175 barrels in its first year. Last year, it brewed just over 2,000.
Here’s the anniversary beer rundown, with a new one being released each hour from noon to 5 p.m.:
• Noon: Dank Democracy: A hazy IPA. The brewery said the beer’s name is a play off Donald Trump Jr.’s tweet that “democracy dies in dankness.”
• 1 p.m.: Outa Town Lemon Tart: A kettle sour fermented with three gallons of lemon juice per barrel. It was brewed in collaboration with Paradigm Shift Craft Brewery in Massillon.
• 2 p.m.: Andrew’s Ice: A pale ale brewed in collaboration with Lockport Brewery in Bolivar. Lockport co-founder and brewer Andrew Marburger worked at Millersburg in 2014. A dark Munich malt — instead of a light Munich malt — was used for a kolsch. The beer became Andrew’s Ice and it was a taproom favorite.
• 3 p.m.: Seven Hills Porter: A porter cold infused with coffee.
• 4 p.m.: French Ridge IPA infused with grapefruit juice.
• 5 p.m.: Beclouded infused with blood orange.
The brewery said O’Possum Run Pale Ale also will make its last appearance until it is rebranded, on draft and in a limited amount of six-packs at the anniversary party.
Great Lakes Brewing Co. has launched a new "Small Batch Can Series."
The Cleveland brewery released the first beer in the series last week: Mexican Lager with Lime, a 5.4 percent Mexican-style lager with lime. The beers will be available for a limited time in 12-ounce six-packs at the Great Lakes gift shop and in limited distribution throughout Northeast Ohio.
The series was inspired by the brewery's two-barrel pilot system.
Planted Flag news
Planted Flag Brewing will hold a groundbreaking May 15 for its new 10-barrel brewpub in Medina Township.
“In less than a month, we’ll break ground,” founder and brewer Aaron Wirtz said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
He and his wife, Karen, had announced plans last year to launch the brewery at 3594 Pearl Road, with hopes of opening this summer. Planted Flag encountered some delays with financing, but is now moving forward.
Wirtz, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot and former high school physics and chemistry teacher, said they have hired Cleveland-based Nyman Construction as the general contractor for the project. The company also worked on the Bookhouse, Masthead and Noble Beast breweries, he said.
Bob Ross event
A lot of beer drinkers apparently want to dress and paint like Bob Ross.
Fat Head’s Brewery has added a second “The Bob Ross Experience” after the first fundraiser sold out. The event, which raises money for A Special Wish Cleveland, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. May 17 at the brewery, 17450 Engle Lake Drive, Middleburg Heights.
One hundred percent of the ticket sales will go to the nonprofit, which fulfills wishes for children with life-threatening diseases.
Bob Ross, who died in 1995, hosted “The Joy of Painting” instructional show on PBS. He’s known for his afro hairstyle and soft-spoken approach to instruction.
Tickets are $45 and include paint supplies, canvas, Bob Ross wig and one beverage ticket.
For more details or to buy tickets, go to www.eventbrite.com and type in "Bob Ross Experience."
R. Shea update
R. Shea Brewing is starting to hire for management-level positions at its new production brewery and restaurant at Canal Place in downtown Akron.
R. Shea, which operates a brewpub in Akron's Merriman Valley neighborhood, hopes to open its new location in July or August.
The brewery is accepting applications for head brewer, assistant brewer, cellar person, kitchen manager, kitchen assistant manager, bar manager and assistant bar manager. R. Shea also soon will be accepting applications for other positions such as wait staff and bartenders.
The main construction has been completed and the brewery is awaiting delivery of its 20-barrel brewing system, founder and brewmaster Ron Shea said.
Anyone interested in a position can email email@example.com or drop off a resume at the Merriman Valley location.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.