SHERRODSVILLE — Curt Adams leafs through a log book containing the recipes of every batch of beer produced by the Main Sail Brewery.

There are 106 entries. He stops at the page for June 18, 2011 — the first time that he brewed there on his own. It was a Scottish ale.

Few people have ever laid eyes on the book. Heck, few have ever tasted a Main Sail beer, despite the craft brewery being one of the oldest in Ohio.

Dating back to 1995, Main Sail was launched at the private Atwood Yacht Club in rural Carroll County. Because the beer was never distributed off-premise, the only way to hoist a pint has been to become a member of the club or have a member invite you.

"We make the best beer you're not allowed to drink," Adams jokes.

That changes July 20 when the club will host its inaugural Blues & Brews beer and music festival. The event, which is open to the public, is the first time that nonmembers will be able to stop by the club, stroll the grounds and clubhouse, and sample a Main Sail beer.

Blues & Brews, which runs from 1 to 10 p.m., also will showcase Sandy Springs Brewing Co. from Minerva, Hoodletown Brewing Co. from Dover and Lockport Brewery from Bolivar, along with the Bahler Street, Sublime Smoke and Miller's Creamery food trucks.

 

History

The Atwood Yacht Club formed in 1948 on the south shore of Atwood Lake, a 1,540-acre reservoir overseen by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. Former Carroll County Common Pleas Judge Frank Cope led the charge to create the club.

By the 1990s, members were itching for alcohol sales so they could have a nip after spending the day on their boats.

They, along with other private clubs in dry communities around Ohio, discovered a loophole in the state liquor law. If they started a brewery, they could receive a full liquor license. So, as simple as that, Atwood Yacht Club bought a 10-barrel Century Manufacturing brewing system. Several others did, as well.

Main Sail remains as Ohio's only state-licensed brewery owned and operated by a private club.

Main Sail doesn't produce a lot of beer. Adams, who volunteers as brewer while also working full time as a certified public accountant, estimated that he brews only four or five batches a year. He also has to worry about the tastes of the club clientele, saying members aren't interested in high-alcohol or off-beat styles.

"I can make a lot of oddball stuff but I can't sell it," Adams said.

Main Sail offers three beers on draft at any given time. On a recent day, the club offered an American wheat and Blonde. It had recently ran out of the Scottish Ale, the best-seller.

 

Club amenities

The Atwood Yacht Club offers much more than just space for a boat and access to the expansive lake.

There's a bar-restaurant filled with burgees (nautical flags) from around the world; a ballroom that's open for rent for weddings, corporate outings and reunions; swimming pool; bocce court; horseshoes; junior sailing camp; and 14 acres of picturesque views of the lake. Oh, and that craft brewery.

The clubhouse has a nautical-themed decor. A large metal compass from a ship stands in the entranceway. In the bar-restaurant, a metal diving helmet is on display. And a wooden pelican sits on the floor.

The club was sailboat-oriented in its early days. But there are pontoons and motorboats now.

Races are held throughout the summer season.

"It's a family-type club," said Gary Spahr, 84, whose parents were charter members. "It's a good place to go for the weekend."

 

Why a beer fest?

Main Sail has operated in relative obscurity over the years. So why is the club interested in promoting its beer-making now?

Commodore Bill Singhaus and member Sean Hinkle, who joined six years ago, believe it's a way to increase membership and bring more vibrancy to the club. Their efforts include starting to distribute beer on draft on a limited basis.

Today, there are 308 club members. The Atwood Yacht Club leadership would like to see it closer to 400, the maximum capacity. At one point, the club had a waiting list that lasted two to three years. But just like other social clubs, membership has fallen in recent years.

The brewery is an asset and the club needs to show off its strengths, especially to potential younger members who enjoy craft beer, Singhaus said.

"A lot of people don't know there's a brewery here," Hinkle said.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/lifestyle/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.