When I first had Cellar Dweller last year I was not quite amazed. I remember trying 3 or 4 and found them all to be good, not great and certainly not astounding. That changed drastically a few weeks ago at Village Wine Cellar in Lebanon. I had the Doorbell IPA that went through a Hop Rocket right before kegging and man was it amazing (sadly as I found out there has only been one sixth-barrel of that so far). That motivated me to get me off my ass, pay a visit to the Cellar Dweller, and help you all know a bit more about them.
The fist things to know is that, as of now, Cellar Dweller is one guy, Steve Shaw, and he’s in a… well, in a cellar. Unlike most breweries who own their own warehouse, Cellar Dweller has the advantage of being beneath the Valley Vineyards Winery. Steve is part of Valley Vineyards family and they were happy to lend him a hand when he got the idea for Cellar Dweller.
About Steve Shaw
- How’d you get into “good” beer?
- When I was about 21, I did a road trip with my brother, and it was the first time I had any craft beer. I’d been drinking Bud Light and Budweiser, and we went up to a little local brewery, and I was like man this is what beer is supposed to be like. This was before you could go to Kroger or anywhere and buy craft beer, so I started brewing it, and it just developed from there.
- What is local/craft beer to you?
- Anything that is 100 miles from your area.
- What has the local brewing community been like?
- It’s been awesome man. I’ve gained a lot of friends that I think will be lifelong friends. Copper Head is a beer that I’ve been brewing at home for years and had it perfect. I got on the system here and kept running into problems. I sent some beers down to Kevin [Moreland of Listermann’s/Triple Digit], we talked about my process, and as soon as he tasted it, he knew what it was and helped me solve the issue. What other industry, where you’re directly competing with someone, can you go down there and get help with your beer?
- You. Desert island. Three beers. What do you choose?
- Sam Adam Boston Lager
- Blank Slate Brewing Company Fork in the Road
- MadTree Psychopathy
About Cellar Dweller
- How and when did Cellar Dweller get going?
- I’m a brother in law of Kenny, who owns the winery, I was never a wine drinker, so I’d always bring the beer in. So I came to Kenny and talked to him about bringing some beer into the winery. He was a little hesitant, but my beer started getting better and better at the family events. So my nephew and I talked him into it and here we are! We started brewing February 21st, 2012 and are 15 times over our first-year numbers, almost 400 barrels. New 10 barrel system will be online in the next 2 – 3 weeks plus new bright tanks will be a total of 60 barrels on hand at any time.
- Is there a story behind the name?
- For years everyone that worked in the cellar at the winery, we called them cellar dwellers. They go downstairs in the morning, and they don’t come back up till the end of the day. We threw the name out there and kept trying different names, but that one kept sticking.
- What is your brewing process, from brainstorm to bottle shelf?
- I go off of my palate, and that’s me becoming a brewer then having to brew for someone else. I was brewing a beer that I liked, every beer I brewed I liked. Someone else would try and say they don’t like it. Then I started to have to brew beers other people liked and that was the hardest adjustment. Out of our nine beers, there are probably four that I really like, and the others are like yeah I can drink ’em. My session beer is 50 IBU and if I’m sitting down drinking it’s 100+, that’s just my style and what I like. So I sit down and make a recipe trying to think about what people like. We’ll make a batch and bring it up and see what people think if they like it I keep the notes.
- How has everything been going over all?
- Steve kind of answered this earlier saying they were 15 times over initial projections. Later on in the interview he had the following “the first full year of the brewery the dinner crowd didn’t swing off as fast in the fall as it has in years before. The crowd leveled out definitely but didn’t fall off as fast.”
- Are any of your ingredients local? If so which:
- All of our grain is out of Chicago, and I try to buy as much as I can locally. We’re going to start growing hops in the vineyard, start about 5 acres and see how they rate with other hop areas. We’ll grow all different varieties and see how Ohio can do at growing hops.
- Where can folks go to get Cellar Dweller?
- Valley Vineyard’s obviously
- Village Wine Cellar in Lebanon
- Arthur’s in Hyde Park
- Wildflower Cafe in Mason
- General Denver Hotel in Wilmington
- The Pub in Beavercreek, soon to be two more of their locations
- Putters 2 Put in Maineville
- Paxton’s Grill in Loveland
- Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash
- When can we expect to see bottles?
- Once we get the new system up and running the plan is that about 50% of our production will go into bottles. But we’re also looking into cans; we don’t have a packaging system yet. I think the market is there for cans, and I think it’d do very well. We have a company that’s starting up in Columbus, Buckeye Mobile Canning, everything’s packed in a 26-foot box truck, they hook their hoses up to your bright tank, run it through everything leave the pallets of cans and they’re gone! It’ll be towards the middle/end of summer before that happens.
Anything else that you want folks to know?
- We’ll be adding a new upstairs area, calling it The Loft at Valley Vineyards. It’ll be more of a pub feel more of a craft beer style tap room where you can come in and have a bar area and a table sitting area. Our beers are constantly evolving, and we’re going for full distribution by the end of summer.
Festival info – We had this festival for almost 30 years but scaled it back, but it back on the drawing board, and came back with a new idea. Now it’s the Valley Vineyards taste of Warren County. We’re trying to bring in more local foods and local restaurants, as well as a few other breweries. [Listermann/Triple Digit & Blank Slate Brewing Company have been confirmed since the time of the interview.] For last two years, it was only Saturday night, but this year we’re bringing Friday night back in. The hours are Friday 5 – 11 pm and Saturday 11 am – 11 pm. We’ll have live music, obviously the food and wine, a couple of guest breweries. Here is the list of events for both days and you can get tickets here.
Steve was kind enough to hook me up with a bottle of his Copperhead pale ale as a taste of what’s to come and trust me that there is some great stuff to come. I don’t want to give this a full review as it may be a bit different then what’s on draft now and what will eventually be bottled/canned. The quick review is that is a super heady with a great hazy amber brown color, generous citrus aroma & flavor, nice hop bitterness and flavor balanced by bready caramel malt flavor. I’m excited to have some more of this once it starts rolling out.