Three years ago I talked to Steve Shaw at Cellar Dweller to learn more about this new Cincinnati brewery. I’d had a few of their beers, and they were mediocre, one was fantastic but sadly a one off. At the time, I couldn’t find much information about them so I headed to Valley Vineyards and went to the source.
Every month, I look through my archives and decided what to post for #ThrowbackThursday. It shcoked me to discover it’s really been three years since I first met Steve Shaw. Thinking about that, and a recent Facebook discussion, I decided I had to go out and catch up with all the changes that have happened at Cellar Dweller.
Easily the most significant change is in the brewhouse. Three years ago Steve was brewing on a 1/2 barrel SABCO system, which is honestly more an ultra badass homebrew rig than a production brewhouse.
That system is still around, being used by Brent Osborn for his Test Batch Thursday series which you can try every Thursday night out at Cellar Dweller. They’re not making much of each batch, so you won’t see it in distribution anywhere. If you hear about them making a Margarita Gose again you better be sure to get out there.
Realizing how successful they were becoming they knew they had to start making more beer at a time. They didn’t make a small upgrade, they made a huge one!
That’s a 6-barrel brewhouse where they do two batches a day to fill their four fermenters. Two more fermenters are on order and will be there soon.
I mentioned a Facebook discussion earlier, it was about the most improved brewery in Cincinnati. Many folks said Rhinegeist, some said Fibonacci, but, in my opinion, it’s undoubtedly Cellar Dweller. It’s already easy to see why with the larger brewhouse and fermenters. Those allow for much tighter control of quality than his previous setup allowed.
It’s not just quality, though, the recipes and ideas at Cellar Dweller have improved drastically as well. Not many breweries are playing with hazelnut, the first that comes to mind is Triple Digit and Chickow!, but Cellar Dweller has made Eye Opener, a hazelnut coffee stout, for months now and it’s incredible. Previously in $6 bombers, which you may still be able to find around town, and now coming out in $10 4-packs!
It’s not just me that thinks they’re doing great stuff. Their distributor sales are up over four times previous levels over the past few months. Those sales don’t count everything they sell at Valley Vineyards itself with the estate cookouts, Thursday night wine, beer, and music nights, canoe trips, bike trips. All told Cellar Dweller did about 1,000 barrels last year and is hoping for 1,400 – 1,500 this year.
Also, very telling, is the continued support of Danny Gold and his Quaff Brothers wandering brewery. Danny’s reached out to most of the local breweries but keeps coming back to Cellar Dweller often. The Quaff Brothers/Cellar Dweller relationship started with Grendel, a bourbon barrel mead, moving onto Ox, then two more mead projects in the works, another beer project being brewed soon, and yet another mead project currently in discussion.
Here are Steve’s thoughts on their quality:
“I think our quality beer has picked up. I’m a self-taught brewer I came into it knowing what I knew, but I come into it with an open mind where I know if I make a bad product, or if I make a bad product I want to know why it was bad or what I did wrong or what I can do to make it better. Just because I started brewing I didn’t stop learning. … I’ve got a motto that I haven’t made my best beer yet. I never wanna make my best beer. I always hope the best ones coming up.”
Perhaps one of the biggest changes is that they’ve begun to bottle their beer. As mentioned earlier Eye Opener is coming to 4-packs. That’s joining 6-packs of Ditz, Jeremiah, and Cellar Blues plus bombers of Eye Opener (going away though) and Hopewell’s Milk Stout. Daily Grind, a new coffee stout, will be joining the bomber lineup soon. The 6-packs are $10 a piece, but those bombers… oh, those bombers, only $6 each!!
$6 bombers are a steal so I had to ask Steve why he didn’t charge $10, which is the standard for craft beer bombers.
I think it’s a fair price. With Eye Opener that low price point got it out there and got it more attention.
The Next Three Years of Cellar Dweller
Beer wise, Eye Opener will be going into barrels, brandy, and bourbon barrels. They’ve also got a cherry chocolate stout currently sitting in four roses barrels.
You can now find Cellar Dweller beer in all the better craft beer bottle shops and bars like Brentwood Spirits, Lucky Turtle, Cappy’s, The Party Source, Jungle Jims, and Whole Foods. But what they’re working on that’ll make a huge boost for them is getting approval to go into Kroger!
Cellar Dweller has five barrels for aging beer right now, but they’re gonna ramp up their barrel program a lot. First, they’ll be getting more barrels and then, once the beer is ready, running special bomber packages through those barrels!
The last big change that’s coming is that the farm market out front, past the patio area, is getting converted to an outside bar and tap-room! This will help a lot has their current bar gets pretty busy with a crowd.
Try Cellar Dweller Already or Try Them Again
I’ll wrap this up with a simple plea to go try a Cellar Dweller beer, especially Eye Opener. If you had one of their beers years ago and didn’t like it then try it again, trust me, they’ve improved immensely. If you had it last week and loved it, then great, have another!