Here is a quick back story in case you’re new to Cellar Dweller: Valley Vineyards is an award winning winery located in Morrow, Ohio, just a short drive North of Cincinnati off 71. Steve, the head brewer of Cellar Dweller has been a homebrewer for many years. In 2012 he convinced his family, owners of Valley Vineyard to start a craft brewery in the basement. He literally is the cellar dweller. Now Steve serves up tasty craft beers from easy drinking lawnmower beers to high IBU hop bombs at the Vineyard.
Full disclosure on this one, my very good friend, Sean, is the assistant brewer at Cellar Dweller. Not surprisingly, he gave me a great tour of the space and shared all sorts of exciting things to come for the brewery.
In the depths of the winery, you enter a large space with everything you’d expect from a vineyard/brewery, including a beautiful, shiny brew house and wine bottle line. Earlier this year Steve upgraded the brewing equipment to a 5 barrel three vessel direct fire system. They also have 2 ten barrel fermenters and six 55 gallon converted stainless steal drums. A 10 barrel brite tank is coming soon, which will help increase output of beer, which is always a good thing. Make a quick right from the brew house and you enter the wine barrel aging room, which is just hauntingly beautiful with its rows of wood barrels and low lighting. The winery above is huge, with tons of space for dining and lounging with a glass of wine or beer.
After the tour, the first thing I noticed was their newest beer, a barleywine style (name TBD) fermenting actively. For those who don’t know, a barleywine is not a wine at all, but a complex, high alcohol beer that is typically rich with malt flavors including toffee, and dried fruits like raisins. It is the perfect winter beer for sipping by the fire. This particular barleywine will be aged in cab franc wine barrels. The Cab Franc has won “best red wine of Ohio,” so this is extremely exciting news to a beer and wine lover like me. The end beer should have some noticeable wine-flavors, while allowing the barleywine to shine through. The wood barrels may lend oakiness, hints of vanilla, and even caramelly flavors, which will certainly complement the beer. Very anxious to try this when it is done.
Though their beer is available on draft in Cincinnati (and Dayton), this was the first time I had the opportunity to try a Cellar Dweller beer. Obviously, I took advantage and got the full line up while I was there.
Their most approachable beer, is the “Cellar Blues.” This light bodied American ale does not disappoint on its mission to reach those wanting a simple, refreshing beer. For those used to your standard domestic lagers, this is a perfect introductory craft beer. I also tried “Orange VV” a nice drinkable American wheat, “Dead Dweller,” an English style beer akin to a bitter, the “Lookout Stout,” a big roasty and dry behemoth, “Shawsome Black IPA,” which is essentially a porter with big hop aroma and bitterness, the “Pump’Ken” ale with a cinnamon sugar rim (great for dessert!), and “Happy Pappy,” a big bitter IPA brewed with lots of warrior hops. They call Pappy an IPA, but at 8.2% ABV and 108 IBU’s, this is really an imperial IPA. Perhaps a touch too bitter for me, but ideal for folks who believe that bitter is better.
My favorite of all the beers was the “Copperhead” pale ale, this extremely balanced brew has a nice citrusy hop flavor and aroma, with just a touch of bitterness, and a solid malt backbone. It’s got that special combination of flavors that makes it sessionable, while still being quite complex. Each sip reveals a new layer. It is super delicious.
I even got to try the last bit of a keg of the “So you want to be a brewer” series from Beer Mumbo, a local blogger, avid homebrewer, and all around nice guy. He and Steve brewed up “Shutdown Cocoa Brown” a very creative 9% ABV brown ale brewed with 10 lbs of cocoa nibs and brown sugar. It was tasty, and actually drier in mouthfeel than I would have anticipated. Make sure to checkout Beer Mumbo’s post on brewing the beer here. I’m slotted to brew with them in March so stay tuned for the LBLF/Cellar Dweller collab!
The next thing to come for Celler Dweller is a dedicated craft beer/tap room planned for 2014. Stay tuned for more on that. Right now there is just a small bar to grab wine and/or beer and take a seat in one of their large dining areas. Next time I come I’ll make sure to take advantage of their weekend cookouts where you grill up your own steak or salmon. Just look at that steak, yum. I’m already working with Tiffany, who works at the brewery/vineyard to host an Ohio Girl’s Pint Out night there, too, which is sure to be fabulous.
I really can’t wait to see more from Cellar Dweller! It is absolutely worth a trip, or you can find them on draft locally. Make sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook for the most up to date information!