Brewery forges ahead - Mt. Carmel's variety of craft beers growing throughout the region

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Mike and Kathleen Dewey started Mt. Carmel Brewing Co. as a hobby in
their basement in 2005.

Today, their company distributes beer in all 88 counties in Ohio and
10 in Northern Kentucky, producing 4,500 barrels per year, “a
comfortable cruising speed,” Mike says.

The Deweys now have the brewery on cruise control, with an expanded
production facility and a wholesale agreement with local distributor
Ohio Valley Beer & Wine to help grow the brand. This month, Mt. Carmel
is unveiling its “Porch Pack,” a variety pack featuring the flagship
Amber Ale, IPA, Blonde and Nut Brown. “It’s our first 12-pack,”
Kathleen says.

The Deweys put up $10,000 of their own money to start the brewery, and
soon ditched their day jobs to keep up with demand. Kathleen, who was
working for her father’s real estate brokerage, and Mike, who owned
his own commercial construction firm, brought plenty of practical
business experience to the venture.

“We were acclimated to being entrepreneurs,” Mike says. “At the end of
the day you have to run a successful business, regardless of the
product.”

Mike, a self-taught brewer, puts his construction and engineering
background to use, often doing his own equipment installation and
repairs to save cost. Kathleen runs the office, helping manage five
other employees including an office manager and four production people
who brew, bottle and package the beer on-site.

“We have extremely dedicated employees,” Kathleen says. “They’re
passionate about the product, and passionate about the company.”

In February 2010, Mt. Carmel expanded beyond Southwest Ohio for the
first time through Heidelberg, Ohio Valley’s parent company. “We
waited (five) years to leave eight counties,” Mike said.

Mt. Carmel has come a long way since selling its first account to a BP
Station on Clough Pike. Mt. Carmel’s beer can now be found on shelves
at major grocery chains such as Kroger and Bigg’s and on tap at
hundreds of retailers, bars and restaurants.

Mike recalls hauling grain from the cellar and working 17-hour days in
the home brewery. “It was sweat equity,” he says. But times have
changed.

The Deweys’ former residence on Mt. Carmel Tobasco Road has a
2,000-square foot addition that houses the production facility with
towering fermenters, mashing kettles and a medium-speed bottling line
that can fill a six-pack in four to six seconds. An adjacent barn
serves as refrigeration space. What was once a child’s playroom is now
the company store.

When Ohio Valley took over distribution it helped increase sales and
reduce costs. “Sometimes we’d make 20 stops in a day,” Mike says of
self-distributing. “We’d go to Delhi twice, and Dayton in between. The
day Ohio Valley took over … was the quietest day of my life.”

Mt. Carmel uses Stagnaro to distribute in Northern Kentucky. There are
no plans to distribute in Indiana.

“We’re so impressed with their story, and their passion,” says Joe
Noll, VP and general manager of Ohio Valley. “It’s a very good
product. It was a nice brand before we sold it. We like it even more
now.”

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Riding the craft brew craze

Joe Noll, vice president and general manager of Ohio Valley Beer &
Wine, said there’s a growing demand for locally brewed beers like Mt.
Carmel, and for craft beers overall.
And, while U.S. beer sales rose more than 2 percent in 2011 to more
than $98 billion according to the Beer Institute, Nielsen attributed
much of the growth to a 3-percent increase in the sale of imports,
crafts and above-premium beers

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http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20120318/BIZ/303180016/
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