MadTree Brewery: Trio of mad geniuses challenge beer drinkers to try more interesting beer...

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NORWOOD, Ohio - The mad geniuses at MadTree Brewing have something
they want you to do -- try more interesting beer.

That they happen to brew more interesting beer is just a happy

MadTree is the beer lab (brewery) run by Kenny McNutt (The ‘Beer’ded
Baron), Jeff Hunt (Beer ‘Can’noisseur), and Brady Duncan (Secretary of
Beer Defense), just off Duck Creek Road, at 5164 Kennedy Ave. in

The trio got their start as homebrewers and their dedication to making
unique, independent beer dates back to those beginnings.

When McNutt and Hunt first got interested in brewing in 2005, they
were holding a beer of the week club amongst friends. Everyone would
get together each week and bring a six-pack to try different brews
they were interested in.

“Initially we were homebrewing, so it was ‘What brews do you love,
what brews do you enjoy?’” McNutt said.

Like many homebrewers, their first beer was an extract recipe.
However, while many brewers continue to make extract beers for a
while, Hunt and McNutt ramped up production after their first and
immediately went to all-grain brewing, piecing together equipment as
they could.

After about a year of brewing independently for a year, the pair met
Duncan and they joined forces. The group then started to “brew beer
like crazy,” according to McNutt. The team would try out 20- to
25-gallon batches each weekend as they perfected their recipes.

All throughout this period, the trio was sneaking their homebrew in
among the beers at their club meetings to see how their beers stacked
up against the pros. Pretty soon they were getting good feedback from
family and friends, and were even taking requests. Their first “order”
was to brew a beer for a friend’s wedding.

During that time they also started writing their business plan and
after 16 months of perfecting it, thought they had one that was solid.
Business happens to be a specialty of the group as one of the most
well-educated brewing teams in the Tri-State: McNutt and Hunt have
engineering backgrounds with an MBA each and Duncan started in public
relations and has an MBA in project management/IT.

From there it was on to fundraising, and while their friends and
family might have enjoyed their beer, actually investing in a brewery
was harder sell than just getting people to try a new brew.

“The biggest glaring question was, ‘How much have you raised so far?’
That moment took a while to get going, but once we really got that
ball rolling -- it’s the laws of cumulative advantage, right? -- all
of sudden we had all this momentum behind us and we exceeded by far
what we planned to raise,” McNutt said.

The extra money helped because they initially didn’t plan to buy as
big a building or have a tap room at first. Having a tap room wasn’t
legal when they opened but thanks to some recent changes to Ohio’s
legal code, the tap room is packed on weekends.

“The second biggest question was, ‘Why cans?’ And we had a slew of
statistics to throw out there,” McNutt said. “We truly believe in cans
and what it does for product and the package. It’s for the active
lifestyle. We all believe that cans are going to be on the forefront
of the craft beer industry at some point.”

MadTree happens to be one of the only breweries in Tri-State that is
canning its beer. Besides protecting the beer in what many brewers say
is a better format, cans come with fringe benefits such as allowing
the beer to be served in more places and being easier for people to
buy and store.

“We were fortunate to ride the waves of some of the big guys -- Sierra
Nevada and New Belgium -- and even people like Avery -- and kind of
ride their skirt tails into the market and convince Cincinnati and the
Midwest that cans are the right answer. We ended up as the first can
craft brew in the state of Ohio. Wait six months and you’ll see, I’d
guess, four to six more in the state of Ohio if not more,” McNutt

Once MadTree had a facility, the brewhouse and the production line was
up and running, it was time to hit the streets and get people drinking
their beer. McNutt said they decided not to self-distribute even
though that’s allowed in Ohio.

Instead, Cavalier Distributing handles MadTree’s account. Beer fans
can find MadTree in just four counties right now -- Clermont,
Hamilton, Butler and Warren -- but there are plans to expand into
Dayton and Northern Kentucky.

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