This edition of Brewer of the Week comes to us from Dan Listermann, of Listermann Manufacturing and Listermann Brewing Company. If we seem to be using “Listermann” a lot in this feature, it’s because Dan and his family have had quite an impact on the homebrew arena. With a warehouse full of brewing supplies and a newly formed brewing company, Clan Listermann is living the dream.
Dan, you have the con. Take her to sea…
I was fortunate enough to be born into a large extended family of German decent in a German dominated city, Cincinnati. Beer was always a big part of any gathering. As a child, I cannot remember ever being reprimanded for getting myself a little taste of beer at picnics. It was just beer.
College was Miami University which, in those days, held the world’s highest consumption per capita of 3.2% beer. Luckily, students were not allowed to have cars so I learned to drink car free, something I am highly grateful for.
It was at Miami, in 1973, that I brewed my first beer. I was in a drugstore and noticed a kit for brewing. It was like nothing available today, consisting of about a pound of crushed malt, an ounce of leaf hops and instructions. I bought a new plastic garbage can, five pounds of sugar and a pack of bread yeast. Brewing consisted of: bring the crushed malt, hops and sugar to a boil. After cooling, the yeast was added in the garbage can. While it was fermenting, I found a shop in Cincinnati where I bought a hydrometer which had a red “B” on its stem. When the reading fell to “B” you were to bottle, which I did in quart bottles using my great-grandfather’s capper. The resulting beer was wildly over carbonated and tasted (how should I put this) terrible. I made another attempt with the kit and it was not improved.
Advancing to extract from the shop, Pabst Blue Ribbon hopped malt extract was all there was and legally, this product was for baking purposes. After two or three tries, my efforts were getting worse. I gave up, only using the beer in my fraternity’s fire extinguisher.
Fast forward to 1988. My old college roommate called one day and suggested that we make beer again. I said “Johnson . . . .” He assured me that things had improved and he was buying, so my brother and I went to his house and worked our way through William’s Old American Ale kit. The next week we bottled and, after another week, I found a fantastic beer! I located local suppliers and quickly went about becoming a homebrewer, having a ball!
Gradually I became aware that I did not care for the standard bottle filler’s habit of sucking about two inches of air into the bottle when withdrawn. Sitting in a bar one night in late 1990, I designed a filler that did not do that. The next day I bought the parts necessary to build one. Finding that it was not complicated, I made a few others, simplifying the design. My loving wife let me invest a bit in raw materials and very quickly we were in the bottle filler business out of our basement.
There was at that time very little in all grain brewing equipment on the market, a few more designs and the business was expanding. We moved into a business incubator after a year and, after another year, I quit my engineering job, in the face of a raise, to take the business full time.
At that time, 1995, Cincinnati’s best homebrew shop was operated out of a guy’s basement. It was primarily canned extract based with only limited grain. Much had to be special ordered. It occurred to me that if I could find the right building, in the right place, I could manufacture our products and open a proper homebrew store. Using the incubators contacts, we found a building not a bit more than a mile from our house. The price was right and we used the equity we had in a four family to buy it.
The homebrew business, being very countercyclical, was not doing well then. We struggled a long time. When the economy turned down, we finally did very well. The retail store eventually came to dominate the business over manufacturing to the point that most manufacturing has been halted.
In June of 2008, we received our commercial brewing license. We launched a mild ale, a cream ale, a malt liquor and an IPA. They are all bottle conditioned. It has been a steep, hard learning curve and far more work than anticipated but things are coming together. We hope to open a tasting room and see where that takes us.
Awesome story, Dan! We at the AHA salute you!