BIDWELL — As established wine-producers, Lisa and Tim Merry felt pretty confident that locally-brewed beer would be a success in Gallia County. The couple, who jointly own Merry Family Winery in Bidwell, had heard regular inquiries over the years from their customers on the subject of beer.
“Nobody was brewing beer around here, and people kept asking us about it,” Tim Merry said, “so we decided to give it a try.”
The brewery takes its name, Old Mill Craft Beer, from its home — the old mill, which used to be the venue for Jewell Evans’ Grist Mill. It is a building that comes with some well-known Gallia County history; Jewell Evans was married to locally-born and raised Bob Evans of Bob Evans Farms fame.
The Merrys had considered the possibility of starting a brewery for about two years. After the initial success of the winery, which opened in 2006, they found that the wine business was growing and expanding every bit as as well as they had hoped — so much, in fact, that they decided to move it to a larger building, the old mill, obtaining more land for vineyards.
They kept the existing vineyards, as well, and found that they had space at their new location for growing their own hops.
“We grow the hops and harvest the flowers,” Tim Merry said, “We use ten different kinds of hops, and they all have different names; three of them are Columbus, Cascade and Centennial.”
Merry added that both businesses began as hobbies, but they are very labor-intensive. When they decided to begin producing beer professionally, there was much work to be done.
Merry noted, “After we got our state and federal licenses, we had to get all the equipment. We needed tanks and fermenting equipment. We needed grain, some of which we had to grind. It’s a lot of work, but it sure beats working for someone else.”
There are a lot of variables in the beer-making process, Merry said.
“When it comes to the amount of time it takes to make beer, they’re all different so it varies. I brew in 50-gallon batches; I can brew up a batch in about four hours, but then I have to let it ferment and clear,” Merry said. “That can take anything from two weeks to six months.”
At the moment, the brewery offers three different beers, which they sell by the glass or in 12-ounce bottles.
“We have an imperial ale with a citrus flavor, a black lager with chocolate and dark malts and an India pale ale with a bold hop flavor,” Merry said, adding that the brewery has purchased some Buffalo Trace Bourbon distillery whiskey barrels to add a bourbon flavor to future batches.
The Merrys were both born and raised in the area, noted Tim, who added that he’s glad to stay and support and boost the local economy.
“Lisa’s from just across the river, and I was born in Gallipolis,” said Tim Merry. “The winery-brewery’s in Bidwell, and that’s as far as I’m going.”
The winery and brewery are open from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Additional information may be obtained from the web site at merryfamilywinery.com, or the Merry Family Facebook page, or by calling (740) 245-9463.