NAPOLEON — Inside Flatrock Brewery & Distillery in downtown Napoleon, a faded picture hangs on the wall.
The man in the picture, Lawrence Pritchard, Sr., was a bootlegger in southern Ohio, in the hills of the Appalachian Mountains.
He is the reason that there is a Flatrock Brewery.
The exterior of Flatrock Brewery & Distillery in Napoleon.
“I was 27 when my grandfather died. His past didn’t sink in until he was gone, but I really tried to learn about brewing, distilling, and mead to honor him. It’s not such a big deal when you are younger, but when you start to have your own kids, that family history becomes more important,” Lawrence Pritchard III said. “My grandfather was a bootlegger and distiller during Prohibition. In the Appalachians, you had to do what you could to feed your family.”
The research turned into a homebrewing hobby about 15 years ago. When Pritchard’s Pagan Pumpkin stout won a beer contest at the Henry County Fair in 2011, Tom Schaeffer, the CEO and president of Toledo’s Black Cloister Brewing Co., told him that he should consider starting his own brewery.
So he did. Flatrock Brewery first opened in Holgate, Ohio, then moved to its present location in Napoleon in 2015. Now, on most days, you can find Pritchard or his girlfriend, Trinity Gill, behind the small bar in the taproom or around the corner, in another location where the brewing is done.
Flatrock is a two-person operation, but recently Pritchard upgraded his brewing capacity so that he will be able to produce 500 barrels this year. In the room next to the tap room, a distillery is taking shape. The small company will move its distilling operation from Holgate to the room once licensing is completed, allowing bottles of liquor to be purchased at the Napoleon location. For now, customers can choose from 11 Flatrock craft beers or order a glass of rum, gin, malt whiskey, or clear rye moonshine.
“I can’t tell you how many potential bottles [of liquors] sales we lost around the holidays because people couldn’t buy it here. They had to go out to our Holgate location,” Pritchard said.
Once the distillery begins operations in Napoleon, Pritchard is expecting to add staff and is hoping to distribute liquor statewide. He and Gill hit the road, their car loaded down with kegs, on the days they aren’t serving or brewing. Flatrock beer can be found in many Toledo-area bars, and Pritchard is hoping to push into the Bowling Green and Columbus markets.
While the craft beer industry trend is toward high-gravity beers, Pritchard prefers lighter, sessionable beers. Customer favorites are the Towpath classic pilsner, Pritchard Lane pale ale, and Hophornet Honey IPA.
“We try to make beer for everyone. You’ll have people come in who only drink Miller. We don’t want to exclude anyone. Our Towpath is a gateway beer,” Pritchard said. “We want to get people who have never tried craft beer before to come here and go out to other breweries.”
The future, though expected to be exhausting in the short-term for Pritchard and Gill, is bright. Napoleon is expected to establish an open-container zone in the downtown area, which should boost business for Flatrock and nearby bars. An outdoor patio will be open at the taproom in the spring, and the distillery should be turning out spirits within the next couple of months.
Flatrock also got a boost when its Pagan Pumpkin won its category at the King of Ohio competition in December.
“It just proves that you don’t need to spend millions of dollars to make great beer,” Pritchard said.
Black Cloister medals
Congratulations to Toledo’s Black Cloister Brewing Co., which earned two silver medals at the prestigious Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend, Ore. Rekindle medaled in the Chili Pepper Beer category. Sierra Blanca Brewing Co. of Moriarty, N.M., took the gold with its Green Cile Cerveza. Black Cloister’s True Scotsman got the silver medal in the Scotch Ale category, finishing behind High Hops Brewery’s Windsor’s Wee Heavy. High Hops Brewery is in Windsor, Colo.
Crowds line up for samples at the 11th annual Glass City Beer Festival. This year's event is set for March 2 at the Lucas County Rec Center.
Glass City festival
It is hard to believe, but the Glass City Beer Festival marks its 12th year on March 2. The event will run from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Lucas County Rec Center, 2901 Key St., Maumee.
About 50 breweries will be on hand, including local breweries Black Cloister Brewing, Black Frog, Catawba Island Brewing Co., Great Black Swamp Brewing Co., Maumee Bay Brewing Co., Earnest Brew Works, and Flatrock Brewing Co.
Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door and include 12, 3-ounce pours. VIP tickets allow entry at 6 p.m. and include food from Granite City Food & Brewery. VIP tickets are $50 in advance and $55 at the door. Tickets are available at glasscitybeerfest.com and on the event’s Facebook page.
Proceeds benefit the Northwest Ohio Hemophilia Foundation and Camp Courageous & the Arc of Northwest Ohio.
Beer and bacon
The Glass City Mashers homebrewing club and the Hungarian Club of Toledo will once again host the Beer and Bacon Festival, which pairs some of the region’s top craft beers with bacon products, at the Hungarian Club, 224 Paine Ave. This year’s event will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 12.
Tickets are $25 and are available on eventbrite.com. Each ticket includes 10 beer samples. Additional samples will be available at the event, along with food tickets.
Katie’s Randy Cat will provide live entertainment.
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