Ohio Brewer Spotlight: Zach Dean of Clubhouse Brewing Co.
Ohio loves breweries. We are the #4 state in the US, after all, for craft beer production. Some brew for the skill, some for the love of beer and some for the business, but others are taking advantage of another road craft beer can travel: philanthropy.
The philanthropic brewing scene started many breweries on the West Coast and the idea is now making its way across the country. While most breweries donate to charitable causes, there are very few that make this a focus of their business, like the Brewability Lab in Denver that provides employment for adults with developmental disabilities or Ex Novo in Portland that focuses its profits on global issues. Enter Zach Dean of the future Clubhouse Brewing Co., which will donate its time and profits to veterans services. Zach’s story begins well before he stepped up to a mash tun. He is a former soldier turned businessman looking to give back to veterans in the form of craft brews.
It was a privilege to sit with Zach and hear how plans were coming along. We spoke about his early ideas, how life changed and what the future holds for his brewery and local vets.
Fermenting Ohio: Could you bring us up to speed on where you began and how your Army career led you this far?
Zach Dean: I knew I wanted to join the Army since I was about 13 years old and so I ended up working towards and getting into West Point, graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and became a field artillery officer. About 24 hours after I finished artillery training at Fort Sill, I was on a plane to Iraq. Upon returning, I was told there would be no way I’d have to redeploy to Afghanistan, but two weeks after getting settled in El Paso I was, in fact, deployed to Afghanistan. I ended up getting injured there and needed surgery and recovery and that’s where my Army career ended. I then started working on my MBA and eventually came to the idea that I wanted to open a brewery.
FO: So, given your experience with the Army, did you see a gap in veteran’s services that your wanted to fill?
ZD: Well, I’ve always wanted to help veteran’s charities and the biggest gap I saw, the thing that hurt the most when I got out of the Army, was not having a purpose. From the time I was 13, I had a purpose, I was going to go into the Army, go to West Point, serve and retire. But when that ended early all I got was this sendoff messaging of “go do what you wanna do”, and that hurt. Part of what I want to focus on isn’t just giving money to veteran’s charities, I want to get them involved and give them a purpose.
FO: How did you get the idea that a brewery can help with this?
ZD: Helping a veteran find purpose, I don’t think I would have been able to help much there with just my engineering degree, so that’s where working on the MBA came into play. For the brewery itself, I was actually brewing with my dad one day and thought “What can I do? What has helped me get through this?” and he interrupted my thinking like, “Hey, we need to drop hops…” and then the light bulb went off, like wait a minute, we’ve both been doing this for 10 years, let’s do<em> THIS.</em> So, the brewery idea was born.
FO: How will your brewery help veterans?
ZD: From the beginning, we hope to donate 5% of our income to veteran’s charities. The more we get funded, the more we can donate. We’re going to go at it in a three-pronged approach, focus on the physical – donating money and giving vets what they physically need is step one. Then, we focus on comradery and trying to hire vets to work at the brewery. We’re going to have veteran friendly hiring processes and we want them to feel like they have a purpose and place to go when they go to work. We want them to be with other people who understand where they are from. Finally, we want to empower them with knowledge. Ideally, we want to do workshops on starting a small business, brewing, etc. We’re working with a consultant now to start a separate non-profit for the veteran training program for brewing careers in equipment maintenance, sales, logistics, things like that. We want to make them more valuable to area breweries in that they’ll need minimal training. We hope to have this up and running 12 months after our first beer is sold.
FO: What beer styles are you going to focus on?
ZD: We’re planning on having 6 flagship beers that include a honey orange IPA, a black IPA, and I am a big stout fan, so a chocolate cherry nitro stout is in the works. Planning on a Belgian quad and there are a few others we’re tweaking now.
FO: On the personal level, I know you mentioned stouts, but are there any other styles that you’re drawn to?
ZD: IPAs occasionally, but I really like dark, heavy beers. Strong ales, red ales, bourbon ales, stouts, that kind of stuff.
FO: How did you start drinking craft beer?
ZD: My dad actually started brewing when I was a senior in high school, and seeing that set an impression for the future. And then when I got to my first duty stations, there were always a few selections of the craft brews and it grew from there.
FO: Is there anything else your brewery hopes to focus on?
ZD: We want to be as locally sourced as possible. We have several local bee keepers that have agreed to source our honey for us for certain recipes. We’re also planning on working with the local farmers to take our spent grain for pig and cattle feed, to avoid waste going into the landfill. We want to give back to the farmers as much as we buy from them.
FO: Where are you at now in the startup process?
ZD: We have a fundraiser on Indiegogo, we hope to get some donations there to get our initial costs for the brewery going so we can get more donations out the door and vets in for work and training. Otherwise, we’re going through the process to get the various approvals from the state and will be moving forward as soon as we can.
A big thank you to Zach for speaking with us and putting in the work for area vets and craft brew lovers alike. Stay up to date on this upcoming Windham, Ohio brewery by checking out their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/ClubhouseBrewingCo/
And be sure to check out their fundraiser and contribute to the Indiegogo campaign!