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Get your motor running: Craft brewery opens inside Ohio Harley-Davidson dealership

Get your motor running: Craft brewery opens inside Ohio Harley-Davidson dealership

January 30th 2017

Harley-Davidson fans are passionate about their motorcycles. Craft beer fans are just as passionate about their favorite brews. Now two entrepreneurs are hoping to combine those fan bases with the Biker BrewHouse, believed to be the first craft brewery to open inside a Harley-Davidson dealership in the United States.

“The biker community is just as large — if not larger — than the craft world,” said co-founder and brewer Larry Wilson, who was a home brewer for three years before launching the venture.

Biker BrewHouse started serving beer earlier this month inside the Harley-Davidson Bike Town, located at 5700 Interstate Blvd. just off Interstate 80 in Mahoning County.

Wilson, 44, and co-founder Rick Sekely, 59, both work at the dealership. Wilson is the floor manager, while Sekely is a salesman.

They have transformed a back corner into a small bar complete with a leather couch, circular tables, and a flat-screen television that is glued to weather reports, which are vital for motorcyclists. There also is a Harley parked there to ogle.

The 2½-barrel SysTech Stainless Works brewing system is up a flight of steps and on a floor directly above the bar. That’s where Wilson pumps out his partial extract brews.

“This is the coolest lounge that a Harley-Davidson can have,” Wilson said.

Expanding market

The motorcycle-themed operation arrives amid a tidal wave of new craft breweries opening in Ohio and nationwide. The Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau issued 1,110 new brewing permits last year, bringing the total now to a record high of 7,190, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Ohio Craft Brewers Association Executive Director Mary MacDonald sees no drop-off ahead.

“We opened 39 breweries in 2015. We opened 44 in 2016,” she said.

Ohio has a 1.7 breweries per 100,000 adults 21 and older, and is still behind states like Vermont at 9.4 or Oregon at 7.7.

The Buckeye State has nearly 200 breweries now. MacDonald is aware of at least 57 more that hope to open. “I see no slowdown yet,” she said.

What’s available

Biker BrewHouse launched with four beers. As you might expect, they bear the names of motorcycle parts: Piston Porter, Pushrod Pale Ale, Kickstand Kolsch and Ball Bearing Blonde.

There’s also an IPA in the works and they hope to produce a root beer.

Wilson and Sekely expect to offer six beers on draft. A special tap handle made to resemble a piston is in the works.

There are growlers to go, and they’ve already been asked to design a saddlebag that can safely transport a glass growler.

They plan to offer some beers in 12-ounce bottles, but only on a limited basis.

The Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson didn’t respond to a request for comment on the brewery.

The company has a history of embracing beer. Harley images have appeared on many Miller High Life and Miller Genuine Draft cans in the past.

But bringing a brewery inside a dealership appears to be a first. Wilson and Sekely know of no other.

The Motor City Harley-Davidson in Farmington Hills, Mich., announced plans last year for a brewery, but it hasn’t opened yet.

Attraction

Biker BrewHouse joins several other unusual or themed breweries in Ohio that have become attractions.

Pinups and Pints is inside a strip club in Medway. Carillon Brewing Co. in Dayton replicates beer like it was made in the 1850s. Father John’s Brewing Co. is in a former church in Bryan. And the Old Firehouse Brewery is located in a former firehouse in Williamsburg.

With Bike Town selling anywhere from 700 to 1,000 motorcycles a year and drawing plenty of customers before, Wilson and Sekely figure the brewery will attract even more interest.

Wilson already has heard from a Harley-Davidson owner who lives 300 miles away who wants to organize a ride to the brewery.

“I think we’re going to draw from all over,” he said.

 

 

 

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