The owners of Aqueduct Brewing Co. know they are building on a strong and storied foundation of beer making.
Robert Hernandez and Dale Dorn opened Akron’s newest nano-brewery last October in the back corner of the former Burkhardt Brewing Co. complex on 529 Grant St. (the same building now occupied by Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.), hoping to bridge the city’s past to its promising future.
“Akron used to be, and could be again, a big brewing town,” says Hernandez (42), citing Burkhardt, Renner Brewing Co. and other breweries that made Northeast Ohio a hub for beer drinkers in the pre-Prohibition era.
“There’s a very big craft beer scene in Northeast Ohio right now,” says Hernandez. “People want something different — different flavors and experiences. That’s what craft beer has done.”
Developer Ronald Bassak, who purchased the five-story Burkhardt building in 1998, after it had been abandoned for nearly 40 years, and leased it to Thirsty Dog in 2006, says he recently has been contacted by individuals interested in distilling whiskey and making fermented tea elsewhere in the complex.
Hernandez and Dorn, who encourage customers to flow between Aqueduct and Thirsty Dog, hope to see more operations open in the building.
“We have a vision of this whole place steaming, bursting at the seams with brewing and beer and the whole culture that surrounds it, and people walking around the property, having a good time,” says Dorn (44), an Akron police sergeant.
Hernandez, who lives on Aqueduct Street in Akron (the namesake for the brewery), envisions a future in which, for beer drinkers, all roads lead to Akron.
“My vision is for Akron to be a mecca for craft beer, where people can taste everything from the lightest pilsner to the darkest stouts to the Russian imperial stouts that just make your hair fall out,” he describes. “I would love to see Akron change its mentality on what it is. It has been an industrial city for a ton of years, but the industries are gone. If we could change the way people see Akron, and make it a brewing destination, I would love to see that.”
Dorn and Hernandez already are planning to increase production to keep pace with mounting demand.
“In the first couple weeks, people drank us dry,” says Dorn, adding that he intends to add three barrels to their current two-barrel brewing system.
He and Hernandez also plan to distribute to local bars and restaurants and to host live musical entertainment, movie nights and outdoor games.
Knowing that the future always savors of the past, the former home-brewers (with the help of Hernandez’s wife, Sara, a Kent State University history graduate) named each of their beers after ancient gods and goddesses — “Prometheus Pale Ale,” “Ceres Honey Whit,” “Poseidon’s Pilsner,” “Persephone Pumpkin Ale,” “Anubis Amber,” “Pegasus Smoked Chocolate Porter” and “Silenus Stout.”
Each is available on tap and in growlers and kegs to go. And in addition to seasonal offerings, Hernandez and Dorn plan to showcase a new beer each month, including a watermelon-flavored IPA sometime this coming spring.
The tasting room — an industrial-style space with a concrete floor and poured concrete bar top, red tin ceiling and exposed brick walls — is open 4-11 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and noon to 11 p.m. on weekends.
For more information, visit the brewery’s Facebook page.