Sandy Springs Brewery in Minerva Soft Opens

Five barrel brewery has ultimate family feel, delicious food and beers

Minerva, OH – Steve Acord knew from the first sip that Andy and Amanda Conrad would run a brewery some day. The co-founder and head brewer at Woodinville, Washington’s Dirty Bucket Brewing Company, which opened as a half barrel brewery in 2012 and is in the process of expanding to a 10 barrel system, knows a thing or two about beer.

Acord met the Conrads at a Sabco Brew Magic Day years ago. He himself started on one of Sabco’s homebrewing systems and was asked by the Toledo, OH company to come give a talk. At the event, the Conrads approached him and struck up a conversation, and asked him if he’d try one of their beers, a 12% barleywine made with only sap from maple trees (no water is used) on their family farm. A former award winning homebrewer himself, and always willing to give feedback to aspiring brewers, he happily obliged.

“I was blown away,” he said. “I told him if he didn’t open a brewery someday, I was going to take his recipe and make it at my place back in Washington. It was the most complex barleywine I’ve ever tasted. The kid has a real talent. He knows what he’s doing.”

L to R: Andy Conrad, Steve Acord, and Amanda Conrad at Brew Magic event in 2012

The Conrads, traveling physical therapists by trade, lived out west for about three years. It was out there that they experienced the “beer culture” in cities like Portland, Oregon. They cut their teeth volunteering at Santa Fe Brewing in New Mexico. They knew they wanted to bring that culture back home. Born and bred in the Midwest, there was never any question that if they did ever make the leap from homebrewers to brewery owners, that Minerva would be the place it would happen.

On its face, it doesn’t seem like a tiny village of less than 4,000 residents straddling portions of Stark, Columbiana, and Carroll Counties, would be a place you’d chose to open a brewery. But the industry is on fire right now, and successful breweries have opened in the last few years in places throughout Ohio as far flung as Coldwater (pop 4,427 at 2010 census), Columbiana (pop 6,384), Lisbon (pop 2,821), and Maria Stein (pop 2,274), so the question wasn’t why, but when? It would first take some convincing of Amanda’s mom, who practically begged Acord to talk them out of it. Eventually, she relented, and next Saturday, November 4th, after many years of dreaming and nearly 10 months of demolition and renovation, Sandy Springs Brewing Company will open to the public.

The space at 232 N. Market Street has seen many tenants through the years. It’s also the site of the first gas station in Minerva’s history, which dates back to the early 1900s. The Conrads are careful to honor and incorporate that history. In fact, history is on full display throughout the brewery.

Photos on display outside the brewery pay homage to the original gas station that once occupied the space

The original plan was to build a brewery inside a family barn which dated back to the 1800s. The couple had inspectors come out and checked the place over, and they determined it was structurally sound and would stand for another 75 years. But literally four days later, a bolt of lightning decided it had other plans, and the barn sadly burned down. Fortunately, a lot of the wood was able to be salvaged, and the history of that barn lives on in the walls of the new brewery. Beautiful brick walls were exposed once the dry wall and peg board was peeled back, and those bricks are tastefully framed by the reclaimed barn wood. A beautiful hardwood floor, long covered by carpet has been sanded down and refinished. What’s old is once again new.

When you enter through the front doors, you instantly feel like family. Amanda was sitting at the bar talking with Steve Acord (“I told them if they ever opened a place of their own someday”, he said, “I would be there on opening day”, and true to his word he was) and turned her head to greet me the minute I walked in, not yet knowing who I was. Not wanting to interrupt their conversation, I waited a few minutes and ordered a flight before I introduced myself. She welcomed me warmly and thanked me for coming down, then offered me a tour. The beautiful old space has a modern 5 barrel system, fabricated by Portland Kettle Works. The tanks are visible through the glass doors on the Lincoln Highway side of the building, but sitting at the bar area all you see is two large brite tanks. Walking down the hallway toward the bathrooms and the back entrance, you are able to look through a glass door and see the into the brew house.

A side door leads out to a fenced in patio, which has beautiful tables made of reclaimed wood with pipe legs (those tables are actually for sale if anyone wants one). There are several patio heaters for the colder months. A large mural adorns the side of the building. I could picture myself hanging out on the patio with a flight and a meal watching an acoustic musical act. There certainly is plenty of space on the patio for a band to set up, or for hosting a large event.

Speaking of flights and meals… At soft open they only had six brews on tap. The tap system has the capacity for sixteen brews, which no doubt will eventually be filled. Currently they house Lost Gold Cream Ale, which will likely be their most approachable beer for the new to craft crowd; Great Trail, a wet hopped pale ale; Belgian, a Belgian golden strong ale clocking in at 9.1% ABV; an Imperial Brown Ale; a Porter; and Chai One On, a Chai spiced imperial pumpkin Stout. I sampled all but the Cream Ale and the Porter, and they were all excellent, but the Chai One On was a standout. It is also available as a float with pumpkin latte ice cream, which of course I had to try. A crowler machine sits atop the back of the bar for anyone who wants to take a beer or two home. Full 64 oz glass growlers are also available.

The food is just as good. They have an assortment of flatbreads, sandwiches, appetizers, and a hummus and veggie plate for the gluten free crowd. I ordered The Hometown, a flatbread with pork ends, BBQ sauce, sautéed onions, and cheddar cheese. It was absolutely outstanding. I have to mention that I ordered it before I introduced myself to Amanda and went on the tour. It came out while I was still touring, and Andy’s dad Dave, who could not have been nicer, had them remake it because he figured it would be cold by the time I sat down. If that’s the kind of service I get every time I come to this family friendly place, they can definitely count on me to come back, and come back often.

I’m definitely excited to come back and experience their other beers. That barleywine that Steve Acord raved about, dubbed Happy Sappy, will likely be a seasonal, one-off selection. There are obvious scale up issues with trying to get that much tree sap to brew a 31 gallon batch versus a 5 gallon homebrew batch. Apparently it’s already got a reputation around town, as at least one person that entered the bar and stood next to the ordering area where I sat asked for it that night. At least 4-6 of the 16 taps will change out on a regular basis, so I’m definitely excited to see what interesting and new they bring to the table. Sandy Springs will be open from 1pm-10pm on November 4th. Their regular hours after Grand Opening have not yet been announced, but you can follow them on Facebook at Sandy Springs Brewing Company. They are absolutely worth the drive. Do go check them out.

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