Note: This story appears in the Sunday, July 21 newspaper on Page A1.
A new distillery has quietly been in the works on the Athens west side for over a year now, but the owner and operator, Kelly Sauber, hopes to have the business open this fall.
Sauber is well known in the Athens community as a master brewer, with experience working for O’Hooleys (now Jackie O’s Brewery) and Brew Masters in Cincinnati, both of which he helped start. In 2011, he founded Fifth Elements Spirits in Meigs County.
More recently, Sauber brews the ciders served at the West End Ciderhouse, which he co-owns with primary owner Deanna Schwartz.
Sauber has produced the ciders and liquors sold in the Ciderhouse and at local grocery stores for years, but he’s aiming to make that endeavor a bit easier — and provide a staple business for that area of town.
To that end, Sauber moved his distillery and brewery to be only a short walk across Shafer Street, located in what used to be a train yard. It is also going to be under a new name: the West End Distillery.
Sauber showed off the new location in a distillery tour, as part of Ohio Brew Week. He spoke in-depth about the processes he uses to create liquors, ciders and beer, as well as what he is currently involved in brewing.
Sauber produces hundreds of gallons of product at the distillery each year, brewing with local apples and other sugar sources, seeking to keep preservatives out of his product to have exactly the taste he is looking for.
The new location will be mostly a production area, but there is an area for customers to purchase some of the products made in the facility. Drinking at the new location will be limited — due to various legal requirements, only a certain number of samples can be sold to each customer within a 24-hour time frame.
There is already a bar installed, customer seating and a lofted area to allow for more comfortable frequenting of the shop. The “tasting room,” as Sauber has dubbed it, will allow patrons to sample gin, bourbon, vodka and brandies that are made on-site.
Sauber said only part of the building is in use for the tasting room and distillery, with about 2,500 square feet to be rented out. What will be in there is yet to be decided.
At one point, Sauber entertained the idea of a restaurant in the space. A few local producers have also discussed joining forces and making a “producers market” of things like coffee beans, meat, liquor and other bulk goods, to complement the Athens Farmers Market.
There is still time to decide those details, as interior work is still continuing and the business’s liquor license has not yet been secured.