Ohio Brewery News
Friday Six Pack with Carmone Macfarlane, The Phoenix Brewing Company
Every Friday, we ask an Ohio craft brewery owner or employee to answer six questions about their path to the brewing industry, what sets their brewery apart and their thoughts on craft beer in Ohio.
Today we’ll chat with Carmone Macfarlane, head of creative and marketing at The Phoenix Brewing Company and Ohio Craft Brewers Association board member.
What made you decide to get into the craft brewing industry?
My first craft beer was in college, almost 30 years ago: Honey Brown and Killian’s Irish Red, if they weren’t technically craft by definition then we can call them early gateway beers to craft. After that was probably Left Hand’s Milk Stout.
I love the creativity that craft beer offers and the opportunity to connect with people over a beer. And I love craft beer education: researching beer, the styles, history, tastings and trying different pairings.
I was teaching at the time when we opened the Phoenix in 2014. I was working part time for the Phoenix doing many of the same responsibilities, so when there was an opportunity to change careers and join the industry full-time, I did.
Which of your beers do your customers enjoy the most and why?
People always ask about our Krampus Kandy white stout. It’s probably our most requested beer all year. It’s a golden ale infused with Highlander Grog, so there are notes of butterscotch and caramel with the roast from the coffee. Originally, it started just as a holiday offering, but that quickly changed and it has worked its way into our core beer lineup. Turbidity NEIPA, one of my favorites, has gained a ton of popularity. I anticipate we will probably see it rotating in a little more in 2023. The Redemption IPA and the Ferryman Oatmeal Milk Stout are favorites in the taproom and off-site. They are solid styles that our customers love and have been available since day one.
What’s your favorite thing about your brewery?
The people in our craft beer community. From our staff, to our customers, to our downtown, to our craft beer professionals family. I love that we have created this place (together) where people can come and be welcomed. Someone can come in and have a pint at the bar and become engaged in conversation with other guests and feel like they are with long time friends.
We were nervous about our opening almost nine years ago. Our peers in the industry were gracious and helped with advice and guidance, and just sharing in a collaborative spirit to advance Ohio craft beer. I don’t think we really could have imagined how much our community would embrace us or the extended family it would create.
Many craft breweries are very active in their communities: what are some ways that The Phoenix gets involved to help advance local causes?
We try to support and raise awareness for charities closest to the hearts of the owners and employees. We have brewed special beers, hosted and participated in collaboration brews, hosted events, partnered with local organizations, sold specialty tee-shirts, sponsored off-site events, hosted events on-site, and made monetary or raffle item donations.
Some things are singular, and others are repeated or annual like our “Fight the Frost” Coat drive that benefits Harmony House Homeless Services in Richland County. We hosted our first annual golf outing at the end of summer, but the benefitting charity will rotate. And we have a women’s beer group that encourages and supports women interested in craft beer.
In 2021, we transitioned to a non-tipping establishment after COVID disruptions. The hourly wage is higher and staff have fair and consistent pay. Staff can cross-train in different areas of the brewery if they choose, and receive shift differentials for busier events. They also receive an annual bonus. We don’t accept tips on credit card purchases. And guests who leave cash left behind are aware that it is donated to a designated charity each month.
The designated September charity is #Stachestrong. We also have a special beer on draft that we are donating a portion of the proceeds from as well, our Century IPA. It is a NEIPA brewed with orange and a hint of vanilla.
We have been blessed to have an amazing craft beer community helping us to do better for others through brewing. You can find more information here: phoenixbrewing.com/phil
Besides your own, what Ohio craft breweries impress you the most and why?
The Ohio craft beer landscape has expanded so much in the last 10 years. There are so many outstanding Ohio breweries and you can walk into any one of them and find something to enjoy. Some of my brewery crushes include Little Fish, Jackie O’s, Akronym, Nocterra, Pretentious Barrel House, Wolf’s Ridge, Great Lakes and Seventh Son. I could just keep listing breweries. I love the creativity they have with their beers and use of local or unusual ingredients. And their spaces are so welcoming and they really have created a great craft culture.
Where do you think craft beer is headed? What do you think craft beer will look like five years from now?
Craft isn’t done growing, but it is going through an evolutionary stage. It will be interesting to see what it develops into. The neighborhood taproom may not look like what it did five or 10 years ago. The taproom model isn’t just about beer. People want an immersive experience with a comfortable environment, friendly and knowledgeable staff, great merchandise, tours and taproom exclusive offerings. They want to find something that is not available on the shelves or anywhere else. Rotation Nation will still thrive with the taproom model, but with shelf space being snug, breweries will begin to revisit their packaged product options. They will be more selective about what is included in their brand portfolio. The focus will be quality over the quantity of brands available.