WHEELING – Kevin Ayers loves to make beer not only for himself, but for everyone else in the Ohio Valley who loves beer, too.
Ayers co-owns Brew Keepers with his wife, Carolyn, in Wheeling. The craft brew is sold to local bars and restaurants in the region and can also be tasted at Brew Keeper’s tap room, located at 2245 Market St., the Centre Market area.
Ayers believes craft beer production was sparked by people around the world tasting beers in various countries. This led to people wanting to bring those flavors home by homebrewing and then eventually trying to brew such beers on a larger scale, though often still in smaller batches.
“Most breweries started in a garage or basement, as a way for friends to share and enjoy their creations and tell their stories. Things became more documented and guidelines became standardized. More and more people passed the trait off to their friends, creating clubs, etc.,” Ayers said.
“The homebrew business started booming as well as industrial needs began to grow. Farmers started growing barley, rye, wheat, corn and hops in order to supply a more continental product. Labs started harvesting and creating a variety of yeast cultures. Malting houses popped up. “People’s pallets were awakened by the availability of variety. And just like everything else, it just snowballed from there,” Ayers said.
“Locally, us, for example, it was to bring what had been originally created back in the late 1800s, early 1900s in Wheeling, and that was to make good beer, blue collar beer, right in our own town. The need and the desire to enjoy Simple Craft Beer was a void we wanted to fill, utilizing all the explosion of the industry had to offer. And here we are.”
Craft beer is special because each one is different, he said.
“They are usually made with the purest ingredients, without fillers, filters or chemicals. You can provide numerous brewers the same exact ingredients and they will each produce a different product,” Ayers said.
“You can even give them the exact recipe and, due to many other factors such as water treatment, temperature and many other environmental differences, and they will all be unique.
“Some are more subtle than others. Plus you are bringing the culture of the world to the masses without having to leave your own area. Which leads to the opportunity to tell stories of travel and experiences.”
Ayers said for someone who is thinking about starting their own brewery they should be prepared to work very hard.
“Be prepared to work more than you ever have. Especially initially. It’s no longer 9 to 5. It’s 24/7,” Ayers said.
He suggests that people try home brewing first if they haven’t already.
“Then, once you think you have everything figured out – think again. You have to be a jack of all trades. Brewer, business owner, accountant, plumber, electrician, janitor, bartender, marketing director, accounts manager, shipping, receiving, I could go on and on,” Ayers said.
“A wise person once said, ‘If you wanna make a million dollars opening your own business, you better start with $2 million.’ In addition to that, if you think you won’t work a day in your life if you love what you do, you are wrong. You will bust your butt even more, but it won’t feel like a job. That’s what will make you successful.”
Ayers and wife Carolyn have two children attending college who also work at the brewery on summer breaks. Ayers is a graduate of the West Liberty State College School of Business. He spent 20 years working in the corporate world before getting into the brewery business.
Ayers also enjoys bike riding and once held a USA Cycling license for six years. His other hobby, he said, is brewing.