In recent years, Stark County has had an overflowing BREW SCENE with the opening of many new breweries, including Sandy Springs Brewing Co. in Minerva. What sets this brewery apart is its recently opened Airbnb, known as the Brewers Quarters.
Minerva’s Sandy Springs Brewing Co. and the nearby Brewers Quarters go together in a manner that is more than just beer and beds.
Tasting the craft beer created by Andy Conrad at the brewery he and his wife, Amanda, operate in Minerva, is pleasurable to the palate. Walk nearly next door to overnight accommodations that the couple offer with Brewers Quarters partners Ross and Renae Blair and it becomes an experience, one that comes complete with your personal “last call.”
“You get to pick any of our beers and you can have it on tap in your room,” explained Amanda Conrad.
The Conrads, both having brewed beer a bit in college, opened Sandy Springs Brewing two years ago after visiting breweries throughout the country while traveling as physical therapists. They saw what craft breweries could do for small communities, and they wanted one for their hometown.
“Initially, our plans were to put the brewery on my husband’s family farm,” said Conrad, whose daughter is the sixth generation to live on the farm just outside Minerva.
Sadly, less than a week after a structural engineer gave the go ahead to an 1800s-vintage barn being transformed into that brewery, lightning struck the barn and sent that dream up in flames.
Following some time spent re-evaluating their plans, the couple found a favorable location for the brewery and taproom in a historical gas station on Route 30 at Route 183 in downtown Minerva.
“We loved that it was on the corner and that it was Minerva’s first gas station,” Conrad said, adding that a wrap-around patio features replicas of pumps that would have dispensed fuel at that business in its heyday. “We have such a wonderful community. From the beginning, we wanted to foster that sense of community. We’ve met some of the best people we’ve ever known.”
Now the taps of Sandy Springs, flowing Wednesdays through Sundays, bring forth 16 craft beers created by Andy Conrad. Half of those brews are rotated in and out of the selection, with two or three new beers periodically worked in with mainstays.
“One of our top sellers always has been Lost Gold,” said Conrad, noting that, yes, the name refers to the “Lost Gold of Minerva,” a local legend. “It’s very light and crisp, clear and very easy to drink.”
Visitors can sip 4-glass flights of such beers in a cozy and rustic Sandy Springs brewery filled with wood salvaged after the fire from the Conrads’ 19th century barn. Among other entertainment, live music is played at the brewery on Saturday nights, while open mic night is held Wednesdays. The atmosphere is intimate, said one review, “not a vast space with gleaming beer tanks, but rather a cozy corner bar.”
Sandy Springs is carving out its niche in a growing craft brewing industry—there are more than 6,000 craft breweries in the United States—that particularly is burgeoning in Ohio.
According to the report of a study that was released earlier this year by Ohio Craft Breweries Association and Silverlode Consulting, some 300 breweries in Ohio had a nearly $1 billion economic impact on the state in 2018. The total economic impact of $967 million last year was up nearly 40 percent from 2015, a year previously studied. More than $560 million of that impact was direct to the brewing industry, including more than $136 million in pay for almost 6,100 jobs. In all, the study showed, the boom in craft breweries helped create 8,341 jobs total throughout the state for workers who paid $124 million in state and local taxes and $53 million in federal taxes.
“The study results are proof that craft breweries are a powerful catalyst helping communities and partner industries flourish,” said Mary MacDonald, the association’s executive director, in a news release accompanying the report. “The full-time labor force in the craft brewing industry has more than doubled over the past three years.”
About 100 of the state’s breweries reportedly are operating in Northeast Ohio. After a couple of years in the industry, Conrad said she doesn’t see the dramatic increase in breweries throughout her region or the state as being competition for Sandy Springs.
“There are more breweries opening, but it’s a community among breweries, too,” she explained. “It’s a collaborative effort. The more breweries that open up, the better it is for all of us.”
What relatively recently has made Sandy Springs Brewing stand out among those craft breweries is both the high quality of its beer and the small bed and breakfast that sits beside it. Sandy Springs reportedly is one of only two breweries in Ohio that currently offer nearby lodging.
“I was the contractor who built Sandy Springs Brewing Co.,” said Ross Blair, who with his wife, Renae, also “built a great relationship with the Conrads.” Both couples used the words “they’re like family” when explaining how the two couples became partners in building the Brewers Quarters. “Andy and Amanda had the idea, and we all bought both buildings next door and we made it happen.”
The current Brewers Quarters is on the second floor of one of the buildings, two doors distant from Sandy Springs’ brewery and taproom. It sleeps five and is classified as a high-end luxury bed and breakfast.
“Our original thought was we were going to move some walls and spruce the place up,” said Blair. “We quickly realized that there was a ton of character in that building.”
Renovation work uncovered high ceilings, 19th century timbers and rustic exposed brick.
“By completely gutting it, we were able to show off what the building is,” said Blair, who noted that such state-of-the-art features as a touch-screen shower controls were built into the renovated structure. “We were able to put a modern twist to a rustic building.”
That lodging, booked almost every weekend since it opened earlier this year, will contrast with the three-bedroom facility being constructed on the second floor of the newer building between Sandy Springs and Brewers Quarters, accommodations scheduled to open in the spring of next year.
“It’s going to be a much more modern look with rustic features,” Blair said.
Blair, whose contracting business now leans heavily toward the construction of breweries, takes charge of completing building projects in the partnership. “Andy is focused on the brewing, which is great because he’s so good at it,” said Blair. Amanda Conrad oversees the operation of Sandy Springs Brewing, which is owned solely by the Conrads, and she helps Renae Blair book the Brewers Quarters.
“Working with Ross and Renae has been incredible,” said Conrad. “There is no other couple we’d rather do the Brewers Quarters with than them. We love them.”
And, said Conrad, though they also love their brewery location for what it has done to help revitalize Minerva’s downtown, “the fire was a blessing in disguise.” Still, she and her husband have not given up on the idea of some day bringing at least a little of Sandy Springs Brewery back to the family farm.
“It would be nice to have something small on the farm,” she said. “It’s so beautiful out there.”
Sandy Springs Brewing Company: 232 N Market St., Minerva / 330-522-4024 / Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Brewers Quarters: 224 N. Market St., Minerva / 330-522-4024.