Portsmouth Brewing Company Combines a Little History and a Lot of Brew Pub Know-How
History and beer. It doesn’t get any better than this…unless you’re hungry.
If beloved television character Norm Peterson from “Cheers” fame saddled up to the bar at the brew pub inside the Portsmouth Brewing Company (PBC), the gregarious beer guzzler would surely excite his palate with a variety of microbrews made and served in the refurbished 1843 redbrick establishment, home to the oldest brewery in Ohio. If he asked if these beers are bottled and sold in the marketplace, Norm would be assured he could find Portsmouth Pilsner, Peerless Pale Ale, Crystal Gold Light, and Red Bird Ale in bars, restaurants, and retail stores throughout southern Ohio, as well as in Ashland, Kentucky, and Huntington, West Virginia. If his belly is growling, Norm might order appetizers including breaded pickle chips or sweet potato fries while staring at a menu that offers salads, fish, steaks, prime rib, spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, and sandwiches.
Then again, Norm might opt to follow his nose outside and around the east corner of the building to find Tyler Mault, PBC head of operations, grilling mammoth ribeye steaks and salmon while continuously feeding two PT Cruiser-sized smokers with hickory splints. Once his eyes relayed the size of the ribeyes to his brain, Norm’s entrée decision would be an easy one. He’d likely be impressed with the 25-year-old Tyler, a Marshall University business administration grad with a seemingly innate ability to courteously and intelligently converse while multi-tasking. If he asked the right questions, Norm might hear Tyler detail the history of PBC, which, under its former name, Portsmouth Brewery, was owned and operated by multiple families, most notably the Esselborn family, of German descent, from the 1840s until “The Noble Experiment,” Prohibition. Later, Norm might learn, the building served briefly as a Hudepohl distributor, eventually settling into disrepair before it was bought, refurbished, and re-opened in 1996 by Tyler’s grandfather, Steve Mault – the same guy who opened the ultra-successful Scioto Ribber in 1978, which is a story in itself.
When Tyler gets a break, he might take Norm on a tour of the historical building, beginning with a stroll through the busy kitchen and out to a brick alley from yesteryear that is now under roof and serves as a venue for parties, wedding receptions, and other social events. (Nashville recording artist Shane Runion recently used the venue for a party with local fans.) It even houses a beauty salon. A keg-covered stairway beside the former alley leads to the brewery’s basement, where beer was first brewed in 1843. Once downstairs, Norm, thanks to some lessons from Tyler, would be able to envision a distant yesterday’s brewing process. He might then be led to an arched doorway on the back wall, now brick-filled, that is rumored to have served as a passageway on the Underground Railroad. “That’s what they say,” Tyler might tell Norm, who would accept the story as fact because he wants it to be true.
When Tyler leads him back to the main level, Norm would see his version of Utopia – the place where beer is made. Giant stainless steel vats – two for brewing, six for holding and fermenting – take in the recipe for each beer on Brewmaster Tony Thompson’s ever-growing list of microbrews. “We’re protective of our recipes,” Tyler might say to Norm, before adding, “You can use pretty much whatever you want in beers (for flavor). That’s the craze right now. Everybody is trying to set a trend.” Tyler might even mention the special Christmas ale the brewery will make available in December.
Once Tyler goes back outside to his grilling duties, Norm might follow a sign that reads “Brew Street” back to the bar/restaurant. He might notice the place is packed. He might even run into a guy from Ironton, Ohio, Jay Zornes, who made the drive to the brewery specifically for pizza prior to attending a local high school football playoff game. “The pizza is awesome,” Norm might hear Portsmouth resident Ryan Andre say prior to ordering another Crystal Gold Light. Andre might even discuss the Brew Pub staff while he awaits his beer. “As far as customer service goes, they’re on top of their game.”
It’s a virtual guarantee Norm would leave Portsmouth Brewing Company with a growler full of Vulcan because he would likely love the delicious specialty dark beer. He’d probably bring the growler back for multiple refills. He might even own two growlers from PBC, because he forgot his growler the last time he was there. Once Norm made it home, he would likely reflect on the overall experience at the brewery. He might remember Tyler mentioning his desire to gain brand loyalty from a demographic that seems to be gobbled up by domestic beers. Or he might recall the way the young businessman discussed his desire to help others, specifically employees, by listening and offering advice. Norm would note the easy interactions between Tyler and staff members, all of which would suggest every employee is very comfortable speaking to the boss. “I know I’m in a unique situation,” Tyler might tell Norm. “If I can represent my family and my town well, I’ve done my job.”
Yes he has. So, Norm is ready to go back. Anybody want to join me…I mean, him?
224 2nd Street
Monday-Thursday – 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday – 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday – Noon-10 p.m.