For Dakota Shay and Klein Gnagey, the offer to turn their passion for brewing from hobby to profession was too good to ignore. So, when owners of Red Rambler Coffees, Mel and Jo Michelson, decided to grow and relocate their Wauseon coffee shop, they had little trouble convincing the duo that opening a brewery would be the perfect compliment to an already successful establishment.
Gnagey and Shay, whose wives were close friends in high school, have known each other for years. So, when the Michelsons approached him about their idea of having a brewery as an extension of their coffee shop, Gnagey immediately thought of Shay.
“My wife had been the manager of Red Rambler for 4 to 5 years,” Gnagey said. “They knew that I home-brewed a bit so when they decided to relocate into a bigger spot, they thought it might be a cool idea to have a brewery with it. They contacted me and I said I knew that I couldn’t do it by myself, but I knew [Shay] and that he brewed good beer.”
Choosing the name
“The origin of Ohio’s name is Native American and means large or good river,” Shay said. “We’re, obviously, the northern part of Ohio so we just kind of ran with it from there. Now, we kind of joke around that it’s named after the tiny creek that runs next to the brewery, but it’s tiny as hell. Honestly, we just wanted to have the name represent northern Ohio.”
With a location a bit outside of Toledo, Shay and Gnagey saw an opportunity to introduce craft beer to another group of people who simply haven’t had access. According to Shay, they knew North River Brewing Company would interest the local community.
“We grew up in this area,” Shay said. “I feel like there a lot of people interested in craft beer, but they really don’t have access to a lot of good craft beer bars. It’s nice to be able to fill that gap; craft beer has really taken off.”
What’s on Tap?
Open only three months, North River Brewing Company has an impressive list of beers on tap including approachable beers such as its cream ale and coconut brown ale to more complex offerings such as its flagship coffee stout and Hopulus Maximus, a double India pale ale. North River Brewing Company is still being introduced into the community.
“Interest and production has been steadily increasing since we’ve been open,” Gnagey said. “We are still getting folks in from the area that say they didn’t know we were here or we just heard about your earlier this week.”
Look for North River Brewing Company in Your Favorite Watering Holes
Striving to keep up with demand, North River Brewing has started distributing their beers to restaurants and pubs. According to Gnagey, the experience of seeing their beers on tap has been surreal.
“Everyone that likes craft beer goes to Swig,” Gnagey said. “That’s where it started for me. To go there and see our beer on tap, it was just kind of mind blowing.”
As North River Brewing Company continues to learn how to keep up with demand in the short term, they continue to experiment with projects they are looking forward to in the future. “Getting to experiment and grow the barrel program is definitely an interest of ours,” Shay said. “We’re also experimenting with our IPAs (India pale ales) and are hoping to push the envelope in a lot of different areas.”
Taps open at 11am Monday-Saturday, close at 8pm Monday-Thursday, 11pm Friday & Saturday.
North River Brewing Company, 1493C N. Shoop Ave., Wauseon | 419-335-2000 | northriverbrewingco.com