Alumnus gets taste of success with local brewery

Ryan Holmes, owner of MadCap Brewery in Kent, Ohio, poses for a portrait in the windows of his brewery on March 10, 2017.

Payton Moore

A background in science and a love for beer makes Ryan Holmes an unlikely entrepreneur. In 2013, Holmes served his first pint under MadCap Brew Co., but the beer-making journey started 15 years before.

Holmes began brewing as a hobby with the help of his wife. After graduating from Kent State with a background in biology and chemistry, Holmes took up the craft in his own home. Holmes said MadCap was never part of his “master plan.”

“It became sort of a crazy obsession,” Holmes laughed. “(I) was just brewing all the time; my house was full of fermenters.”

As friends and neighbors of Holmes caught on to his homemade talent, the demand for more beer at graduation parties and catering events grew. Fast forward a few months and bars began reaching out to Holmes to feature his beer.

One of the first bars to reach out to MadCap was Ray’s Place in downtown Kent. Tom Creech, a manager at Ray’s, keeps the Bullet IPA from MadCap on their tap system full time.

“It’s a good product and it’s always good to support local breweries,” Creech said. “Especially a nano brewery just a few miles away.”

Supporting the local scene is something MadCap is familiar with, as it sources most of its malts from down the road at LD Carlson Company. This cuts the cost of sourcing and shipping.

Additionally, Creech said the bartenders consistently recommend MadCap to travelers seeking a local craft India Pale Ale while dining at Ray’s. Holmes noted that Ray’s is one of the longest supporters of his brew.

After landing a few spots in local bars in Northeast Ohio, Holmes knew it was time to expand from the “meet demand” mindset into a “make demand” mindset, testing out new flavors and variations of their original craft.

Currently, featured flavors like the Golden Flash Ale, an interpretation of German-style beer, and the iconic Bad Leroy Brown Ale, a caramel-like traditional American Ale, include a few twists on classic beer styles.

The next step in growing the business came with an expansion after purchasing the old Consolidated Mold and Manufacturing building on Mogadore Road. The building’s sheer size allowed for the crew to expand the brewing system from three barrels to 10 — and throw in some life-sized Jenga games for guests.

The building’s conversion features eight MadCap beers on tap, as well as a selection of cold brew coffee by Bent Tree Roasters. Throw in some giant wooden picnic tables, vintage pinball machines and a deck of cards for every table, and the spot is ideal for lovers of the brew.

One of Holmes’ favorite parts of working at MadCap, bridging the younger scene with the older crowd.

“We had an older couple sitting at this table, and we had a couple of girls come in decked out in black and fishnets, ready to go to a metal show,” Holmes said. “They grabbed their beer and turned around and said, ‘Where are we sitting?’ And the older couple — I mean, the lady was knitting and the husband is reading some thick novel, — said ‘Come sit down next to us.’”

The culture clash, Holmes said, is all positive at MadCap. And, he said it all comes down to good beer, good fun and — hopefully in the future — good food.

“I’m not really a businessman,” Holmes said. “I just really love beer.”

Payton Moore is a features correspondent, contact her at [email protected]