There are a ton of different things that happen when you start blogging about the craft beer community in a city like Cincinnati. This beer scene is packed full of really fantastic people, that in my opinion are the ones that make it what it is. There are people who become close friends, and then there are people who you have only met once or twice, but that you can feel confident that if you needed something they’d be one phone call away.
Then there are shit heads. There’s a few of those around too that are in the business of sabotaging everything that craft beer stands for, all for the sake of a buck – or some ego trip that makes them feel better) or whatever their reason might be.) The story of “what’s going on with Woodburn” is a complicated one that I’ve been piecing together for almost a month or so now, and the majority of those people who have known even a small piece of the story are gearing it up as a tale of these two sides – Good vs Evil.
I’ll let you make up your own mind.
Keep in mind with this story – it’s all conjecture and hearsay. I have a solid “no comment” from Chris Mitchell (Woodburn’s (former) head brewer) and as of posting this haven’t heard back at all from Dennis Chacon (Woodburn’s Co-Owner). So this is just that… a pieced together story from a variety of sources that aren’t the two parties involved.
Let’s start the conversation.
Dennis and Chris have been doing amazing things at Woodburn. I think I can safely state that as the only “real fact” of the story. The beer has been fantastic and has been on a tidal wave of hype around Cincinnati. In September, right as they were gearing up for their first ever can release, and they were hot on the heals of their bottle release – all hell broke out via a couple inflammatory facebook messages.
The party involved fired off these two statements:
Congrats to The Woodburn Brewery for being the new dumpster fire in town.
followed up quickly with:
I was asked to remove this post… how about an edit. Congrats to The Woodburn Brewery. May your future be as fruitful as our last presidential election.
Of course… people started talking very loudly about what it all meant. Rumors started kicking into high gear that co-owner and head brewer Chris Mitchell had been sent packing along with what was being said was “almost all of the original staff”. After asking around I was given a few more details. The timeline has been lit up pretty well for my opinion at this point.
The Timeline – sort of.
- Chris is brought a brewer, whom he was told was looking into buying the same system that Woodburn was using. Chris (being the guy that I know him to be) helped this brewer learn their system… after all that’s what you do in craft beer – you help each other. (*supposedly)
- Chris shows up to work one day to discover that Dennis and a group of his friends had changed the locks on the brewery for unknown reasons. Upon exiting the brewery to get a new key, Chris was met in the parking lot by Dennis who was holding a file, which was thrust into his hands – he was given a “you’re fired” and then in no better terms, Dennis “rushed back into the building and locked the door behind him.”
- The Facebook posts hit the internet and my phone didn’t stop ringing for two days.
- Rumors started flying – The parties involved got in touch with their legal teams and then we as a city are hit with radio silence.
- Today… it seems (from what I hear, again *supposedly) like the mystery brewer that Chris was helping is now brewing for Woodburn.
Why We Need To Talk About This
I’m not going to try to tell you that someone was right, and someone was wrong…. because I don’t have their sides of the story. I think that you can sort of catch my uninformed opinion, though (and it’s just that – my opinion). If what I’m hearing is all true – this is a case of a fantastic person, and a wonderful brewer being treated pretty poorly by someone he trusted. I can’t imagine the feelings of sadness, disrespect, and utter helplessness to see another person in your brewery that you built from the ground up brewing on your system… making your beers…
I just want us to talk about this.
There is a group of you who will say that “business is business” and that it’s not any of our business to get in the middle of, and I don’t buy that. I can’t help but feel that this industry is different, and that these places that we all love are different. This hurts us on a different level than if your local barista at Starbucks gets fired in a shitty way.
We don’t treat each other like this.