Beyond the Beer 14

Cartridge Brewing Is “Honoring the Past, Brewing the Future”

Golden sunlight gleams through towering window openings. The rusted iron and broken glass panes have nearly vanished. The space is illuminated with details time almost forgot: soaring concrete ceilings, wood beams, intricate piping, unique symmetry and colorful graffiti tags. For decades, the mostly abandoned Peters Cartridge Company has haunted the Kings Mills valley where Grandin Road meets the Little Miami River. On a sunny afternoon, however, the historic factory seems less like a mysterious eyesore and more of an impressively solid blank slate ready for its next chapter.

Business partners Kyle Hackbarth and Anthony Cook have stepped up to write the first lines of the rest of this landmark’s story.

Before the turn of the 20th century, steam locomotives clanged along the willow-lined river. The Civil War and later two World Wars raged on. The Peters Cartridge Company, part of the King family legacy, thrived under the demand. Production of shotgun cartridges boomed—often literally as accidental explosions causing injuries and death were common. But most current residents in the area know it for its eerie, looming emptiness. Once production went silent mid-century, the site shifted from a bustling manufacturing center to hollowed-out hulls with more pigeons, feral cats and curious trespassers than industry. It’s the kind of place that fosters imaginations to run wild with ghost stories and rumors.

Developers hope to shift those perceptions and create a welcoming space.

Kyle is an entrepreneur, U.S. Army veteran and a chemical industry account executive specializing in breweries. He’s also half of the duo behind Cartridge Brewing, an upscale brewpub slated as the first official tenant of the Peters Cartridge redevelopment plan. Kyle says opening a brewery has been on his mind for years.

“When I was 17 or 18, I applied for a church scholarship, and they asked ‘what do you want to do in your future?’ I said I wanted to own a brewery.”

He won that scholarship, went to Purdue, and since then, he’s made his way through tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, an MBA program and starting a family. In 2017 after scouring the city for possible locations for his dream, a township employee asked if he’d met with the Peters Cartridge owners. After years of EPA struggles to clean the site of any remaining pollutants and whispers about economic challenges hindering development, Kyle was skeptical.

“My natural response was, ‘Is that really going to happen?’”

The short answer was yes, but he’d need patience.

Kyle met with developers Bloomfield/Schon on the Peters Cartridge property, knowing what he wanted in a location.

“You have to look for a place with history, a place with a story.”

He knew he had found it at the factory and moved quickly to secure the space. Progress, however, was slow. Nearly two years after the deal plus months of planning and wooing investors, the EPA finally cleared the Superfund site for development in the fall of 2018.

As crews mold the historically protected structures into loft apartments and event and commercial space, Cartridge Brewing has a vision.

“We want to make ourselves a community-focused brewpub, which is a little different than the rest of the breweries in Cincinnati. Our focus is being a family-friendly community hub that happens to be located at an awesome historic location,” Kyle says.

Cartridge Brewing will feature a master brewer and full commercial kitchen led by an executive chef. Kyle hopes to fill a niche for a flexible eating and drinking experience where anyone can either drop in for a locally brewed beer or sit down for an upscale pub meal with family.

Looking toward a spring 2020 opening, patrons can expect an elevated-but-approachable menu with burgers, Detroit-style pizzas, barbecue and shareable options—coupled with a variety of beers brewed on-site as well as a full wine and liquor selection. The brewing tanks visible from the exterior and interior will be a focal point. Dining and bar areas will be separated, and a patio will be available for enjoying sunsets and watching cyclists zip past. Small details from the Peters Cartridge Company’s history like the logo’s period font, tap handles in homage to shotgun shells and a circular logo that resembles the end of a shell will be incorporated. Developers have site access plans, too. Residents will enjoy interior parking garages within existing buildings. And while the area appears tight on space from outside the complex, there is ample acreage for customer parking and even potential access from the nearby trail for cyclists and pedestrians. Beginning in 2022, Warren County will replace and relocate the narrow bridge nearby, softening curves and easing traffic.

As for concerns about the factory’s chilling reputation? Kyle hasn’t experienced any frights himself and notes most tales he’s encountered are from those with personal connections to the site.

“When you start a dialogue about a place like this, people are naturally going to want to tell you very positive memories,” he says.

Of course, he’s heard the scary stories, too. Still, Cartridge Brewing won’t dwell on a paranormal past—but rather acknowledge it as part of the continuing story.

“It’s a balancing act. I think we just have to accept the history of a place. But we have joked about throwing a hell of a Halloween party.”

CartridgeBrewing.com | 1411 Grandin Road, Maineville | 513.480.3600