BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Adult summer camp.
That’s the aura of the Heavy Wheelhouse, a brewery set to open in Oak Openings within the next month.
Nestled into the Beach Ridge Area of the Metro-park, near the Cannaley Treehouse Village and a biking skills course, the Wheelhouse is adorned with summer camp-like banners and badges. The picnic tables inside have centerpieces with mini campfires, lanterns and logs. It’s a casual environment where mud-splattered clothes are welcome.
“The mission of what we’re trying to do is about a well-balanced life. Beer is a companion to activities. It’s a place to come when you’ve gotten off the trail from a hike, a bike or walking the dog,” said Andrew Newby, co-founder and chief executive officer of Toledo Spirits, which owns the Heavy brand.
Newby and his partners, chief science officer Lukas Kummer and chief marketing officer Dustin Wade, opened Toledo Spirits in 2013 to offer “engaging spirits using meaningfully-sourced ingredients” in its vodka, whiskey, bourbon and rum. Joined by Dave Ayling and Matt Freeman, they opened their first brewery, Heavy Underground, in Toledo in 2021.
In the meantime, Metroparks Toledo began looking for a partner to lease its building at the Beach Ridge Area – something that would complement the treehouses. With the goal of brewing beer on-site, Newby and his partners began working on a plan. They ran into a snag when they learned that the EPA wouldn’t allow manufacturing on a septic system, so the plans for a brewery were changed into a plan for a tap room and a coffee shop. Then, last summer, Newby learned that the building could tap into the Swanton sewer system, making brewing possible.
“The authenticity of being able to brew in Oak Openings was always the dream,” he said, explaining that Heavy Wheelhouse brews will include locally sourced ingredients.
One of those beers will be a breakfast IPA (India pale ale) that utilizes the locally roasted Flying Rhino coffee. At 7.2-percent alcohol by volume, the breakfast beer is strong but not enough to knock you off your bike, Newby said.
While the focus will be on coffee and beer, Heavy Wheelhouse will also feature some Toledo Spirits products, such as the cold-based coffee liquor named for Newby’s wife’s Black Kite Coffeehouse. Ready-to-drink cocktails might include lemonade with Heart of Glass Vodka. Campy banners with logos for other Toledo Spirits – including Orange Tiger Bourbon, Maumee Moonshine and East Side Gin – hang in the Heavy Wheelhouse.
Food will include what Newby calls “adult Lunchables” with high-protein snacks and vegetables, along with packaged trail snacks and a pastry case. He also plans to bring in food trucks for special occasions.
To cater to the treehouse dwellers, Heavy Wheelhouse will offer sales of linens, sunglasses, bike parts and anything else that might make an overnight stay enjoyable.
Eventually, the plan calls for bike rentals and bike maintenance training as well as special events with the bike community, like a bike prom, in which adults dress up their bikes and bring it to a dance. Concerts and food truck events will also be part of the lineup. Newby is also dreaming up an adult night hike that leads to a bar in the woods. Those who make it get a badge and a beer.
“The people behind Heavy are outdoors lovers, and it shows in the care they have taken to create a place that will enhance park visitors’ experience. Heavy Wheelhouse will be a great place to start your morning walk and to unwind with friends in the evening after a ride on the single-track trail. It’s a great concept, and a great fit for Metroparks,” said Metroparks spokesman Scott Carpenter.
Heavy Wheelhouse will employ six to eight people who are trained in coffee and beer and will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Friday through Sunday. The space is available for lease on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Beach Ridge Area is on the northwest edge of Oak Openings, located at 3520 Waterville-Swanton Rd., south of Airport Highway.