Rivals Brewing Co. buys Fat Head's Brewery Sheldon Road taproom

Saturday, 02 December 2017, 07:35:40 AM. Rivals Brewing Co. has bought Fat Head's Brewery's taproom on Sheldon Road and has big plans for the cavernous space.

MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio - Rivals Brewing Co. has agreed to buy Fat Head's Brewery's taproom and production facility on Sheldon Road for an undisclosed price.

Rivals expects to open "in late spring, probably May or beginning of June," said Chuck Johnson, Rivals Brewing Co. brewmaster and director of operations.

"We're going to remodel their entire taproom and actually expand," Johnson said. "We're going to utilize the space for expanded seating and entertainment and expand the restaurant experience.

"We're going to go into there as restaurateurs and make use of that tap room."

Johnson said distribution also will be coming, with self-distributing to start. Rivals is in talks with several local distributors, he said, and will "definitely bottle" but will consider canning, especially for sports and concert venues.

"We're really excited about it," Johnson said. "We've been talking with Fat Head's for many months. And finally we were able to get everything worked out so that all the banks are happy and everyone's good to go.

"Fat Head's and us, we've been in agreement for months. We've been trying to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts."

This year, both companies forged ahead with brewing ventures.

Fat Head's announced it would move into a larger production and taproom space on Engle Lake Drive with visibility off Interstate 71, a mile and a half to the southeast of the space Rivals will move into.

Meanwhile, Rivals continued its foray into craft-beer production through its arrangement with Hop View Brewing Co., which began in December 2016. Rivals Sports Grille has released four beers under the tutelage of the Madison brewery. It's a relationship that has gone well and will continue at least for the time being, Johnson said.

A Pale Ale, Double India Pale Ale, lager and most recently a Winter Warmer have been poured at the sports-themed bar and restaurant. The latter "outsold all of our other beers (on tap) two to one," Johnson said. "It's been very well received. We haven't even done our main launch yet."

In fact, all of the beers have been big sellers at Rivals Sports Grille, which marked its 10th anniversary in July at its Smith Road location. That bar-restaurant will remain open, Johnson said, though the menus between the two locations will be "slightly different."

He added he is looking to hire someone with experience in large-scale brewing and has candidates in mind, possibly including some members of the Fat Head's brewing team.

Rivals Brewing Co. is owned by Nick Lowe, and Steve Lowe is director of sales.

"If you would have told us a year ago we were buying a production facility after we released our first beer," Johnson said, "I would have told you you were crazy."

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