Brewery profile: Sideswipe Brewing hopes to knockout Columbus craft beer geeks

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From the December 19, 2013 edition

Craig O’Herron is a glutton for punishment. The MMA fighter and martial artist turned owner, operator and brewer of the freshly minted Sideswipe Brewing Company is no stranger to the woes of demanding careers. Whether he is taking on an opponent or taking on 10 hours of tank cleaning, O’Herron doesn’t back down. When it comes to making his dream a reality, O’Herron didn’t take the bull by the horns, he wrestled it into submission.

“When you get sideswiped in a fight, you don’t see it coming; it comes out of nowhere,” O’Herron said in his small back office that overlooks the brewery. “That’s me. I’m the one-man brewing operation that came out of nowhere.”

His passion for craft beer brewing does seem out-of-place considering his life before Sideswipe. The industrial space on the outskirts of Grandview where he brews is a far cry from Thailand where he studied abroad, or South Korea, where he taught English for several years. After being disappointed with the beer selection overseas, he took up beer brewing as a hobby.

“The first time I just wanted to see if I could make beer. I made it, but the batch was pretty bad,” he said. “I tried to make a pumpkin ale and it just didn’t work. Since then my recipes have vastly improved.”

Improved they had. So much so, he decided to start selling his home-made brew. After working on a business plan and crunching numbers, O’Herron realized his brewery was financially doable.

“Doing the ‘homework’ is my strength. I did all the research first and then made some financial projections based on what I had learned,” he said. “My projections were pretty close. Myself and a friend from Japan are the only investors and I’m making it work.”

Even with strong handle on the business side, his work ethic would be more useful in the actual brewery than the office.

“Save for a few friends and family who help out, I do everything myself,” O’Herron said. “From the recipe to the brewing process, distribution, the physical delivery of the beer, the vendor — I do everything. Other brewers from around town have suggested I’m asking for punishment doing everything myself.”

All of this is in addition to O’Herron’s part-time job as a banquet waiter. He crams 30 hours of work into weekends, so he can focus on brewing during the week.

“I spend all my free time in the brewery. The first batch I brewed took 14 hours. I’ve spent more than 10 hours just cleaning tanks. That’s when the physical side of my martial arts training works to my advantage,” he said. “It was definitely hard and I had my doubts. I think anybody who starts a business thinks maybe they made a mistake at some point.”

Even with the harsh demands of running a one-man-show brewery, supporting himself at his job and trying to market his product, O’Herron wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I get to brew what I like to drink, and sell my beers so others can enjoy them,” he said. “Delivering my first batch was really rewarding; years of work was finally finished. If [the company] hadn’t paid me with a check, the invoice would be on the wall right now.”

Sideswipe Brewing currently offers three distinct brews; the Belgium Coop Looter Saison, the dark Elegant Hoodlum Smoke Stout and the hoppy Fisticuffs IPA. O’Herron looks forward to expanding his selection in the future. He even plans on offering a pumpkin ale (though, with a different recipe than his first batch).

Sideswipe’s craft coterie is currently available at Barley’s Brew Pub and the Ohio Tap Room, with plans to expand to more retailers. O’Herron also hopes to open a tap room within the brewery.

“I am just really passionate about my beer,” he said. “I love talking about it almost as much as I love drinking it.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston