KENT, Ohio — Every hour, on the hour, church bells ring on Park Avenue in Kent from the former First Congregational Church of Kent. The building was first constructed in 1858. Nearly 100 years later, the church stopped using the building.
Then the space was home manufacturing office space for several years.
But soon, the transformed piece of history will open as Bell Tower Brewing Co., Kent’s third brewery.
"Now it’s a space where you can gather with your friends and enjoy great beer," said Jennifer Hermann. "My hope is that a brewery in Kent is not just a brewery for college kids but it’s also for the neighborhood.”
Hermann, who has a long history of brewing beer, is the new micropub’s brewer.
"Beer does have the power to bring people together and I hope that’s what I have put together as far as a beer menu.”
Hermann, who enjoys experimenting with different styles and flavors, said when Bell Tower opens they will serve mainly lagers but plan to introduce hoppy beers in the future. The brewery will also have a full menu of food items available for purchase.
Though she’s moved around Ohio throughout the years, Kent is her home. And as she and her two business partners inch closer to opening the brewery, Hermann is emotional. Because this job is a labor of love and a dedication to her late father - who, she said, is part of the reason she got into brewing.
"My dad isn't here with us anymore," she said emotionally. "So everything that I'm doing in that brewery is absolutely because of my dad and why I’m even in Kent, so it’s overwhelming — all of it is overwhelming.”
Bridget Adams Tipton, one of the three partners, is the interior designer of the space. She said the old space had a plethora of historic details and they were able to protect many of them.
Tipton, who graduated from Kent State, said she understood how special the building is to the city of Kent, and because of that she and crews worked hard to preserve as much as they could.
"It's especially important because it's going to be public use," she said. "I think about the bars I went to in college and how special those feel and I get really excited thinking about how this can become a special place for people."
Right now there are just under 400 breweries across Ohio, according to the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, OCBA. The association said those had an $880 million economic impact on Ohio and employed more than 8,000 people.
And though the pandemic has slowed the opening of new breweries, the state is still growing.
"A lot of the new breweries that are popping up are happening in smaller communities like Kent," said Justin Hemminger, the deputy director of OCBA. “Kind of a testament to the dedication these brewery owners have to serving their communities.”
Bell Tower Brewing Co. doesn't have a set opening date at this time. Hermann and Tipton said they're currently aiming for the end of October. Click here to learn more about the brewery and open job positions.