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Brewery to open in McConnelsville in 2020

Dean Ponchak discusses the 15-barrel system he purchased from a closed brewery and where the tanks will sit in the tap room of the Old Bridge Brewing Co. in McConnelsville. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

McCONNELSVILLE, Ohio –From building to brewing, the Ponchak family is on track for an early 2020 opening for its newest business venture.

“McConnelsville is making a comeback,” said Dean Ponchak, as he walked through a brick building that sits north of the village square on West Main Street directly across the street from not only the town’s grocery store, but its iconic steel bridge.

Dean and his wife, Jennifer, bought the building in January 2018, and the pair works with their sons Blake, 30, and Dirk, 26, in Jennifer’s construction business, Follow the River.

Now the family is opening its second joint-venture with Dean at the helm of Old Bridge Brewing Co.

“Leading into the taproom, I want it to reflect that bridge, get a mural up there that makes it look like you’re walking up to the bridge as you walk to the tanks,” he said as electricians added lighting.

Dean Ponchak walks through electrical wiring plans to convert a lifeboat into lighting in the banquet room of the Old Bridge Brewing Company in McConnelsville, Ohio. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

The property is the former vehicle showroom for Gutbertlet Chevrolet before its closure a decade ago. It served as several vehicle showrooms prior to Gutbertlet and survived an explosion in 1914 when it operated as a garage.

“It’s been a long process and a lot of work getting a 100-year building converted from a garage to a restaurant,” said Blake, noting working as a family on construction is nothing new–and hoping the business appeals both to local historians and visitors to the town.

In the last year, Morgan County has seen several restaurants close, including breakfast/lunch options like Kenny’s and The River Queen.

“We are all hopeful they get it open soon and are successful,” said Adam Shriver, who not only runs Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville but also serves as a Morgan County commissioner.

Recent closures don’t scare the Ponchaks since they own not only the brewery building but also the location of a Mexican restaurant opening across the parking lot and plan a partnership with Maxwell’s Pizza.

Dean Ponchak explains how some wood flooring salvaged from the upper floor of the former Gutberlet Chevrolet showroom has been restored and converted into a table for the banquet room of the Old Bridge Brewing Company in McConnelsville. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

“Both Maxwell’s and El Palenque will deliver right to your table once we’re open,” said Dean. “And we’ve already held some small weddings in the banquet space and plan to use this as both a special event area and a place for overflow if we get really busy.”

Dean and Jennifer Ponchak learned to brew (at a larger scale than the home brewing Dean has practiced for the last few years since retirement from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) through an immersion learning course in Colorado.

“We went to beer school and part of that immersion is working in a brewery–learning how that runs and we get to use the recipes we practiced there,” Dean said. “I’ve always liked the red ales and a stout, but out there in Brighton we even learned to make this raspberry hibiscus beer and fruity isn’t usually what I gravitate to but it was pretty good.”

Blake said his favorite brew thus far is a session IPA his dad makes, one of the four staples the family plans to have on tap once it opens.

“I hope people walk in, look around and see how this 100-year-old building has grown from what it was beforehand, and hopefully now is a place for people to want to go on a weekend or when they get off work,” he said. “The biggest thing is you have to have good beer, as long as we have good beer anybody can enjoy it.”

The Old Bridge Brewing Co. is under renovations in the former Gutbertlet Chevrolet building on West Main Street in McConnelsville. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Dean said he hopes to capture brewery tourists en route from Zanesville, Athens and Marietta as well.

“We are within about 30 miles of all of these and the interstate. I want a place where you can come, relax and enjoy a drink with me in my version of retirement,” he said.

The brewery is anticipated to open by spring, with an approximately 160-person capacity space.

To stay updated on progress, follow the business on Facebook.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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