Updated Tue, May 13, 2014 2:49 pm
Cameron Fuller's success in last year's Ohio Brew Week competition in Athens was the nudge he needed to finally decide to pursue a goal he has — opening a craft beer brewery.
If all goes as planned, Devil's Kettle Brewing will begin making beer in six or seven months at its location on Columbus Road, where Fuller purchased three buildings at the former Southeast Imports site.
"My goal is to be doing my first brewing by Thanksgiving," Fuller said.
Fuller has been home brewing for about six years. He's never worked in a brewery, other than helping out for a time in a brewery in California, but brewing has become his passion.
"Whenever I travel I visit brewers," Fuller said. "I maintain relationships with a lot of brewers and I've been able to pick their brains."
In recent years he's participated in Ohio Brew Week's Homebrew Competition and last year won the top prize. He won best of show, beating out 281 other beers. Also, he received the competition's Jim Leverentz Award for having the most winning entries (eight), according to the Ohio Brew Week website.
Fuller said that in the past he's gotten positive feedback from friends about his home brews, but winning the competition provided some additional validation.
"That was really the final pat on the back that I needed to do this," Fuller said.
Jody Grenert, who organizes the competition, said he thinks Fuller has what it takes to make beer professionally.
"For a young guy, he is very creative with his brewing," Grenert said, adding that Fuller is very energetic and pays a lot of attention to detail.
Fuller has lived in Athens for almost four years.
He grew up in California, and had been working there as a guitar maker, using parts he bought from Athens-based Stewart-MacDonald — also his employer. He also has an aunt, Elizabeth Collins, who is an Ohio University professor.
"I was ready for a change, so I just packed up and moved to Ohio," Fuller recalled.
Fuller said he has ordered equipment he needs for his brewery, and also must go through state and federal licensing, as well has getting city permits.
Once the brewery is up and running, it will be capable of brewing 20-barrel batches — the equivalent of 40 full-size kegs. Fuller said that initially he will start with three or four styles of beer, and will be selling it by the keg.
"I've been developing a real rich, nice lager," he said, adding that one of his other brews will be an India pale ale.
Eventually, he hopes to open a tap room, which he said is essentially a bar that operates limited hours. He said people will be able to stop in and buy growlers of fresh beer to take home.
But for now, Fuller is concentrating on getting the brewery operational and bringing to a new level his passion for home brewing.
"It's been almost all I think about — for years now," Fuller said.