By Jason Jugenheimer and The Flight Crew
KENT, Ohio – Small towns in early America had two structures that were central to their populaces: churches and watering holes. In Kent, Bell Tower Brewing, its newest craft beer destination, checks both boxes.
The church, built in 1858, has been home to a variety of small businesses and one local manufacturing company. It sits just across the bridge from downtown Kent at the foot of a quaint neighborhood.
When the church became available, co-owners Ryan and Bridget Tipton and co-owner brewster Jennifer Hermann fulfilled their original idea of a small taproom and went all-in on the massive project.
Ryan, a software designer, and Jennifer, a well-traveled brewer with stops at Market Garden, Nano Brew and Rockmill Brewery, met and reconnected through the Kent Home Brewers Club and a conversation at the chamber of commerce.
Finally, in 2017, they got serious about opening a brewery together.
Bridget Tipton, educated as an interior designer and architect, worked with her boss to do all of the design work to create an eclectic and beautiful space.
The results of their labor of love are a marriage of beautiful design and extremely fresh and clean beers.
Jennifer’s passion shines in her beer and she truly likes to stay traditional with much of what she brews. “What you can manipulate with just four ingredients is impressive and gives you the opportunity to educate the beer drinker,” Hermann says.
Ryan seconds that thought, telling us, “I love interacting with customers and educating them on our beers.”
Amazing Grace American Light Lager is this brewery’s most popular beer. In just over seven months, the quality of all the beers, mixed with the food and the atmosphere has brought this brewery a long way.
Kent has become a nice little beer destination, now boasting; Bell Tower, Mad Cap Brewing and North Water Brewing Company, 101 Bottles of Beer on the Wall and the Kent Beerfest.
Here are some of the varieties we enjoyed taking communion with.
Geist der Glocke German Pilsner, 5.0% ABV
Roger Gillespie: I like ordering any style of pilsner when I try a new brewery. You really get to see how talented the brewer is. You can’t hide any flaw in them. “Geist der Glocke, A.K.A. ‘Spirit of the Bell’” is a German style pilsner.
It pours a golden straw color with a nearly perfect white head. It’s very soft on the palate but the flavor is anything but delicate. Easy to want another with a 5% ABV and a modest 37 IBUs. This is an outstanding warm-weather beer.
Amazing Grace American Light Lager, 4.0% ABV
Joe Sanfilippo: Can I get an amen for this beer? The Amazing Grace is Bell Tower’s No. 1 seller and for good reason. This American light lager is brewed to perfection.
This simple beer, so easy to drink, is without doubt my favorite of the evening. Jennifer nailed this one.
Its color is a pale golden yellow with a nice white head. Not much to the nose but the taste has just a little sweetness and no bitterness. This one comes in at 4% ABV. It will have you singing and dancing in the pews.
Hermann-ator Doppelbock, 7.7% ABV
Dave Shively: Doppelbocks were first brewed in the winter months, meant to be enjoyed during Lent. Jennifer chose to specifically name this richly colorful lager after her late father, Kenneth Wayne Herman, a professor at Kent State University.
She told how her conversations with her father, over a beer, very often became philosophical and are some of her favorite adult memories of time spent with her dad.
To honor her father, she showed us a brewery kettle inside the brewhouse, which has the initials KWH on it, as a further tribute. This beer is delicious in every way. Its bold, rich malty flavor pairs well with just about anything on the food menu.
Saison du Clocher Session Saison, 5.4% ABV
Jason Jugenheimer: I love saisons and the dynamic opportunities they offer brewers to show their interpretations of the style, while keeping traditional style characteristics like being light-bodied, highly carbonated, dry and most important, a vessel to allow various yeast strains to shine.
Earthy flavors, orchard fruits and peppery spices vary from beer to beer. But the showcase is the brewer allowing the yeast to work.
Saison du Clocher or ‘Season of the Bell Tower’ is an excellent representation of what a saison should be. It’s a beautiful golden ale that is extremely light-bodied. Floral aromas resonate with hints of fruit and hay that carry over into the flavor and it finishes dry and slightly peppery. This was definitely my favorite on my flight.
Revival Rye Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV
Brian Long: There are “clean” beers and there are the grandeurs of Bell Tower’s version of this classic American pale ale.
It pours a beautiful amber red with a nice hint of rye dough on the nose. A thin, smooth beer, yet packed full of flavor. It has a little sweetness along with a light bitter hoppy finish.
Must admit the flavor of this beer, one I don’t often seek, has changed during my recent beer quest because this one has “rung” my palate to seek out others. Bell Tower, however, has set the bar high with this complex flavorful beer so to easy drink.
Burnin’ Bell Cream Ale, 4.6% ABV
Rob Tittel: For most of my adult life, I didn’t view cream ale as a particularly sexy or trendy style. Truth be told, I thought they were a bit boring.
That is until the first time I had Wolf’s Ridge Brewing (Columbus) Daybreak Coffee Cream Ale. That beer opened my mind’s eyes to what a blank canvas the style can be.
The simple, clean base beer, often containing an adjunct like corn or rice, with little to no hop bitterness present, is ideal. Bell Tower’s latest release, newly on tap at the brewery as of late May, is a collaborative beer with the home brew community.
Brewster Jennifer Hermann was a long-time member of the Cleveland SNOBs (Society Northeast Ohio Brews), which worked with Hermann on this perfect cream ale base, then dosed with a combination of serrano and habanero peppers that kicks up the heat just a notch.
It doesn’t burn the palate and is not hot for the sake of being hot. It’s quite flavorful and refreshing and has quickly entered into my pantheon in my hall-of-fame-worthy cream ales alongside Daybreak. Really well done and not boring in the least.
Recommended Flight Pattern: Stop by the former church and grab a beer. You don’t need to put on your Sunday best.
Pictured at top: Jennifer Herman is a co-founder and head brewer at Bell Tower Brewing. Ryan Tipton also is a co-founder of the brewery and its general manager. Not pictured is Bridget Tipton, co-founder and interior designer.