Ill Will Brewing Earns ‘Hidden Gem’ Recognition

COLUMBIANA, Ohio – One of the area’s newest breweries is getting some national attention.

Ill Will Brewing is one of three Ohio brewery-pubs included in “Hidden Gems of America: Breweries.” 

The book spotlights craft breweries from coast to coast that are high in quality but not yet known outside their region. Written by Parentesi Quadra, it was published in January and is available at Barnes & Noble Booksellers and most online retailers ($29.95).

Each brewery received a two-page spread, with photos, that provides information about its history, owners and products.

Also earning spots in the book are Bell Tower Brewing in Kent and Eighty-Three Brewery in Akron. All three Ohio breweries opened within the past four years.

Ill Will, co-owned by Brian Lalama, Ryan Gray and Kathy Shorejs, opened in 2021 in the fast-growing Firestone Farms development on state Route 14.

When Lalama first learned Ill Will earned a spot in the book, it brought a tear to his eye. He views it as validation of the owners’ efforts.

“The three of us work on this project relentlessly,” he said.

The secret to Ill Will’s appeal might just lie in the owners’ insistence on being true to themselves.

“We are introverts, and we built a brewery around being comfortable in our own skin,” Lalama said. “Our approaches are not textbook. Instead of seeking approval from the greatest number of people, we seek to connect with a  smaller number, but profoundly.”

Being described as “hidden” makes sense to the owners, as their business appears to be flying under the radar.

The vast majority of Ill Will’s customers drive in from larger cities well outside the Columbiana area. 

“We operate on an island,” Lalama said. “Even our hometown of Columbiana, where we all grew up, graduated from high school and love dearly, largely ignores us, but we don’t mind. We embrace the roles of outcast and underdog.”

Ill Will, he notes, is located in a former barn built in 1936 as part of the historic Harvey S. Firestone homestead. It is across the road from Firestone Farms TownCenter and golf course.

As for being described as a “gem,” Lalama said that’s the part that moved him to tears. Ill Will is very serious about its beer.

“Half of our menu is geared toward old-world styles with meticulous attention to historic practices and techniques, down to water chemistry,” he said.

“For the other half, we stretch our imaginations as to what beer can be. No ingredient is off the table. We’ve fruited, ice creamed, caked, cheese-caked and even pancaked beers. Smoothies were not part of the original plan, but we are grateful for the niche they’ve carved for us.”

Later this year, the brewery will release beers made in collaboration with some nationally recognized breweries, as well as barrel-aged stouts, barley wines and spontaneously fermented wild ales.

Pictured at top: The cover of “Hidden Gems of America: Breweries.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.