When you start a business on the banks of the Ohio River, you have to always know that a flood is a possibility.  When you’re a young brewery, though, less than a year into trying to establish yourselves, it’s a fear that you don’t want to think about.  For 13 Below, the fear became a reality as they watched the River rise to a level that we haven’t seen for decades.

The local news did a great job in covering the flooding across the city, and even gave plenty of love towards 13 below, but as I watched things unfold I was watching another side of it all that I wanted to comment on.

Why does 13 Below have plenty of reasons to smile after suffering a flood like this?  I’ll explain, but first let’s lay out how quick all of this happened.

The Timeline

  • 2/22 – Shameless Plug – I hit up 13 below for an episode of Cincy Brewcast and am blown away by how relaxed they are about the River.  There is no fear.  The river does as the river does.  The water was high… but not too bad.
  • 2/24 – The River engulfs the road in front of the brewery forcing them to close their doors.  They brewed that day and sandbagged the taproom the best that they could.
  • 2/25 – The River strikes… it rises, even more, covering the taproom with more than a foot of water.
  • 2/28 – The River starts to recede, and the cleanup begins.
  • 3/3 – The brewing community comes together to help with the cleanup
  • 3/8 – The brewery reopens.

My Takeaway From This

This is not a “doom and gloom” sad story.  I’m blown away by two different things about this story that could have been a terrible one.  First off: I love seeing how 13 Below handled themselves during this situation.  A new brewery still in their first year of business forced to close down for more than a week, and they were positive the entire time (at least what we could see).  There were smiles all around, with a beer in hand, even as water was up to their waists.

The bigger thing I watched was not just the people who crowd the taproom for a beer each week coming together to help, but the brewing community doing so as well.  I watched brewery after brewery offer up their services to get things back up and running at 13 Below, and the pictures of some of the MadTree crew helping get the taproom cleaned up almost brings me to tears.  I hope from the bottom of my heart that everyone understands how special this community is.  There are not many industries that are like craft beer, and the people who make it all happen day to day are a really special group.

One thing to note… this story didn’t come out of MadTree as some sort of PR thing… I’m going to squash that before any of “those people” chime in.  This was posted by a grateful 13 below on their social media, which makes it that much more heartwarming to me.  I hear some beer drinkers (and even some breweries) scoff as more breweries open their doors… they say things are crowded enough.  Yet time and time again we prove that this community can still come together and become something big, something whole.  MadTree can ignore the people that are much smaller than them – and they don’t.  They are over and over the people that lend a helping hand whenever a brewery needs one.

You get it, I hope.  THIS is craft beer.  THIS is what it means to “Be Gnarly”.  We’re only just starting.

While I’m happy to see 13 Below open their doors again, I’m even happier to see how it all happened.  I hope that more people know about them now, and are planning trips down to their taproom in Sayler Park… if anything, it gives you a chance to give the River a big middle finger and raise a glass to the power that it possesses.

Leave a Comment.