Bad Tom Smith Brewing started as Double Barrel Brewery, the combined brainchild of current head brewer Sean Smith, Charles Boucher, and Greg Brown. They connected because their sons play soccer together, which led to socializing together, and later led to brewing together.
The trio settled on the current location at 4720 Eastern Avenue to make their dream come true, but little did they know how much work it would take.
“It was major sweat equity,” Sean said. “It was a hole in the wall. At the end of the day, it was like walking out of a coal mine. We were doing drywall, threading pipe, we put the walk-in cooler together. It was total rehab. Because we were doing it ourselves, just construction took 14 months – that’s with no brewing beer.”
“In 2012, I used every vacation day I had to meet with inspectors,” Sean said, of the process.
The first brew took place on 1/1/2013, and that beer became the flagship for the brewery – Bad Tom Brown. The name came from a distant relative of Sean’s, Bad Tom Smith, who was hanged in 1895 for the murder of six people in Eastern Kentucky. The taproom initially opened in March of 2013.
The following year, a cease and desist order from Firestone Walker, whose flagship beer is Double Barrel Ale, caused Sean to go back to the well for a name, and Double Barrel Brewery became Bad Tom Smith Brewery.
“I felt like it was a good transition. Our name went from generic to one that had a story. I’ve met nearly 20 distant relatives since then, and one who was descended from a man on the hangman’s crew,” Sean said. “He said his ancestor felt guilt, and had marks from all the men he’d killed, including Bad Tom Smith.”
“We thought that building our brand around the Bad Tom Smith story would be fun to play with and create opportunities to enjoy conversations with our patrons,” he added.
But the fun didn’t extend to other aspects of the business. With his original two partners dropping out of the project due to their day jobs, Sean reached out to John Vojtush, and old high school friend, and John’s his wife Sheryl. They bought the majority share of the business, and shut down operations in order to redo the taproom, making it more open and inviting.
Since reopening in August of 2015, improvements have been made to all aspects of the business, including new equipment which arrived in January of 2017. This transition also allowed Sean to eventually move into brewing full time, and saw the addition of another full-time brewer, Rob McNamara.
“Shortly after deciding to go to school for brewing in late 2017, I was given the opportunity to finally fulfill every homebrewer’s dream of working in a brewery,” Rob said. “We’ve always been a small but passionate team, and that only makes the accomplishments so much sweeter. It’s a labor of love and a lot of sweat and long hours. A creative outlet in our test batch series, an improvement in quality and consistency with the help of new equipment, a branching footprint into new territories – these are a few of the many great things about our continual growth that I’ve seen.”
That future includes opening a second location in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, coming in the fall of 2017. Additionally, the main location in the Cincinnati area will be moving to a new, larger space in Madisonville in early-2018.
The Ohio City location will tap into the brewery’s homebrew roots by showcasing the handiwork of two homebrewers each month, those who win a monthly contest. They will get to come to that location and brew on the 2-BBL Stout system there, and have their beers featured the following month.
Garth Moore will be heading the Ohio City location following a prior career in pipe and valve sales.
“After working on several major projects, while enjoying different beers, I made the jump to making my own,” Garth said.
“We have a plan in place to grow our footprint, we have the people in place, it’s simply a matter of continuing to create Bad Ass In A Glass with every pour and executing our plan,” John said. “Things will only continue to improve for Bad Tom Smith.”