How a 15th-century Italian typographer inspired Hanover’s newest craft brewery
It’s 11 a.m. on a Friday morning in September. I’m thinking about coffee. The guys at Aldus Brewery in Hanover are thinking about beer. They are always thinking about beer.
I pull up to the brewery and walk in the front door. The whine of drills and the pounding of hammers greet me. Workers are putting the final touches on the brewpub, which is set to open early this month.
“I meant to bring you guys some coffee,” I tell Jason Mininger, owner of Aldus Brewery and Jeff Groves, Aldus Brewery’s head brewer.
“We’ve had enough coffee,” Mininger says. “It’s time for beer.”
We have a saying at the Fly Magazine headquarters that goes, “you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.” And so being a loyal employee, I grab a glass.
Groves pours me a sample of the light, subtly citrus-flavored American Blonde Ale – the brewery’s flagship beer. We perform the customary toast and Mininger tells me how the two guys came together.
Like many great modern partnerships, Mininger and Groves met online. They connected on the brewery job-sourcing website, brewingwork.com. After a few online exchanges the
two guys realized they would make a great team. “We’re like The Odd Couple of brewing,” says Mininger, referring to the classic story of two mismatched roommates.
“He’s Felix,” says Groves. Mininger is a meticulous perfectionist. Groves is a little more laid-back.
“We’d never get any product out if it wasn’t for Jeff,” says Mininger. “He lets me know when the beer doesn’t need any more adjustments.”
Groves, who has been brewing beer professionally for four years, left his job at an Indiana brewery and moved to Hanover to help Mininger launch Aldus Brewery.
Mininger, a former graphic designer in Maryland, recently moved to his wife’s hometown of Hanover to pursue his passion for brewing beer.
“I’ve always loved this town,” Mininger says. “It’s a working-class town with hardworking people.”
The brewery, which is housed in the former site of the Snyder’s of Hanover factory in an industrial complex that also includes a mill shop, a bakery equipment manufacturer and a bullet-casing maker, is a tribute to the working-class town of Hanover. Before the bar has even sold one beer, workers are placing orders. They are even requesting direct tap lines to their workshops.
We finish our beers and Groves refills the glasses with another version of American Blonde Ale. “We’re trying to decide between the 6% ABV and the 5% ABV,” Mininger tells me. We clink the glasses again and drink, concluding that the 6% ABV version has a little something extra (besides the alcohol) – a sweeter citrus-forward taste profile.
Later, Mininger tells me how the brewery came to be known as Aldus Brewery.
As a graphic designer and self-described typography nerd, Mininger found a muse in Aldus Manitius, the 15th-century Venetian printer who invented italic typeface.
“Without Aldus we wouldn’t be able to make sarcastic comments on the Internet,” laughs Mininger. But the main reason that Mininger chose the name Aldus had to do with Aldus’ other claim to fame.
“He was one of the first people to print classic Greek literature in cheap vellum so anyone could afford it,” says Mininger. “We’re trying to do the same with craft beer in terms of accessibility. We’re trying to open up these beers to a wider audience. These are beers that were engineered specifically for the other 85% percent of the market that doesn’t drink craft beer for one reason or another.”
“I want everyone to drink craft beer. My goal is world domination.” Mininger says with a mischievous gleam in his eye. Despite the “evil genius” vibe that the phrase world domination (thanks for the italics, Aldus) provokes, Mininger actually does have a two-phase plan to draw mainstream beer drinkers to the craft beer world and then, once initiated, explore its nuanced territory even further.
The first phase is his flagship All-American line that includes American Blonde Ale, Olde Factory IPA and a Wee Heavy. These are accessible beers engineered to ease craft beer virgins into the scene. The second phase will be an Illuminated line (a pun on illuminated manuscripts) that features more experimental beers like bourbon barrel aged stouts.
We move out to the brewpub, which has capacity for 40 people including seating for 20 at the aged copper top bar. Mininger sees the brewpub as a place where people can start their nights and try some local beer.
“I think people are definitely starting to realize the major producers like Budweiser and MillerCoors aren’t the only outlet anymore,” says Mininger. “Prior to Prohibition, we all drank locally, every town had its own local brewery and it’s really kind of going back that way.”
• 555 Centennial Avenue, Hanover; 634-2407
• Brewpub: Thursday & Friday 3-8 p.m. and Saturday 12-8 p.m.; Brewery: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Wheelchair accessible, credit cards accepted, smoking prohibited, reservations not accepted, alcohol served, takeout available