Sitting at the bar in the taproom, beer in hand and greeting customers is Cameron Fuller, owner and creator of Devil’s Kettle Brewing.
The brewery, 97 Columbus Road, is lined with walls of hanging art and guitars and cases of vinyl records, and Fuller watches it fill with members of the Athens area. It’s his way of sitting back and watching years of hard work come to fruition.
But Fuller’s brewery wasn’t created overnight. He’s the classic story of homebrewer gone obsessed: initially he wanted to save money by making his own beer, but ultimately invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into starting a brewery.
“I just have always been searching in my life for that balance of art and science, and brewing really just struck a chord with me as the perfect balance,” Fuller said.
In 2013, Fuller made a plan to officially start his own brewery. His first step was to acquire the perfect location. Previously a used car shop, the location was already equipped with features that were attractive to Fuller, such as sloped floors that lead to a trench drain.
Regarding the name of the brewery, Fuller didn’t want anything location specific or esoteric, but something with attitude that would grab people’s attention. After going through a road atlas and reading about a sight called Devil’s Kettle Falls, the name fit perfectly.
“I was like, Devil’s Kettle… that’s a really cool name for a brewery,” Fuller said. “And I did a little Google search, and nobody had jumped on that one. So I was just like, ‘cool, I’ll roll with it.’”
The final step: to create a specialized selection of brews for his customers to enjoy. This step was what Fuller felt the most prepared for, as he had spent the majority of his time perfecting his brewing skills.
Typically Fuller only brews kegs, but will sometimes brew specialty barrels, using grains from Brewers Supply Group. His sizes include $3 Tasters, $4 Glasses, $5 Pints, $6 Goblets and $10 1L Steins.
From there, Fuller began the logistics portion of running a business. Though he took on most, if not all, of the work in the beginning stages, he knew Devil’s Kettle couldn’t be a one-man job and quickly began to delegate responsibilities.
Fuller has five bartenders, including Kyle Geele, a fifth-year student at Ohio University studying history and chemistry. Geele began homebrewing when he was 18, and when Fuller hired him he quickly began taking on more and more responsibility, helping out with cleaning, taking stock and even some light help in the brewery.
Though most of Geele’s takeaways from his time at Devil’s Kettle have been professional, being more involved with the residents of Athens rather than just the students has made a great impact on him.
“Getting to know the people and what makes Athens great has really opened my mind and perspective about Athens and has made me want to live here for a bit after I graduate,” Geele said.
In addition to his employees, Fuller has also received a lot of support from his partnership with a food truck called The Kitchen at Devil’s Kettle, which is a part of a larger business called Pork & Pickles. Fuller partnered with The Kitchen about two years ago, to enhance the brewery with year-round food service.
Between working in the back, handling the taproom and filling out paperwork, Fuller finds time to interact with several customers, including Leslie Johnson and Chris Fahey, two regulars who have been coming to Devil’s Kettle since it first opened.
“He isn’t afraid or offended to allow his customers to experiment with what he has to offer,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Fahey have both had a hand in naming beers on the Devil’s Kettle menu, and said they both have had some of their best experiences when in Fuller’s taproom.
“The friendly and engaging owner and staff here make it amazing,” Fahey said.
Other than the predictable challenges of running a business, Fuller’s greatest struggle has been the growing number of breweries over the years. However, Fuller feels lucky that he got his foot in the door of breweries earlier than most. He not only enacts his brewery’s quirky charm to entice customers, but also takes on a green initiative to stand out from his competitors.
Having grown up in Berkeley, California, Fuller is a self-proclaimed “hippie at heart,” priding himself on protecting the environment. He knew brewing to be energy intensive, so he offsets that by surrounding the brewery with solar panels, which act as his primary source of energy to run the brewery.
Every time Fuller sees people enjoying themselves at Devil’s Kettle, he feels his long journey has been so worth it.
“You know, you’re seeing people who really love the product and love the place, and people who have come in and didn’t know me before the brewery started and are now good friends of mine,” Fuller said. “That’s really special.”