Cameron Fuller was born into a winemaking family, but instead of following in their footsteps, he tapped into beer brewing instead. With no experience, he taught himself how to brew beer while he was a marketing student at St. Mary’s College of California. Fuller homebrewed for about five years, and the idea of opening a brewery was always in the back of his mind. Thanks to the internet and his family’s old winemaking tools, Fuller acquired enough knowledge and skills to brew on his own. He knew his beer was good; however, if Fuller wanted to “go pro” he needed objective feedback, rather than his friends’ opinions.
Fuller entered 17 of his beers in the 2013 Ohio Brew Week Homebrew Competition. Eight of his brews won, and he received the Jim Leverentz Award for the most winning entries. For one of those wins, Best of Show, he beat out 281 beers. That was more than enough to convince him that he had what it took to open a brewery, and Devil’s Kettle Brewing was born.
Fuller struggled with naming the brewery for quite some time. He didn’t want to have a location-based name and call it Athens Brewing, but he ironically ended up naming it after a different location.
“I learned about a state park in Minnesota called Devil’s Kettle Falls,” he says. “There is a beautiful waterfall that falls into a whirlpool and disappears underground, and they named that Devil’s Kettle. There’s also a lot of history of brewing being associated to either God or the devil — depending on your perception on what the benefits or negatives of alcohol are.”
The name seemed obvious; a lot of breweries have the name “kettle” in them. Fuller was surprised no one else had used what he thought was a “kickass brewery name.”
Fuller opened Devil’s Kettle in June 2015, making it the second-oldest brewery in Athens. Located at 97 Columbus Road, the brewery sits in a plain, steel building that once housed Southeast Imports, a used car lot. If it weren’t for the large red and black sign in the front yard, the brewery would be easy to miss.
Fuller, a California native, moved to Athens about six years ago to work at Stewart-MacDonald, a company that sells tools and parts for building guitars, which is what he did before he started brewing professionally. Fuller fell in love with Athens and wanted to live here. Unlike Athens, California is much more expensive and has a more developed beer scene.
“Everything [in California] is way more competitive, and there’s more regulation,” Fuller says. “I just knew that if I had a chance to pursue my dream, it would have to be in Athens.”
Devil’s Kettle is one of three breweries in Athens, the other two being Little Fish Brewing and Jackie O’s Brewery. Although Fuller faces competition with the other two breweries, each have distinct locations that attract different crowds.
Bartender Tessa Evanosky thinks it’s a Columbus Road thing.
“People have wanted a brewery here for a while,” she says. “They stop by on their way out of town. We are not a restaurant. Some people just bring a picnic.”
In fact, Fuller encourages his customers to order out and bring their own food. OMG! Rotisserie down the road offers free delivery to the breweries in town.
Athens local Leslie Johnson says she frequents Devil’s Kettle more often than she’d like to admit. In fact, she has had the opportunity to name a couple of the beers, one of which is the Gemini.
“I enjoy the beers here much more than I do at the other breweries,” Johnson says as she enjoys a slice of Avalanche Pizza that she had delivered to the brewery. “When I look on Cameron’s board and see an IPA, when I taste it, it tastes like an IPA.”
Hoppy, malty, roasty, and wild and sour flavors come alive in Devil’s Kettle’s 18 drafts. Fuller says he focuses on traditional brewing and is a fan of German lagers, which, in his opinion, are underrepresented in the craft beer scene.
“What’s crazy about the German lager is they are good transitional beers for the people just trying to get into it because they’re not the over-the-top, extreme, experimental thing,” he says. “They’re really flavorful, but they’re just malty and not overly bitter, just very drinkable beers. That’s some of the stuff I’m most proud of.”
Because he’s from California where there is a more mature craft beer scene, Fuller says he has a different perspective on beer.
“I’ve tried a lot of the things that I’ve seen a lot of people in Ohio … experimenting with,” he says. “So I feel like I have a bit of a sense of what works and what doesn’t work.”
Fuller says he has plans to make the facility look like a more inviting place by making the outside more appealing. Fuller, also a woodworker, made the countertop of the bar. The taproom is hand-built and the patio is locally built. He hopes to install solar panels to make the brewery more sustainable.
On the third Wednesday of every month, Fuller has “Pints with a Purpose” and donates $1 from every pint sold to a particular charity. He previously donated money to Community Food Initiatives, victims of the Orlando shooting and breast cancer research.
Besides working for a place that gives back to local and national causes, Evanosky enjoys bartending at Devil’s Kettle because it is a more grown-up bar to work at.
“Customers are less intense here than they are Uptown,” she says.
The atmosphere in the bar is more mature as well.
“Some people want to have that intense party atmosphere that you see at Jackie O’s on a Friday night, but if you wanna just kick back and hang out with a bunch of friends, this is one of the few places in Athens where you can really hold a conversation,” Fuller says with a laugh.
For those who are underage, don’t underestimate Devil’s Kettle’s root beer, cold brewed nitro coffee and ginger ale.
Although Devil’s Kettle is not within walking distance from campus, Fuller doesn’t struggle with bringing customers in. Because of social media and word-of-mouth, locals and out-of-towners frequent Devil’s Kettle each week. Its beers are also always on tap at Casa Nueva, Tony’s Tavern and The Union Bar & Grill.
“The great thing about the brewery scene right now is that everyone wants to try the new brewery,” Fuller says. “There are so many people every weekend who come in and tell me they’re from Cleveland, Toledo or Cincinnati. I just often ask, without even explaining it, ‘So what number stop am I?’ and knowing that they’re here to go to Jackie O’s, Devil’s Kettle and Little Fish. It’s a great thing for all three of us to [be] here.”