Local couple brings uniquely-flavored craft beers to Ottawa

Marissa Ventrelli
The Ottawa Herald

A well-known quote from a classic fantasy novel served as inspiration for an Ottawa couple's business venture, which brings their love of craft beer right to the heart of Main Street.

Dusty and Melody Gentry, the husband and wife duo behind Not Lost Brewing, spent years traveling to craft breweries and beer festivals before deciding to try brewing at home about five years ago. Their ultimate goal was to open a brewery, but the couple knew they had to start small, so they kept their respective jobs as a welder and a dental hygienist while they mastered the craft of home brewing. After a few years of perfecting their brews at home, the Gentrys started looking for a space to rent. About a year and a half later, they purchased space on Main Street that had formerly housed an antique store. The couple spent months renovating the space and converting it into a bar and kitchen, and in March of 2019, Ottawa's only local brewery opened its doors. 

The name of the brewery comes from the J.R.R. Tolkien quote: "Not all who wander are lost", which has multiple meanings for the Gentrys. "Before we opened, we traveled a lot," Melody explained, "and our beer styles are kind of traditional, but then I like to do crazy stuff with flavors- so we may do a lot of different things, but we're not lost." The first year of business was great for Not Lost, and customers loved the uniquely-flavored drinks and weekly food specials. However, as the brewery hit its one-year anniversary, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Indoor dining was not allowed in Franklin County during the first few months of the pandemic, but Melody says customers "really made a big point" to stop in to get their take-home growlers filled. "We actually had some customers that would get an order for their whole neighborhood, and they'd come in with these huge boxes of growlers" she recalled. By the summer of 2020, restaurants were allowed to open at 50% capacity for dine-in, but business was nowhere near what it had been a year before. Now that restaurants are open at full capacity again, the Gentrys hope business will start to pick up again. 

According to Melody Gentry, craft beer is very trendy. And by the couple's observations, Ottawa may be a little behind on trends. Dusty and Melody admit it's been somewhat of a struggle to get Ottawans to drink something other than just "beer-flavored beer", but once they do, most of them love the concoctions thought up by Melody and brewed by Dusty in-house."I've heard from a lot of people, they'll be like 'Milkshake IPA? I don't know, that just sounds horrible,' and then they'll try it and they'll be like 'hm, that actually is pretty good'" Melody said. The Gentrys hope their distinct flavors will get Ottawans out of their comfort zone and introduce them to new favorites along the way. 

Not Lost's drink menu changes frequently, but owners Dusty and Melody Gentry say most drinks are just slight variations on the same core styles.

As with cooking or baking, brewing is a scientific process. "If you're really good at science, you could be really good at brewing," said Melody. Beverages like coconoatmeal stout and pumpkin porter are brewed in small-batch beer tanks in the brewery's kitchen area. It takes anywhere from six to 12 hours for Dusty to brew a batch, which then goes into a fermenter for anywhere from ten days to more than a month. Not Lost's brewing tanks hold two barrels of beer, which is smaller than many of the larger breweries in places like Lawrence or Kansas City, but the small batch sizes offer an advantage: "they allow you to do a lot more specialties," said Melody, to which Dusty added, "That's really what we wanted to do all along,". 

Not Lost Brewing has several fermentation tanks like these in their kitchen area

Not Lost Brewing is located at 229 S. Main St. in Ottawa and is open from 4 to 9 pm on Thursdays and Fridays, 2 to 9 pm on Saturdays, and 12:30 to 4 pm on Sundays. 

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