The space at 17759 Bretz Drive in Homewood is something of a blank canvas — four bare walls, a restroom and in an expanse of uncovered flooring, an unconnected sink.
But when Tobias Cichon looks at that space, he envisions fermentation tanks, kegs, a bar, musicians in the corner tuning up and, most of all, people enjoying his beer.
Cichon announced Monday on Facebook that he plans to start a craft brewery in Homewood.
Rabid Brewing will be the realization of a dream he has had for nearly five years. After spending most of his adult life imbibing mainstream beers (he was a Miller Lite fan for some time), he discovered the joys and nuances of craft beers.
He credits his wife, Raiye Rosado.
"She learned from her stepfather the wonders of beer," he said. "She taught me how to drink beer."
When he learned how to savor and appreciate good beer, he immediately decided he wanted to be able to make his own.
In January 2011, he finished his first batch, an imperial India pale ale that he dubbed Hair of the God, a palindromic play on the old hangover cure, "hair of the dog that bit you."
It turned out so well that he kept going, learning and creating new recipes, getting connected with area brewers and eventually deciding that he wanted to turn pro.
The name of the future brewery is related to the name of that first beer, he said. He had an image in mind of "insane warrior deities, barbarians" and thought of the name Rabid God. He decided to shorten the name in an attempt to avoid misunderstandings, although the imagery remains.
Before becoming a brewer, Cichon was an open government software developer and later moved into marketing.
"I didn't want to sit behind a computer any more," he said.
Starting a new business certainly involves less sitting than his previous work, and one of the first tasks was finding a good location. When Cichon started his search, his focus was on downtown Homewood, but when opportunities there did not materialize, he found the spot on Bretz Drive.
It turned out to be perfect, he said. Not only is the unadorned space something he and his partners can shape to suit their business, but as the northern-most unit in the building, it is adjacent to a grassy field that they hope to use for outdoor seating and possibly small festivals.
His partners in the venture include Rosado, who developed the business plan and is taking care of organizational matters, and Ben Rodenburg, who is an experienced brewer.
He and Rodenburg plan to focus on ales as their specialty, but they will be able to create a wide variety of beers. They already have requests coming in for specific types of beer future customers hope to see.
Cichon said the response from the community so far has been very gratifying. Within a day of the announcement, the Rabid Brewing page on Facebook had more than 320 followers and he received numerous congratulations and expressions of anticipation.
"I guess the people of Homewood really like beer," he said. "There are so many craft beer options, but I think people are excited to have their own."
He wants to encourage members of the community to feel that sense of ownership in Rabid Brewing.
"I want this to be a community-oriented business," he said.
Although there is a great deal of work yet to be done building out the shop and setting up the brewery, Cichon said he hopes to be open in about four months, if all goes well.