A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Clownin’ around encouraged — Ludlow’s BIRCUS Brewery not typical watering hole

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

Most beer drinkers don’t frequent the local pub expecting to see circus-type performances as part of their night out.

Then again, BIRCUS Brewery isn’t a typical neighborhood watering hole. Located in Ludlow, BIRCUS (pronounced Beer-cus) is the combination of a brewery with exceptional beer and unique entertainment (circus acts, music, wrestling, etc.) as its distinguishing attributes.

It’s also the brainchild of Paul Miller, a Covington Catholic High School graduate who joined the circus his senior year in college. It was a move that ignited a globetrotting adventure for Miller and allowed him to see the world.

Paul Miller joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a senior in college. He performed as a clown and traveled around the world as part of the circus.

“After graduating from CovCath, I studied at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music,” Miller recalled. “During my senior year in college, I decided to run away with the circus and joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.”

Miller said joining the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus “began a journey of performing around the world” with other circus groups and also guided him to a pair of life-changing decisions.

“Part of the journey included finishing my degree,” Miller said, noting he received his degree in dramatic performance from CCM in 1998, “and the journey also included marrying my wife, Renee.”

After traveling around the world performing as a clown in the circus, and also starting the Chicago-based CircEsteem — a youth program based on building self-esteem through circus skills — Miller and his wife began a family. That resulted in more life-changing decisions for the Millers. “Having children brought the desire to move back to Northern Kentucky to be near family,” he said. “So we returned home in 2008 with our two children.”

A year later Miller created Circus Mojo, which has been producing circus entertainment at the Ludlow Theatre with the help of artists and coaches from 36 countries. It features a variety of acts, including aerial silks, gym wheel, juggling, acrobatics, clowns, tight wire acts and trapeze, with plenty of audience participation to keep customers engaged.

Miller’s worldwide connections also put Ludlow on the global map. He created the International College Circus Festival and hosted it at the Ludlow Theatre in both 2013 and ‘14.

Ludlow has in turn been a perfect location for Miller and his creative approach to business.

“After a long search, Ludlow seemed the perfect location for us because the empty factory we purchased had three-phase electric, 20-foot ceilings, level floors and was zoned entertainment,” he said of purchasing the Ludlow Theatre building at 322 Elm Street and the former liquor distribution center next door.

Buying the property in Ludlow allowed Miller to pursue his goal of providing “great entertainment” with Circus Mojo as the impetus behind his unique idea that resulted in BIRCUS Brewery.

Paul Miller shown at BIRCUS Brewery in Ludlow. BIRCUS Brewery combines exceptional beer with circus-type performances as its distinguishing attributes.

“We bought those buildings at a good price point,” he said. “We wanted a place where we could own the buildings and do great work. Ludlow has been a great place to make that happen.”

But what about the origin of the word BIRCUS?

“BIRCUS is a name and concept that we licensed from a friend of mine from Ghent, Belgium, who also runs a circus and wanted a way to fund it without government assistance,” Miller said. “Since concessions is the real revenue arm of any circus, we loved this idea as a way to fund Circus Mojo here in Ludlow. The circus allows us to provide entertainment at our venue, and the beer will provide a living wage to the many talented circus performers who are looking for work.”

Miller praised the staff at BIRCUS for the success of the business, including one key employee whose career path mirrors his own. “Our brewmaster, Sean Gregor, dropped out of college to be our brewer,” Miller said. “His family owns Church Street Brewing outside Chicago and he makes fantastic beer.”

And the quality of the brewing is showing increased sales for the Ludlow establishment, according to Miller.

“We continually sell more beer each month — especially now that our Tasting Room has been open since December,” Miller said. “Our theatre will be open soon, and I have to give a shout out to my general counsel law offices of Shannon C. Smith for that. Shannon and her team have been instrumental in getting us open, both our Tasting Room and pushing to get our theatre open, navigating struggles with PDS, Ludlow City Hall, contractual issues, and finding creative solutions to almost anything that comes up.

“I am fortunate to have a great team that also includes Graydon that assisted in securing legal documents with the SEC and Albert Fedders Construction. Albert and team are ready to break ground and restore the historic Ludlow Theatre so we can get back to show business.”

Paul Miller on BIRCUS Brewery: “The circus allows us to provide entertainment at our venue, and the beer will provide a living wage to the many talented circus performers who are looking for work.”

Customers can also expect to see circus-performer-turned-entrepreneur Miller in action at BIRCUS brewery. “You can typically find me balancing everything from a keg to a ladder on my chin, but beyond that you will see entertainers on unicycles, juggling fire, or performers running atop a giant ball,” he said. “We will also be adding a food menu in the future.”

BIRCUS is also the first brewing company in the country and the first business in Kentucky to qualify its offering under Tier 1 of Regulation A+ with the Securities and Exchange Commission. BIRCUS qualified its offering with the SEC of $500,000 in equity units at a fixed price of $1,000 per unit.

“We are also unique in our investment opportunities,” Miller said. “We have a number of investors excited about what we are doing and, in large part, it was made possible because we are the first brewery to raise equity by registering with the SEC under Regulation A+. This allows folks to have ownership in the business starting at just $1,000, and our units are about gone.”

Hours for BIRCUS Brewery
322 Elm Street, Ludlow Ky. 41016

Monday — Closed
Tuesday — Closed
Wednesday — 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
(One For All Wednesdays = $1 off pints/flights/growlers + $1 to a cause)
Thursday — 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Vinyl Night)
Friday — 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday — noon – 10 p.m.
Sunday — 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

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