By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Rust Belt Brewing Co. finally has a place of its own.
The Youngstown-based craft brewer has taken a big leap in its growth by opening a public bar room where its various beers — fresh from the keg — are available by the glass.
The Rust Belt Brewing Co. Tap House quietly opened a few weeks ago at 112 W. Commerce St., downtown, in the newly renovated Erie Terminal Building. A grand opening is in the works for January, said Ken Blair, founder and co-owner.
The new location not only gives Rust Belt a place where it can directly welcome the public, but it adds a unique touch to the city’s nightlife district.
Singer-songwriter Kenny Greco will perform there tonight beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The Tap House occupies a unique three-level space in the beautiful, old brick building, which features restored original woodwork.
There is a street-level main room with a bar at one end, high tables elsewhere and windows that look out on West Commerce Street.
A half-level up is a large television lounge that also can be used for private gatherings and for entertainment. The bathrooms also are on this level.
Most interesting is an open-sided loft that is perched above the bar room. Comfortable couches and furniture here make it a good spot for relaxed conversation.
Blair is very pleased with how it turned out.
“It’s a real nice location,” he said. “It’s in the mix amongst everything downtown.”
The walls are currently bare, but before the January grand opening, the establishment will be given a decor that highlights the city. Panoramic photos of the now-gone Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. steel mill and other historic scenes will adorn the walls, as will photos and memorabilia from Youngstown State University football.
A custom-made exterior sign that incorporates the Rust Belt local also will be installed.
A change in state law in July that allows brewing companies to locate a tasting room within a half-mile of their brewery provided the green light for the Tap House project. Erie Terminal officials approached Rust Belt about using the space, and a deal was soon reached.
Blair said the bar has a tasting-room-type atmosphere, perfect for both beer afficionados and casual drinkers.
“It gives us a place to showcase our beers, to see what customers like before we put it into production,” he said. “This will go a long way in promoting our brand. It’s something we needed years ago.”
Rust Belt has four main brews, all of which are on tap at the new location: Rusted River Irish Red, Blast Furnace Blonde, Old Man Hopper IPA and Coke Oven Stout.
It also has a line of John Young Selects, recipes that are brewed on a more limited schedule: McPoyle’s Milk Stout (currently on tap), Peacemaker Imperial IPA, XOXO Dopplesticke, ABig Ail Belgian Abby and St. Michael’s Double.
All of Rust Belt’s beers are brewed at its small brewery in the B&O Station Building at 530 Mahoning Ave. Rust Belt also contracts out some brewing work to Pennsylvania Brewing Co. in Pittsburgh.
To help celebrate the new Tap House, the brewer will release a new beer in the new year: Fracking Porter, whose name plays off the burgeoning shale-gas industry.
A couple more beers also are under development.
The Rust Belt Brewing Co. Tap House also features a limited food menu, consisting of dips and pocket sandwiches by Ghossain’s Deli.
Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday and Friday; and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday.