By Brandon Klein
Local beer brewers are taking their craft to the next level.
Four new breweries will open in the Mahoning Valley by early next year.
“I wish I could’ve opened two years ago,” said John Chandler, the owner of Paladin Brewing LLC.
Chandler expects to open his brewery, 6520 Mahoning Ave., within the next couple of weeks.
Columbiana and Lisbon will be home to the BirdFish Brewing Co. and Numbers Brewing Co., respectively, as owners are waiting for their licenses to operate.
“We would love to open this summer,” said Jeramy DeBord, a co-owner of Numbers.
Rust Belt Brewing Co. on West Commerce Street already calls downtown Youngstown home. It will soon be joined by another brewery within the first quarter of 2016. Dominic Gatta III, owner of the Gatta Group in Youngstown, plans to open one on the first floor of the Gallagher building with renovations to start within the next two months.
“We like to be part of that community,” Gatta said.
Ohio’s brewery industry was named sixth in the nation, with more than 82,000 jobs, according to a September 2014 study conducted by Washington-based Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association.
Youngstown has been home to several breweries in its history, as The Vindicator’s files indicate. The list includes Smith Brewing in the late 1800s, Youngstown Brewing in the early 1900s and Renner Brewing, which began in the late 1800s and closed in 1962. B&O Station Brewing was located at the B&O Station building until it closed in 2004.
Two years later, Rust Belt Brewing picked up the pieces of the industry, prompting the Valley’s new era for craft beer.
“We kind of spearheaded this whole craft beer culture in the Valley,” said Ken Blair, the brewery’s owner.
Blair acquired his taste for high-quality beer when he was stationed in Germany with the Army in the 1990s. He took up home-brewing as a hobby when he came to Youngstown, and then took it to next level. He uses the 10-barrel brewing system left by B&O Station Brewing – a barrel of beer is 31 gallons.
“The local support of craft beer was lagging in 2008,” Blair said.
But the brewery took root within downtown as it opened a tap house at the Erie Terminal building, 112 W. Commerce St., in 2013, where craft-beer lovers can enjoy a Rusted River Irish Red Ale and listen to live music on the weekends. Blair employs two full-time bartenders and has six to seven beers on tap. The brewery also serves craft liquor made in Ohio, wine from Mastropietro Winery in Berlin Center and mead from Woodland Cellars in Hubbard.
While 2008 was the year Blair fully embraced the industry, it was also the year Chandler became inspired by it. The idea for a brewery was planted back in 2008, when he started making beer after his in-laws gave him a beer kit. He also became inspired by the culture in Colorado during trips in 2008 and 2010.
Chandler of Paladin Brewing will have a 15-barrel brew house system with 30-barrel fermentation tanks. The brewery along with the tavern will take up just more than half of the 10,000-square-foot facility.
One of the biggest challenges was finding a name for the brewery, as many already were taken. He settled on paladin, which is a medieval knight.
Before the end of the year, the brewery will initially offer at least four beers including the Sir Kenneth, an American blond ale named after Chandler’s father-in-law, Ken Erdner.
Though the brewery doesn’t have a kitchen, customers are welcomed to bring food from other nearby restaurants, he said.
Chandler is also keeping drink prices simple at $5, which applies to the following: a pint of regular beers; a 10-ounce pour of beers with higher alcohol content in a Belgian-style glass; and a tasting flight of 3-ounce samples in four glasses.
Chandler also plans to use a crowler to package its beer in 32-ounce cans for customers to take home. He said it preserves the beer better than growlers, or glass jugs. The Rust Belt Brewing Co. also plans to implement the technology.
Like Chandler, DeBord of Numbers saw a need to bring the industry to Columbiana County.
“Every time we want to try a good beer, we had to drive,” he said.
DeBord, along with some silent partners, started renovations for what would be the Numbers Brewing Co., 127 N. Beaver St., in Lisbon. The 2,000 square-foot brewery will hold up to 40 people and serve 15 beers total on tap including a blond ale and a porter. The price range for beers is targeted at $4 to $6 depending on the beer.
The name behind the brewery derives from DeBord’s days as a student at Bethany College in West Virginia. His fraternity had a numbering system with each member given a number to denote seniority. Older students had lower numbers and had privileges such as sitting as the front seat passenger of the car.
“It was a silly thing we did back then,” he said, but added that everyone has numbers that have significance to them.
The owners of the BirdFish Brewery Co. have been home brewing since 2010, and have mostly finished renovations of the new brewery, 16 S. Main St., Columbiana, which they hope to open within the next few months.
“The process has taken us longer than we thought,” said Jared Channell, a co-owner.
The brewery, which is about 800 square feet, will have a one-barrel system with nine fermentation tanks on display. Channell, along with co-owners Josh Dunn and Greg Snyder, plan to produce eight to nine beers per month, serving five on tap, which will include stout-style beers mixed with coffee.
“We want to keep things interesting,” he said.
Channell said they looked at several names before picking BirdFish.
“It just kind of clicked and sounded good,” he said.
Gatta’s brewery will have a 15-barrel system, which is set to open within the first quarter of next year. The brewery will take up the whole basement, the first floor and patio, taking up about 16,000 square feet of the Gallagher building.
“It’s good overall for the Valley,” he said.