Local pastor set to open Black Cloister BrewingWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Dave Kubacki
After months of planning, gathering investors and launching an aggressive Kickstarter campaign, Tom Schaeffer hopes to go from pastor to brewmaster.
Schaeffer, who is pastor of Threshold Church, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, has dedicated the past 25 years to ministry. With the creation of Black Cloister Brewing, Schaeffer hopes to leverage his brewing into a self-sustaining ministry.
While the idea sounds revolutionary, it is a philosophy that has been around for quite some time. Most notably, Belgium’s Trappist breweries have laid the groundwork for community-built breweries whose revenue is devoted to social service. Schaeffer said the success of that model is what he hopes to achieve by opening Black Cloister.
“We want to leverage our company to make Toledo a better place,” Schaeffer said. “We want that philosophy to be part of our brewery’s culture. It is something that is unique and is something that defines who we are.”
Black Cloister’s connection to ministry is evident throughout its business plan and branding, from the styles of beer Schaeffer plans on pouring to the name chosen.
“The Black Cloister was the monastery that Martin Luther was trained in as a monk,” Schaeffer said. “He pioneered the Reformation. During the Reformation, he ended up marrying a nun named Katie and the Black Cloister was actually given to them as a home. When they moved in, Katie was actually an alewife. Not only did she brew the beer for the household, but she actually brewed beer for much of the city of Wittenberg.”
Shaeffer said the Black Cloister brewing team of himself, Scott Biddle, Mike Kennedy, Bob Hall and Brad Deters has more than 60 years of brewing experience collectively. Schaeffer said he has always had a passion for craft beer and brewing. From hosting a beer-tasting men’s Bible study to theological discussions around the brew kettle, Schaeffer has always felt the union of beer and ministry was a welcome pairing. He said it was a natural progression to begin looking at opening a brewery.
“I decided to talk with some people that I respected a great deal from a business standpoint,” Schaeffer said. “After talking with these guys, I expected someone to say to me, ‘Tom, this is a really bad idea.’ But everyone I talked to said just the opposite. They said, ‘Tom, I think you are really onto something.’ When I talked to people like that and they said I should pursue this, that’s when I started pulling some other people into the team.”
In mid-October, Shaeffer and his team began an online Kickstarter campaign to raise $55,000 by Nov. 16. The requested funds would supplement the roughly $400,000 the brewery has already raised. While the Kickstarter campaign will not determine whether the brewery will continue to move forward, it will help the company purchase three fermenting vessels, a brite tank and approximately 150 kegs.
“If we don’t get the Kickstarter money, it will throw a bit of a wrench into things,” Schaeffer said. “However, it is not a deal-breaker. We are looking at a 15-barrel system and I don’t want to cut back to a 10-barrel system. These are some of the decisions we might end up having to make if the Kickstarter page doesn’t push through. It is likely the largest Kickstarter in Northwest Ohio so we know it will be difficult. We are hoping friends, family, Toledoans and even our church community will support the project.”
Black Cloister is currently in the process of securing a location. While Schaeffer was not able to disclose the building they are hoping to secure, he did say it was within eyesight of Fifth Third Field in Downtown Toledo. He said when Black Cloister opens its doors in 2014, it will strictly be a taproom, with no food served. However, Schaeffer did say he hoped it would eventually become a full-service brewpub.
“We wanted to keep our focus on brewing good beer first,” Schaeffer said. “The site we are looking at will allow us to serve food when the timing is right and we will definitely look to do that.”
As for inspiration, Schaeffer draws from two very different and prominent breweries.
“New Belgium Brewing is really an inspiration because they are really committed to their employees and to being as environmentally conscious as possible,” Schaeffer said. “Three Floyds is also an inspiration because they have an attitude that they are going to brew what they want to brew and do what they want to do. We like that mentality as well.”
For more information or to donate to the Kickstarter campaign, click here.
Tags: Belgium Brewing, Belgium’s Trappist breweries, Black Cloister Brewing, brewmaster, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Kickstarter, Martin Luther, pastor, the Reformation, Three Floyds, Threshold Church, Tom Schaeffer