Downtown brewery Black Cloister slated to open in FebruaryWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
By Dave Kubacki, Toledo Free Press Staff Wrtier
After two years of planning, renovating and brewing, Black Cloister Brewing Company is nearly ready to open its doors to the Glass City — and CEO Tom Schaeffer hopes those glasses will be filled with Toledo’s newest brews, which will focus on Belgian-inspired styles.
Black Cloister’s name was derived from a 16th-century monastery where Martin Luther, who is credited as the architect of the Protestant Reformation, was trained as a monk.
Upon walking into Black Cloister’s new Downtown home near Fifth Third Field, patrons will sense the monastic influence. According to Schaeffer, the building’s architecture immediately made it a frontrunner.
“This was always the building I loved” Schaeffer said. “I walked in and saw these arches and thought, ‘Wow, this ought to be our home.’”
Without recent changes in licensing, Black Cloister would have been markedly different than the brewery slated to open in February. According to Schaeffer, the initial vision was a bit more primitive, with thoughts of simply having a production warehouse. However, in July 2013 taproom licenses became available and that drastically changed his vision for Black Cloister.
“When we realized that license was going to be available, that sort of changed everything,” Schaeffer said. “After speaking with brewery owners and reading, I discovered that a taproom for a newly opening brewery is the most important aspect of a brewery. It’s kind of the identity of the brewery.”
The major difference between Black Cloister’s taproom and other brewpubs, according to Schaeffer, is that it will not have a kitchen or serve beers from other breweries. Instead, Black Cloister will focus on its own beers and rely on other Toledo businesses to feed hungry patrons.
“It’s going to be all take-in food,” Schaeffer said. “We’ll have food trucks parked on the side. We’ve also talked to Downtown restaurants close to us like Table Forty4 who will let us carry their menu.”
According to Schaeffer, every corner of the Black Cloister’s taproom has been meticulously planned, with a monastic/church theme throughout. The 27-foot hammered black steel bar top encapsulates the brewery’s 12 main taps, which protrude out of a 16th century-style church door. The Black Cloister will hold around 100 people, with a room available for private parties, Schaeffer said.
“There is a table going into the room for small parties designed by Lacey Campbell,” he said. “Lacey’s from Toledo and is actually currently being featured on a competitive furniture-building show called ‘Framework’ that is airing on Spike TV.”
According to Schaeffer, there was debate among the co-founders as to when Black Cloister would open due to the time needed to produce the brewery’s various beers. At the end of the day, the co-founders decided to open the brewery as soon as they had beer to put on tap.
“We have three different beers we can get brewed in two to three weeks,” Schaeffer said.
“We’ll have a Belgian witbier, a palesner, which is a pilsner recipe brewed with ale yeast at about 44 degrees and it is our own invention,” he said. “At this point, because of timing, we’ll probably brew an Irish red.
“There will be flagship beers, but not at first. We decided to produce our beers, get them out there and let the public tell us what the flagship beers are going to be.”
The Black Cloister’s Irish red, according to Schaeffer, is the brainchild of assistant brewer Shannon Speight, a highly decorated brewer who won more than 40 awards for her beers in 2014 alone.
When Black Cloister opens, co-founder Bob Hall will be the brewery’s brewmaster, but will likely turn those responsibilities to Speight. Brewmaster responsibilities will be shifted to Speight after she completes the American Brewers Guild program she’s been accepted into after being on a wait list for two years. According to Schaeffer, Speight is part of another selective society.
“[Speight] actually joined the Pink Boots Society, which is a society for women brewers,” Schaeffer said. “She literally has pink steel-tip work boots.”
The Black Cloister joins a Downtown that has seen substantial growth and revitalization over the past few years. According to Schaeffer, being part of that revitalization is one of the most exciting things about opening the brewery.
“You want to turn Downtown into a destination,” Schaeffer said. “I would be better off if people weren’t getting into their car and saying, let’s go to the Black Cloister, but instead were saying, let’s head Downtown by the ballpark, there’s tons of stuff to do down there.”
Schaeffer and co-founders Hall, Scott Biddle and Mike Kennedy, along with 20 or so investors have put roughly half a million dollars into the Black Cloister renovations and equipment.
According to Schaeffer, who began this process as a simple home brewer, the process of starting a brewery has only enhanced his respect for beer.
“It’s always dangerous when you take a hobby and make it into a career,” Schaeffer said. “I actually think I’ve learned to appreciate it a lot more. I have a different perspective as I now understand everything that goes into it.”
Black Cloister Brewing Company will be located at 619 Monroe St., in close proximity to other popular Downtown destinations including Fifth Third Field, Table Forty4, The Blarney Irish Pub and PizzaPapalis.