Craft Breweries to Open in Austintown, Downtown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Brewing beer is a simple procedure: Mix grains with hot water, add hops, cool quickly, add yeast and wait for it to ferment into beer.

Other ingredients can be added to affect the flavor, but those four basic ingredients – and time – are really all it takes.

Combining a simple process with the fact that a multitude of craft beers is steadily eating into the market share of the country’s top brewers shows why microbreweries are popping up everywhere.

Last year alone, breweries opened at a rate of 1½ per day nationwide, according to the Colorado-based Brewers Association. In major cities, breweries are commonplace in up-and-coming neighborhoods. Cleveland alone has a dozen within its city limits, most of them downtown.

The culture of craft beers is slowly spreading to the Mahoning Valley as at least two brewing companies prepare to open this year: Paladin Brewing in Austintown and Gallagher Brewing downtown.

John Chandler, founder of Paladin, says a trip to Colorado in 2008 piqued his interest.

“I saw a craft beer culture that didn’t exist in Youngstown,” Chandler says.

“I wanted to get it here, but I couldn’t. So I started doing it at home. That’s what started it and I was an avid home brewer until I realized I wanted to create my own thing.”

For Gallagher Brewing co-founder Dominic Gatta III – the president of the Gatta Co. who is overseeing the renovation of the Gallagher Building, where the brewery will be housed – the brewery is the next logical step in the resurgence of downtown Youngstown.

“With the rise of craft beer and the exposure it’s getting throughout the Valley, the state and the country, it feels like the right time,” Gatta says. “In all of our travels, even short trips to Cleveland, you see seven or eight breweries in a three-mile radius. That’s great. I’d love it if we had four or five breweries in the Valley.”

But for new brewers, there are steps they must take before they start.

For Chandler, it was research into how Paladin’s brewing system would be set up and its size.

When building the system, he says, there’s a gray zone between smaller brewers who sell their beer only at their own tap house and those looking to eventually distribute.

Systems that produce up to six barrels, he says, are better suited to on-site sales. To distribute, a brewery generally needs at least 10.

The challenge with the large setup, Chandler continues, is financing.

“The first thing was deciding how big of a system I was going to start with,” he says. “Was it going to be something small I could fund on my own? Or was I going to go big and have to get funding?”

Eventually, he settled on a 15-barrel system with 30-barrel fermentation tanks. The larger tanks at the end of the process, Chandler adds, will allow for eventual distribution.

For Gatta, the bigger problem was figuring out how to fit Gallagher’s brewing system – also 15 barrels – into the space. (Thirty-one gallons constitute a barrel.)

“With the design of the system, there are so many parts that go into it. Some pieces are on the first floor. Some are on the second. And some are in the basement,” Gatta says. “So we have to make sure it’s planned well and it’s executed perfectly.”

Even getting equipment has proven a challenge. With so many new breweries opening nationwide and so few companies building the fermentation tanks and related equipment, filling some orders for domestic companies has been delayed up to a year, Chandler says.

All of the pieces for his system were supposed to have arrived last January. The large number of orders, combined with a threatened strike by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, delayed almost all imports of equipment into the Port of Los Angeles. At press time, only half of Paladin’s equipment had arrived.

“We were supposed to be open for St. Patrick’s Day, so dealing with that and not having any sales or cash flow as a result has been a major hurdle,” Chandler says.

Part of what’s spurred the growth of craft beer in Ohio was the Legislature creating the A1C liquor license in 2013. The license (fee $1,000) allows breweries that produce less than 31 million barrels per year to sell their beer on-site without getting a separate permit. Before A1C, only one brewing license was available and it cost $3,906.

“It helps. It wasn’t the critical piece that made us go this route, but it helped,” Gatta says. “They do make up for it in other ways, though. There is a lot of [record keeping] we have to do even to send out one keg of beer and it gets pretty involved.”

Both Paladin and Gallagher have their A1C licenses.

“Unless you have a lawyer that has a great understanding of that and [you] can afford to pay that lawyer, you have to do it all on your own,” Chandler says.

“I spent a lot of time researching all those requirements with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and [Alcohol and Tobacco] Tax and Trade Bureau, along with all the other agencies that get involved.”

But there is more to starting a brewery than shipping delays and dealing with regulations. Both Gatta and Chandler acknowledge passion is required.

Even before deciding to put a brewery in the Gallagher Building, Gatta and his friends “spent countless hours” talking about all things related to beer, he says.

“We want to be part of that larger craft beer community,” Gatta continues. “[The community] all enjoy good beer and knowing them helps you understand what people are trying, what they’re enjoying and how they rate things.”

Once Paladin Brewing opens for business – Chandler aims to open in June – he says eight beers will be on tap.

A few of the industry-standard India Pale Ales, a scotch ale, a stout and a blond lager, will be among the first beers brewed at Paladin.

“The first one will be an American blond ale called ‘Sir Kenneth,’ named after my grandfather-in-law,” Chandler says.

“He drinks one specific kind of beer and he told me that if I could make a beer like that, he’d drink it. It was a challenge to get the recipe at home, but I got it and he loved it. So we named it after him. That’s my pride and joy.”

Gallagher will offer IPAs as well.

“It’s a competitive market. Everyone has an IPA and everyone says theirs is the best,” Gatta says. The few others beers his brewery will make haven’t been pinned down yet as the company studies who its brewer will be.

From across the country, Gatta received 15 applications, he says, and has narrowed it to three. Once a brewer is chosen, Gatta says, they’ll will figure out what others beers Gallagher will offer.

Darrell Fickols, general manager for the Cleveland brewery Brick & Barrel Brewing Co., notes that for startups, assembling a crew that meshes together well can make all the difference in the world.

“Working with the brewer’s style was also important. Our’s has a very hands-on, blue-collar style and that translated into the brewery itself,” Fickols says.

Brick & Barrel opened in December.

The days can be long, Fickols notes, and things can change instantly.

There are some nights when Carl Spiesmen, the brew master at Brick & Barrel, is there all night, sometimes leaving at 7 in the morning. But it’s worth it, Fickols says, to help build a company from the ground up in a booming market.

“It’s not like getting a job someplace that’s been around for 25 years or even more,” he says. “We’ve had to figure it all out as we go and slowly get better.”

For Chandler, one of the big draws of getting into the industry is learning about the many varieties of beer.

For a few generations of beer drinkers, most people were limited to the major players such as Budweiser, Miller or Coors. But now, there are thousands of choices and getting started isn’t always easy.

“I love being able to educate people about all the types of beer out there in the world,” he says. “You can experience everything. There’s nothing wrong with these [major brands], but [smaller beers] are coming out of the woodwork,” he says.

The final step for breweries is getting their product to market.

Both Gatta and Chandler say they want to distribute eventually, but acknowledge that it probably won’t be soon unless the demand is there right out of the gates.

Brick & Barrel isn’t ready to distribute its beer either, choosing to focus on serving in its brewpub.

But when beer is sold at bars across downtown, across the state or even maybe someday across the country, Fickols imagines that will be a very proud day for any brewery that reaches that level of success.

“Being able to walk into a bar and see our own beer on tap will be a very proud moment that shows us we’re actually going somewhere,” Fickols says with a laugh.

“We want to get to the distribution level and get into restaurants. We’re all big [Indians] fans and with Progressive Field showcasing local beers now, getting our beer on tap there is a huge goal.”

Pictured: Paladin Brewing founder John Chandler hopes to open his brewery in June.

Editor’s Note: The May edition of The Business Journal focused on the growth of the craft beer industry here and nationwide. Here are more stories in our Craft Beer series:
Craft Beers, and Their Crazy Names, Go Mainstream
So Many Beers to Sample, So Little Time

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.