It’s always tough to name a new brewery.
It was even more difficult for those behind a new operation in Mansfield.
The brewery is in an abandoned mortuary — a place once filled with embalming fluid and dead bodies. If that weren’t creepy enough, one of the former owners committed suicide in the chapel in the early 1930s and there’s talk of the red brick building being haunted.
As they bandied about potential names, the partners kept zeroing in on darker themes involving death.
And then it hit them: Phoenix Brewing Co.
Not only are they breathing life into an abandoned mortuary that turns 100 years old next year, they also are resurrecting craft brewing in Mansfield, a community of 48,000 people in north central Ohio that saw its last brewery, the Wooden Pony, close in 2002.
“Phoenix definitely fit,” partner Steve Zigmund said.
The production brewery and tasting room hopes to open this winter in the Schroer & Son building on North Diamond Street. The partial federal shutdown helped push back the opening.
The building has plenty of history in Mansfield. Charles Schroer Sr. launched a furniture and casket-making company there in 1857 and the mortuary was built in 1914, becoming the first fire-proof building constructed in the city.
Along with Zigmund, the others behind the venture include Duncan Macfarlane and Josh Beard. All are homebrewers, but Macfarlane has been designated as the head brewer because he has homebrewed for more than a dozen years and has a science background.
Phoenix Brewing will launch with a five-barrel brewing system from GW Kent. The system will be located in the basement just like those at Millersburg Brewing in Millersburg and Barley’s Brewing in Columbus. Unlike those operations, which have windows to look down into the brewhouse, visitors won’t be able to see the brewing equipment.
The owners, though, said they will be happy to provide tours.
The beer will be available on draft only, and Phoenix plans to self-distribute at first.
The partners chose downtown Mansfield for a reason. Not only was the building’s backstory attractive, but downtown also is been booming with art galleries, coffee shops, a sports bar and martini bar, they said.
“We thought a brewery would be a great addition to all those different type places,” Zigmund said. “The downtown area is a really neat place in Mansfield and it’s up and coming. We think our business is going to help that grow even more.”
Phoenix will launch with four beers and eventually up that to six. At first, there likely will be an oatmeal stout, robust porter, English ESB and West Coast-style India pale ale. Macfarlane also wants to make seasonal brews.
The tasting room will have 12 taps, with the thought being to offer six guest beers.
The brewery won’t include a kitchen, but people will be welcome to bring in food, such as pizza, and they will host food trucks as many other brewing operations successfully do in Ohio.
There will be an outdoor patio and live music.
The owners traveled around visiting breweries, trying to steal the best ideas from each. That means comfortable seating, good acoustics for bands, and bar-height tables and chairs, they said.
The beer culture has changed in Mansfield since the days of the Wooden Pony and the community is ready to embrace a craft brewery, Macfarlane said. Bars and restaurants now feature craft beer, as do grocery stores.
“There’s more knowledge in town compared to even just five or six years ago to what craft beer is,” he said.
Initially, Phoenix will be open from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday, 4 to midnight Friday and 2 p.m. to midnight Saturday.
“We want to start out slow and make sure we have beer for demand,” Zigmund said.