Platform Beer Co., a new brewery and beer incubator launching in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood this spring, didn’t look far when hiring its head brewer.
Shaun Yasaki cut his professional teeth at Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon in North Olmsted, where award-winning brewer Matt Cole taught him “what good beer actually is.”
“Probably the most valuable thing I learned at Fat Head’s is how to critically evaluate beer,” said Yasaki, who was a homebrewer before joining the brewpub. “I really developed my palate and my sensory abilities there. It’s something that’s hard to do on your own or when you’re not working with somebody who has that down. You can learn processes anywhere but it’s hard to pick that up.”
Platform — being launched by Paul Benner, owner of The Cleveland Brew Shop in Cleveland, and Justin Carson, owner of JC BeerTech Ltd. in Medina — will be a first for the Ohio beer industry. It will not only be a production brewery and tasting room, but it also will serve as an incubator for prospective professional brewers.
The brewery will have a 10-barrel brewhouse to produce its own brands and a three-barrel pilot system that outside brewers can use. Those guest brewers will even be able sell their beer under their own label in the Platform taproom.
The three-barrel system — custom-made by Portland Kettle Works — is expected to arrive later this month or in early April. The larger brewhouse — also coming from Portland Kettle Works — isn’t coming until the summer.
Platform will start brewing with the pilot system and hopes to offer up to five beers on draft initially. The brewery will be open only on Fridays and Saturdays for the first few months, until the larger system is fired up. When the brewery actually opens for customers depends on when the pilot system arrives and how quickly Yasaki can produce beer.
Benner, Carson and Yasaki hope to hold a grand opening in July or August, when they also will kick off the incubator side of the business. They anticipate holding a homebrew competition with the winner getting the first crack as a guest brewer.
The two-story facility, which is about 10,000 square feet spread over two floors, is being renovated now. About 2,500 square feet will be devoted to the tasting room.
“We want it to be very kind of informal West Coast feel where there’s not really communal servers walking around taking food orders,” Benner said. “You drink beer there. We want to do pinball games and shuffleboard up front. Really try to make it a community space. Encourage people to bring food in. We have relationships already with food trucks that are going to be out front. But really make the space about celebrating beer.”
The plan is to offer 12 Platform beers.
As for the Platform brands, Yasaki said he has a great appreciation for German styles. The brewery also will experiment — but in a scientific way.
“We have our roots in homebrewing, and with our three-barrel system we want to do experiments that a homebrewer could do but a commercial brewer would have trouble doing due to scale reasons,” he said. “For example, we would brew identical pale ale worts and use two different three-barrel fermenters — one with American ale yeast and one with English. Identical IPAs except one has mash hops and one has first wort hops. Ferment two identical Belgians with the same yeast — one constant at 67 degrees and one that free rises uncontrolled. Is hot side aeration real? Let’s rough up the wort before knockout and compare it to one we handled gently.
“We can predict the outcomes of these experiments with theory and book smarts, but have we ever had side by side beers for direct comparison? We want to learn from these experiments just as much as we want our drinkers to. We would sell these beers side-by-side in half pints to help educate the drinker. Beer education is something we’re really passionate about.
“I don’t plan on adding weird fruit and spices to a beer and calling it experimental,” he added. “The experiments will have a scientific and process-related variables.”