Paul Benner leaned against the bar and looked around at the crowd milling about the Platform Beer Co.
Then he smiled.
Cleveland’s newest production brewery, tasting room and brewery incubator doesn’t officially open until noon Friday, but Platform, located in the Ohio City neighborhood just down the street from Great Lakes Brewing, Market Garden Brewery and Nano Brew Cleveland, hosted family and friends Wednesday night.
“Days like this when there are people here? This is when it’s a lot of fun for me,” said Benner, co-owner of the brewery and also the nearby Cleveland Brew Shop. “Just seeing people enjoying it and smiling when they come in here and giving compliments. It’s what you do it for.”
Platform will debut with three of its beers, a saison, a boysenberry, and an India pale ale made in collaboration with Market Garden. There’s also — as Benner describes it — “an awesome guest lineup” while Platform rolls out its other brews. That lineup includes names like Jackie O’s, Founders and Sixpoint.
The brewery plans to offer eight house brews eventually.
Matt Cole, co-owner and the award-winning brewer at Fat Head’s Brewery, stopped by Wednesday to check on the place and brewer Shaun Yasaki, who previously worked at Fat Head’s and credits Cole for teaching him about the profession.
Cole gave his endorsement for the saison.
Platform is in a 5,000-square-foot brick building along Lorain Avenue that once included a small bowling alley. The brewery pays tribute to that history with an arcade bowling machine upfront and there are several chewed-up bowling pins sitting around the bar.
In addition to the bowling machine and pins, there are a several other things that stand out when you walk in.
For starters, there’s plenty of exposed brick.
Then there’s the small stainless steel brewing system in the back. (A 10-barrel system is coming.)
The brewhouse isn’t behind glass or hidden in a back room. It’s right out in the open, separated from customers only by a short wall. It’s a model used by many craft breweries as a way to connect with their fans, allowing them to take in the wonderful sights, sounds and smells of brewing.
Atop the bar, the stainless steel taps are lit and spell out P-L-A-T-F-O-R-M in different colors.
And there are long, communal tables inside, and an outdoor beer garden with wooden picnic tables and plants, including hop plants.
“We’re set up as a West Coast tasting room,” Benner said. “We’re all about beer here, man. That’s what we want to focus on. We don’t serve any liquor and we don’t serve any wine. And we don’t serve any bottled beer. It’s all draft beer. It’s just something that’s a little different from what we currently have. Not that what we have isn’t great, but if you’re going to open a new business, you need to have something unique.”