Royal Docks Brewing Co. and Crave are teaming up to launch a brewery-restaurant in Akron's Merriman Valley.
The Royal Docks Brewing + Crave Kitchen — a melding of two popular brands in the Akron-Canton region — hopes to open in late September in the Liberty Commons complex.
"These are two brand names that almost everybody in the area knows," Crave owner and executive chef Aaron Hervey said Thursday.
Initially, the plan is to open inside Hervey’s Craft Cantina at 1244 Weathervane Lane, which closed earlier this month in anticipation of the space getting a quick revamp. Craft Cantina is a sister eatery to the Crave restaurant in downtown Akron and Crave Cantina in Cuyahoga Falls.
Once open as a restaurant and tasting room, Royal Docks, which operates a production brewery and separate tasting room in Jackson Township, and Crave will begin construction on the brewery and a new permanent site in the same complex.
The Royal Docks Brewing + Crave Kitchen is considered the cornerstone in developer Tony Jaber's effort to revive the office, apartment and entertainment complex with restaurants and retail. Jaber is giving the complex a significant makeover and serves as a partner in the Royal Docks-Crave venture.
In an interesting twist, Liberty Commons was home to Akron's first brewpub, Liberty Street Brewing Co., which closed in 2001.
The Royal Docks Brewing + Crave Kitchen will feature a five-barrel brewing system, with a special emphasis on funky and sour beers, Royal Docks brewmaster Dave Sutula said. It also will offer the full Royal Docks beer lineup such as Leatherhead IPA, Backyard Crusher and Vlad, along with cocktails and wine.
Hervey said the food menu won’t feature “just Crave’s flavors.” Rather, he'll work a Crave twist into the Royal Docks menu, he said.
Royal Docks’ menu includes flatbread pizza, and maybe at the new Crave-Royal Docks place an option might be flatbread pizza topped with the ingredients of a Crave dish, Hervey said, such as blackened chicken and gouda mac and cheese. He stressed this is just an example he was throwing out.
The menu is still being developed, but Hervey envisions lots of appetizers, as well as a few sandwiches, salads and entrees.
“Maybe some funky ramen dish,” Hervey said.
He said he doesn’t want to cannibalize the downtown Crave and offer a duplicate menu in the valley.
The chef at the new place will be Jimmy Pintello, who worked with Hervey at Crave. Most recently, he was at Nuevo Modern Mexican & Tequila Bar in Cleveland.
Royal Docks’ interior elements — such as white subway tiles, corrugated metal and red and gray colors — will be blended with Crave touches in the former Crave Cantina space. Hervey said that plans for the interior are still being developed.
The new venture was born out of a relationship that dates back more than 20 years. Hervey and Sutula worked together at the former Diamondback Brewery in downtown Cleveland. They've kept in touch ever since.
“We’ve done a few beer dinners here and there, discussed collaborations and shared a few pints over each other's bars,” Sutula said. “One thing I’ve always loved about the brewing industry is how collaborative and familial it is, so I’m naturally stoked about working with Aaron again. It’s a bit like getting the band back together.”
Royal Docks has been looking to expand with a new location outside Stark County as more consumers seek locally made craft beer. It had been eyeing Akron in particular because of its proximity to the production brewery.
Earlier this year, the brewery announced that it was interested in opening a pub and small brewery in downtown Akron as part of the $42 million Bowery redevelopment project. But Sutula said that possibility has fallen through.
Royal Docks, which opened in 2015, was ranked last year by the Brewers Association as the fifth fastest-growing craft brewery in the U.S. based on 2017 volume. It also won a gold medal for Pendragon at last year's Great American Beer Festival.
The Royal Docks Brewing + Crave Kitchen will be the second brewery in the Merriman Valley neighborhood. R. Shea Brewing is just around the corner at 1662 Merriman Road. R. Shea also is in the process of opening a production brewery, tasting room and restaurant in the Canal Place complex in downtown Akron.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ. Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook.