Black Cloister Visit - Sun, Mar 15, 2015

The Black Cloister Brewing Company is Toledo's first taproom. It will "officially" open on Fri, Mar 20, 2015, but it has hosted a few soft openings beforehand. My wife and I spent a few hours at the BCBC on Sun evening, Mar 15. The Glass City Mashers were invited. One of the BCBC founders, Tom Schaeffer, started the Glass City Mashers.

The BCBC is located in an old, renovated brick building at 619 Monroe St in downtown Toledo.

The taproom license became available in Ohio in the summer of 2013. The BCBC founders announced their intentions in the spring of 2014. The renovations, legal issues, etc. took much longer than expected, so the opening date kept slipping.

The BCBC will not serve food, per the taproom license. They had bowls of pretzels set out. They should obtain a popcorn machine like Mutz.

Patrons can bring their own food, or they can order food from nearby restaurants. Occasionally, a food truck owner will stop by, like this Fri, Mar 20 when Swig will park its food truck next to the BCBC.

Deb makes tasty pretzels, and we make our own mustard, which is easy to do.

I make naturally-leavened sourdough bread, and Deb makes ricotta cheese, so we options if we truly need to bring some food.

The BCBC will only serve the beer that they brew in their building. On Sun, Mar 15, they offered three beer choices. Once they get going, they will offer around six or so beers at a time.

The BCBC plans to offer its beers in other establishments in the Toledo area.

From the Black Cloister website:

The idea for Black Cloister Brewing Company® was born from a trio of inspirations: a love of great beer, a desire to build community in Toledo, and a wish to give back.

Our founding crew is composed of homebrewers and craft-beer lovers...and probably at some point, every homebrewer toys with the idea of opening a brewery. For Tom Schaeffer, such an idea grew into a dream, formed roots, and took hold.

As a Lutheran pastor, Tom knew that the brewery needed to satisfy both the body and the soul. This wasn't at all unorthodox for Tom; in 2012, he founded the Glass City Mashers, Toledo's largest homebrewing club. Prior to that, he held a men's study in his living room, pairing beer tastings with bible studies.

Now, BCBC will enable him not just to continue his ministry, but also to build a robust community in Toledo.

Sun, Mar 15, 2015 Photos

Limited selection tonight. More should be available after they officially open. The Irish-style Red was good, but I thought that the Belgian-style Blonde was excellent. Version 2 of the blonde will have an ABV of 7.5%.

We sat at the bar with its hammered-metal and riveted surface. The shelves of merchandise were made of welded steel and wood. A nice industrial look.

Owner Tom gave tours. These fermenters were working hard.

Tom said that they may grow hops in the small atrium.

Czech Saaz hops is the only hops that they use in their Belgian-style beers.

A saison may be tapped on Fri, Mar 20 for the official opening. It was brewed with star of anise and orange peels.

It was interesting to hear Tom describe the hop-purchasing process from the secondary market. After the BCBC operates for a while, and it knows how much hops it will use over the course of a year, then Tom said that he can buy hops from the primary market, which also offers more hops choices.

Tom also said that they will or plan to partner with hops farmers in Ohio.

Feb 2015 Toledo Blade

Feb 26, 2015 - Toledo Blade - Black Cloister Brewing Co. taps opening date

The story is part of a new Blade column, called "Raise a Glass."

This is the debut of Raise a Glass, a monthly craft beer column covering what’s brewing in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. It will appear in The Blade’s Weekender the last Thursday of every month.

Summary from the story about Black Cloister:

Jan 2015 TFP

Excerpts from a January 2015 Toledo Free Press story

... in July 2013 taproom licenses became available [in Ohio] and that drastically changed his vision for Black Cloister.

The major difference between Black Cloister’s taproom and other brewpubs, according to Schaeffer, is that it will not have a kitchen or serve beers from other breweries. Instead, Black Cloister will focus on its own beers and rely on other Toledo businesses to feed hungry patrons.

... will focus on Belgian-inspired styles.

“We have three different beers we can get brewed in two to three weeks,” Schaeffer said.

“We’ll have a Belgian witbier, a palesner, which is a pilsner recipe brewed with ale yeast at about 44 degrees and it is our own invention,” he said. “At this point, because of timing, we’ll probably brew an Irish red.

“There will be flagship beers, but not at first. We decided to produce our beers, get them out there and let the public tell us what the flagship beers are going to be.”

The Black Cloister’s Irish red, according to Schaeffer, is the brainchild of assistant brewer Shannon Speight, a highly decorated brewer who won more than 40 awards for her beers in 2014 alone.

Shannon's an excellent brewer. I've enjoyed Shannon's Belgian-style beers, during our group brew days and at Glass City Mashers meetings. We were excited to learn last year that she would be brewing at Black Cloister.

Thu, Mar 19, 2015 Visit

The Black Cloister was open Thu evening, Mar 19 to "test" procedures. We saw the mention on Facebook, so we arrived around 9:00 p.m.

I drank two "Martys" which is the excellent Belgian blonde. I really like our Belgian blonde that we brewed in December. Our Belgian blonde tastes better than some other small brewery versions that we tried this winter. But the Black Cloister Belgian blonde beats ours.

Here's some info about the interior design, based upon a conversation with owner Tom Schaefer. Area people were involved.

Broken Color constructed and contracted out much of the interior work. I'm unsure if I have that spelled correctly because I could not find any additional info on the firm.

In a couple small areas, wood was used that was salvaged from a Toledo building that was built in the 1860s.

The metal and wood shelves were custom built.

The long drink rail that hangs on the wall with the mural was made from 100-year-old Michigan cherry wood.

I think that the wood used on the bar may have come from railroad ties. The wood has a rugged look, so it may have been salvaged from somewhere.

The tables cost $5 a piece. I assume that was the cost before the tables were refurnished. The tables came from an old warehouse.

Graphite: Design & Build created the mural.

Gathered Art Gallery and Studios created the mugs for the Mug Club.

Lacey Campbell Designs contributed work. Last night, I saw Lacey assembling a large table in the side room near the front. These photos look like the table.

The grand opening occurs today, Mar 20, 2015. Ribbon-cutting with the media and maybe area officials occurs at 3:00 p.m. The BCBC opens at 4:00 p.m. The Swig food truck will be present after 5:00 p.m.

Sun, Mar 22, 2015 Visit

Deb and I ate dinner around 8:00 p.m. at Ye Olde Durty Bird, located in downtown Toledo. Deb ordered the Maumee Bay Brewing Company's Winter Wheat beer, which is a tasty, smooth beer. I like easy-drinking beers, and this is one. I ordered water with my big cheeseburger.

After the Durty Bird, we went to the Black Cloister for a beer each.

The BCBC still had three beers on their list. The saison will be available on Tue, Mar 24.

But of the three beers, two were unavailable. They ran out of the "Marty" (Belgian-style Blonde) on Sat, Mar 21, and they ran out of the Rose of Shannon (Irish-style Red) on Sun, Mar 23.

We tried for the first time the only beer left, which was the interesting "Pale Rider," which is a lager/ale hybrid. It's ABV is 4.7%. It's described as a session beer, and I was impressed at how good that beer tasted. We would not have tried it if the Marty was available, so it worked well. Good beer.

We learned that through Fri night, Mar 20, 2015, the Black Cloister the amount of beer that they expected to sell after 30 days of business. The opening week, which was mainly so-called soft openings, did well.

Hopefully, this is a clue that the demand for craft beer is greater than the number of breweries that exist in the Toledo area. It's surprising that an area this large has only a few breweries, and only two, that I'm aware of, that can entertain patrons.

The Marty or the Belgian-blonde is the most popular of the three beers. But one employee said that she liked the forthcoming saison the best thus far.

The BCBC will introduce an IPA soon, that will have an IBU rating of 100. That doesn't interest us. We're look forward to the saison, and the next version of the Marty.

Comments by Owner Tom

Excerpts from a Mar 18, 2015 Facebook post by one of the BCBC owners/founders Tom Schaeffer:

I want to thank the Glass City Mashers. After two long years, Black Cloister Brewing Company is opening. . . and it would not have been possible without the Mashers. This group is family (we started with 8 people in my living room). It has been a source of inspiration and encouragement. It has certainly made me a better brewer and allowed me to forge relationships with even better brewers. You are all and always most welcome at Black Cloister Brewing Company.

Mar 25, 2015 Visit

We tried the saison at the Black Cloister, and it was too bitter for me. I won't try that version again. The Star of Anise flavor existed in the background, and it seemed fine.

If you sit at the bar, owner Tom will probably chat with you. He agreed that this version of their saison was a little too bitter for the style.

For their Belgium-style beers, the Black Cloister plans to use mainly Czech Saaz hops. Tom said that for this version of their saison, they used U.S. Saaz hops, which, according to Tom, is four times more bitter than Czech Saaz. The next version of this saison will use Czech Saaz.

For hopheads, their IPA will be available today. It's suppose to have an IBU rating of 100, so that's not for me.

The next version of their Belgian Blonde will be available this weekend. It will be a little higher in ABV.

A Scotch Ale and a Belgian Wit are then next in line. I don't know if those are available next week or later. I enjoyed the Scotch Ale that was available earlier this year at the Maumee Bay Brewing Company.

We like wit beers. We batted .500 last year on our homebrew wit beers. One turned out great, and the other we had to dump. Over 40 bottles down the drain.

Last Friday, the Black Cloister sold over 1100 pints of beer. Through last Friday, which included their soft openings, the amount of beer that they sold equaled what they had projected to sell after 30 days. Currently, their production and availability lags behind demand. Their beer is planned to be offered at many other locations.

Last Saturday, the Black Cloister ran out of the Belgian Blonde. They finished off the Irish Red on Sunday.

Their "Pale Rider" beer, which they call a "pilsner/pale ale hybrid" is better than I expected, since it's ABV is only 4.7%. It's a nice fall-back beer.

It will be interesting to see how their patersbier turns out. It will be available this spring. Patersbiers are house beers at the monasteries, and they are typically low in alcohol, like 3% to 4% ABV. I think Tom said that the Black Cloister patersbier will have an ABV of 4.2%. It's a challenge to get good flavor from less grain.

[The monks] brew a special light ale called patersbier (“Father’s Beer” in Dutch) to drink for sustenance, while leaving them fully capable to take on the day’s endeavors. If monk’s mowed their monastery yard (do they?), this would be the Belgian equivalent of a lawnmower beer. Patersbier is also known as enkel, meaning “single” in Dutch.

No matter the recipe, the end goal should always be something that can be sessioned as a nutritional source without inebriation.

Last fall, Chris at Black Frog Brewery began selling his beer in area stores. The Andersons, at least. His setup is called a nano brewery. He's having trouble meeting demand, so he plans to expand. And one day, he would like to open a taproom.

Last year on 419 Day, we sampled beer from a local nano brewery called the State Line hOptimistic Brewing Society, but I don't know if they are selling their beer yet.

One or two other Glass City Mashers plan to start small breweries. The Great Black Swamp Brewing Company is still operating.

Earlier this year, I heard that J & G Pizza Palace, located in Sylvania, plans to brew their own beer.

With the number of breweries that exist in Traverse City and Grand Rapids, MI, it seems that the Toledo area should be able to support more breweries, especially with Ohio's relatively new taproom license.

Regarding food, my wife and I typically eat dinner at home after 8:00 p.m. Last evening while at the Black Cloister, we decided to get some food. Table 44 and PizzaPapalis deliver to the Black Cloister, but I decided to walk over to Table 44. But Table 44 and PizzaPapalis were both closed. It was only 9:25 p.m. The Blarney was open, but I don't know if they offered take-out. I said the hell with it.

For now on, if we think that we'll eat, then we'll buy food on the way to the Black Cloister and not rely on the nearby places. A person with a food cart setup on the sidewalk selling pizza bread might do a good business, especially after 9:00 p.m.

A couple more things about the Black Cloister ... they have a very friendly, helpful staff. The place feels like a neighborhood coffee shop, except it's beer. With no TVs and no overly-loud live music, it's an easy place to hold conversations. It's just a different option for hanging out. It won't be for everyone, and it doesn't need to be.

#brewery - #taproom - #belgian - #photo