About four years ago, Eric Pfohl’s mother got him a beer kit for Christmas.
So he gave homebrewing a shot.
“And it was awful,” Pfohl says, chuckling at the memory. “I was bummed out.”
But family members put him in touch with a guy living nearby who was quickly gaining a reputation for his home brews. The next night, Aaron Grizaniuk stopped by Pfohl’s apartment to offer some tips and to help brew a new batch.
Aaron Grizaniuk, left, and Eric Pfohl own Patron Saints, a new nanobrewery on West Bancroft Street.
“Four weeks later, I tasted it and it was amazing,” Pfohl says. “A couple of years later, in October, 2016, we were sitting around talking and saying how it would be nice to have a brewery on the west side. Then we just said, ‘We should hang our own shingle.’”
On July 20, the shingle was officially hung with the opening of Patron Saints Brewery on West Bancroft, about a stone’s throw from the University Parks Trail. It is open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, though there is no hard closing time if guests are still hanging out.
“We’ve been swamped open to close,” Grizaniuk says. “There are usually 20 or more people in here.”
There are typically 12 of their own beers on tap, each with the name of a saint, a testament to the men’s Catholic beliefs. There is the Saint Matthew stout, a Saint Mark pale ale, the popular Saint Hedwig kolsch, a double IPA (Saint Sophia), and the Saint Swiny — a bacon red ale.
“People either love that one or hate it,” Pfohl says of the Swiny.
A guy from Cincinnati visited the Polish-American Festival in May and tried the Saint Hedwig. He loved it so much that he called Patron Saints and ordered two cases of it, a request that Pfohl and Grizaniuk had not tried to fulfill prior to that point. But they put their new canning machine to work, and the customer returned to Toledo from Cincinnati to pick up his order.
Though they are open only two days a week, Pfohl and Grizaniuk, a two-man show, are putting in close to 40 hours a week. They do the brewing, the cleaning, the marketing, and the serving.
“It’s been a lot more work than I thought it would be. It’s a lifestyle change. You were used to having your weekends free, but not now,” Pfohl says. “But it’s been a lot of fun to meet so many people.”
The men signed the lease on their location in May, 2017, thinking they would be able to get the brewery open by Thanksgiving or Christmas, 2017. But then dreams met bureaucracy, and the opening was repeatedly pushed back because of an assortment of permitting issues. Each required fix meant another 30 days before an inspector would return. Before getting final approval, Pfohl and Grizaniuk had to agree to do all brewing at least 20 feet from the building because of firewall concerns. Until they get new burners or go electric, brewing will take place outside.
“It was going so quickly at first that we were wondering why everyone was saying it was so difficult to get a brewery started in Toledo,” Pfohl says, chuckling. “But it’s not the city’s fault. We just didn’t do things in the right order.”
Part of the issue was that there were no solid guidelines in place to open a nanobrewery in the city. A nanobrewery is smaller than a microbrewery. Black Frog in Holland and Sylvania’s Upside Brewing have that classification, but Patron Saints is the first in Toledo.
A Kickstarter campaign provided capital that helped during the delay. Some donors will eventually be able to name new beers. The men also saved money by building the bar and tabletops themselves.
“We designed this for the two of us. The idea was to start small and figure out all the hurdles, then be ready for growth,” Grizaniuk says. “Everything is going according to plan, except for the timing.”
Alegae Blooms on tap
On Aug. 2, Maumee Bay Brewing Co. released its Alegae Blooms sour double IPA in an attempt to raise awareness of the continuing pollution and algae issues in Lake Erie.
Four years ago, more than 400,000 people were left without water because of high levels of toxic microcystin in the lake. Members of the brewery, the Ohio Environmental Council, and Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz discussed the anniversary at the Aug. 2 event and the beer, which has an ABV of 7.2 percent and is brewed with fresh kiwi and matcha powder.
The beer will be on tap through the end of the month, then will be available in cans. Portions of the profits will go to the Ohio Environmental Council, which advocates for a cleaner Lake Erie and tighter controls on pollution affecting the lake.
Workout at Earnest
Earnest Brew Works, 4342 S. Detroit Ave., will host its Barbells and Brews event on Saturday at 11 a.m. The workout, which includes a warm-up, partner work, and resistance training with kegs, is held in partnership with Crossfit Toledo and is $10. People with all levels of fitness are welcome.
There will be additional classes on Sept. 29 and Oct. 13.
It will be a good opportunity to sample Earnest’s first sour beer — My Tart Will Go On. It is an apricot ale that is probably a little more tart than sour.
Local tap takeover
Casual Pint, 3550 Executive Pkwy., will host a local tap takeover from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday. Local and regional breweries, including Maumee Bay, Earnest Brew Works, Upside, Inside the Five, Patron Saints, Black Frog, Flatrock, 4KD Crick, Rambling Red, Wildside, Black Cloister, and Two Bandits, will have beers available.
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