It’s been two years since we last reported on the Birdtown Brewery
(2035 Quail St.) project taking form in the old St. Gregory Catholic Church in Lakewood's Birdtown neighborhood. Well, there’s good reason finally to post an update.
“The brewing equipment is getting delivered,” says Sean Fairbairn, who along with Barrio Restaurant Group partner Tom Leneghan is behind the project. “It’s exciting because we’ve had this project on hold for several years.”
Conservative estimates peg opening day in Fall of 2017.
Since announcing the project the team has been busy expanding the Barrio brand. They hired executive chef Pete Joyce to oversee culinary operations, they built a large new commissary in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, they added a third food truck, and they currently are wrapping up construction on a Cleveland Heights location, set to open this spring in the former Mad Greek space.
Meanwhile, the brewery project now has a brewer attached, and the size of the brewhouse has doubled in size.
“When we bought an old church, we were initially thinking a three-a-half-barrel system,” Fairbairn explains. “But after talking to all these guys from Platform and Market Garden we thought that we wouldn’t be able to keep up with that kind of system. We decided to do it right from the start.”
Still modest at 7.5 barrels and four fermenters, the brewery will focus almost exclusively on beer for onsite consumption. Down the road, as the brand hopefully gains traction, expanded production and distribution is a possibility.
Brewer Wyatt Routson will be working on a system from Deutsche Beverage Technology out of North Carolina, which is being delivered as we “speak.” For three years, Rouston worked alongside Rick Seibt at Willoughby Brewing, where he learned the ins and outs of running a brewpub. He’s looking forward to having complete creative control over beer styles and recipes, he says.
“I like to drink hoppy saisons, IPAs and double IPAs, but I want to keep things interesting,” Routson notes. “If you consistently put out a good product and it’s something different, I think that’s something beer consumers like. Having a 7-barrel system, we’ll be able to go through a fair amount of styles of beer.”
The beer will complement a roster of casual foods built around pizzas.
As for the space, it has to be one of the most impressive sites for a small brewery this side of Pittsburgh. The brewhouse will be prominently displayed on what was the altar, flanked by fermenters. A number of serving tanks will be visible in a lower-level space.
For Routson, who has been patiently awaiting this day for months, the opportunity to brew for a living really is a blessing from on high.
“I’ve always wanted to be creative, always wanted to be good at drawing, at music or something like that, but never really made it in that regard,” Routson confesses. “I’ve always been interested in science and physical labor, and that’s what drew me into brewing; I found that you can be creative through food and beer and that inspired me.”