We believe in good beer, and the idea that beer can go way beyond its liquid form.
And that, in a nutshell is the pitch for Platform Brewing, whose community-minded approach to craft brewing now has a taste of Columbus.
By the time you read this, the Cleveland company will have swung open the doors on their ambitious new Columbus brewhouse, their attempt to take Franklin County by storm the way they’ve done Cuyahoga. Since our very own beer boss Steve Croyle has been following the craft beer renaissance in town since its inception, we put him and a few pints with sales manager Matt Subel to get the low down on these upstarts.
So, craft beer has finally arrived. It’s everywhere. Columbus has a lot of really good brewers who are killing it. Why is Platform jumping into what has suddenly become a highly competitive market?
That’s actually exactly why we wanted to jump in the Columbus beer scene. There are some impressive brewers in the area and the overall vibe is a strong sense of community, creativity, and collaboration. What’s not to love about that? There are a ton of super talented people who live and brew (or distill) here and the energy surrounding Ohio made is incredible. We already have relationships with a lot of these breweries and have already collaborated on a couple beers with them as well. It’s that Midwest pride, but in a down to earth kind of way where it feels like we’re all in it together. Also, there are lot of people in Columbus like myself who are transplants from the Cleveland, and their Cleveland roots dig a little deeper. I used to get ridiculed half the time when I would tell people I was from Cleveland. We had very little to brag about, but that’s also changing quickly. I think people here are genuinely excited to have a fresh new face from Cleveland that’s pushing the limits in terms of style, variety, quality, and it’s so far been well received and we are really can’t thank everyone who’s supported us along the way enough.
Is this part of a larger multi-unit concept? If so, how do you avoid becoming a cookie cutter crap hole?
Not really. We’re not a franchise. Building a space here had more to do with local distribution since we are self-distributed. We are thinking of expanding to other states, but are just in early brainstorming stages for now. Platform was built on community and collaboration, and another big reason why we built a space here in Columbus. One of our owners, Paul Benner, opened Cleveland’s largest home-brew supply shop in 2012 with the goal of creating a full-service, educationally slanted shop in hopes to inspire other brewers to “live the dream.” Fast-forward a couple years, and Paul teamed-up with our other owner Justin Carson to open Platform in the Ohio City neighborhood in July of 2014. This is when Platform’s Incubator program was born, and the story behind our name. Paul wanted to pay it forward to all the good people who supported him at the shop, so he would host competitions and invite the winner to come in and brew beer at the new space. Our original 3.5-barrel brewhouse was the perfect size to test batches and collaborate. We would then plan release parties at the taproom or at our favorite area bars for the general public to enjoy; a dream come true for an accomplished brewer. Essentially, this was their “platform” to gaining experience brewing on a larger scale and to train hands-on with our brewmaster. Fast forward to Columbus, and we have already skyrocketed two local Columbus brewers to fame and fortune—Dan Reeve and Blake Mikesell—with release parties at Bodega and Ohio Taproom earlier this year. We have a third on schedule for early this year. This has now grown in to more of a guest brewer series, where we can open it up to other businesses or community partners. In short, our taproom is here to connect on a more intimate level with not just our fans, but to collaborate with other local brewers, businesses, chefs or restaurateurs, etc.
Also, you avoid the cookie cutter crap hole by not brewing mediocre beer and/or building out in a strip mall [laughs].
So, what do you guys even know about Cowtown?
Ice cream, beer, Buckeye football, tech, meat loaf, farms, fashion, more beer, and more Buckeye football? Did I miss anything? [laughs]. I’ve lived in Columbus for about 10 years now and have watched Columbus grow into a really cool “small town big city,” which is why I love living here. Not to mention our owner Paul Benner actually grew up in Gahanna, so he’s from the area. There are some incredibly talented people who live here and we are very fortunate to call a lot of those people friends. I started my first stint scooping ice cream at Jeni’s in 2006 when there was just one shop in the North Market, and eventually worked my way in to the craft beer scene working as one of the first local beer reps at Four String. Columbus definitely has a younger, more vibrant feel then Cleveland but that’s the obvious. What isn’t obvious is how quickly the city has changed and the idea that we are just now starting to build our own identity. We hope Platform will help contribute to further developing one of those identities as a beer lover mecca. None of opening a brewery or starting a business is easy, but that’s another cool thing about Columbus: There are a ton of people in the same position as us and living through the same challenges that are eager to jump in to support these efforts. In the end, we are all here to keep making Columbus what it is: a smart, talented, vibrant, creative, and innovative small town big city.
Some people in Columbus might see you as carpetbaggers, or at least some condescending hipster punks from Cleveland thinking they can school us on beer. How will you build customer loyalty/trust?
By making really good beer, continuing to push the envelope, offering a unique experience, and by not being a carpetbagger or condescending hipster punk. We feel welcomed. Thank you.
What is the scoop on the venue? What kind of vibe is it? What sort of entertainment will it have?
The venue is actually a little piece of Columbus history, as it was one of the original Carfagna’s meat packing plants—a local Italian family that opened their first market in Columbus in 1937. It has a pretty cool, laidback feel to it, and has definitely got an old-school factory look. My favorite part of the space is the open sight line to the brewhouse in the back and the 50-foot long custom built wooden bar top. We left the main section of the brewhouse pretty wide open so people can actually come watch us brew, smell the good sweet malt smells, and all the fruity aromas from late hop additions. We have 26 total taps, with most of those being Platform beers and a few other local guests taps. Two of the taps have built-in infusion tours so we can infuse any beer of choice with fresh ingredients right on the spot. We will also have 3 other taps with fresh soda from our good friends at Old City Soda in Cleveland in addition to local spirits. The sky is the limit when it comes to inventing mixed drinks or flavor combinations. We also have plans for live music on the weekends where bands will set up in the production space with the brewhouse in the background, among other things. And a rooftop patio will be installed early spring of 2017 with an amazing view of downtown Columbus.
What about food?
Just like our original space up Cleveland, we actually built a pop-up kitchen in the back so we can have local food truck vendors or even some of our favorite local chef’s to come in and collaborate with us. It’s a complete blank slate for them to experiment and even try new dishes that they might not normally do at their store or kitchen. That’s actually how we ended up collaborating and brewing a beer with Iron Chef Michael Symon up in Cleveland—a hoppy saison aptly named Symon Says.
Any signature brews you can’t find in Cleveland?
Absolutely. Our Head Brewer Will Kmetz will be taking over all brewing operations down here and we fully intend to brew beers you can only find at our taproom here in CBus. He’s already got some tricks up his sleeve for our first few batches, and I’m drooling just thinking about them. We will also be using our Columbus space to expand our barrel-aging program and have plans to do special bottle releases as well. Columbus has an amazing spirits scene and we have some really fun barrel aging plans ahead to include gin, vodka, and tequila aged beers. Our first 10 barrels came from our good friends at Watershed and they will very soon be housing some super fun, big and complex beers to be released in 2017.
What are Platform’s long-term goals overall? How will Columbus evolve?
The same thing we do every night: try to take over the world (Pinky and the Brain reference). No, but in all seriousness, our goals are to continue to keep up with demand and expand. We started in 2014 with 98 barrels of beer brewed, and are expected to hit about 10,000 by the end of the year. In 2015, Platform purchased one the original Leisy Brewing Co. buildings in downtown Cleveland and have 120,000 square feet to grow into. We will be adding a 60-barrel, 4-vessel brewhouse up there within the next month, which we allow us to keep up with the demand. Not much will change here in Columbus, except we will continue to use the space to experiment with new styles, barrel-age beers, and do our best to push the boundaries of beer as much as possible.
Platform is now open at 408 N Sixth Street. For more, visit facebook.com/PlatformBeerCoCBUS.