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"Great beer with a great purpose"

Local Clergyman bands together with fellow homebrewers to stir up some change in Toledo craft beer culture.

There is a new name in Toledo brewing. Just a month ago, Black Cloister Brewing went from being a bar side rumor to launching their Facebook page and confirming their mission. And the bidding officially began October 18th, when The Attic on Adams hosted the brewery's official Kickstarter launch party. They hope to raise $55,000 to help fund the project. We sat down with one of the brewery's founding members Tom Schaffer and talked about his passion for ministry, community, and of course—great beer.

When are you guys planning on opening?

The hope is May 2014. We would love to open during craft beer week, which would be the 2nd week of May.

So who’s involved in the project up to this point?

Myself as acting CEO, then there are 4 founders—Bob Hall, Mike Kennedy, Scott Biddle, and myself Tom Schaffer. We have over 50 years of brewing experience between us.

Is that what brought you together, homebrewing?

Yeah, I am actually the president and founder of The Glass City Masher’s home brew club. I founded it in 2011 and we have over 50 due paying members now. We’re the largest in northwest ohio. And everyone involved came together through that.

So are you going to be brewmaster?

Well myself and Bob are most experienced. But Bob Hall has been brewing since 1971 and it wasn’t legal until 1978. He was a bit of a bootlegger. So he and I will do most of the recipe design. But we have 1 full-time employee who will be the apprentice brewmaster and will be taking the reigns somewhere down the roll.

Do you have a location picked out?

We’re down to 2—they are both downtown and within a block of the ball park.

How big of an operation are you looking at?

We’ll be a 15 barrel system, which will make us, I believe the 2nd largest brewery in northwest Ohio by production level.

Do you have your brew styles picked out yet, like a flagship brew?

Definitely a couple of IPAs (india pale ales). Bob has a Belgian Witbier that finished 2nd in the National Homebrewers Association competition. It really is the best Witbier i’ve ever tasted.

There are not a lot of those on the market really, so you guys are definitely pushing specialty?

Well he’s got a special secret ingredient he puts in it. I think it will go over very well, because Witbiers are what I call “a gateway beer”—if you’re not into craft then it’s a good beer to be introduced to.

I think it will be great here because up until recently, Toledo’s been a very "Bud Light" kind of town.

There is a lot of great stuff happening in the whole craft beer culture here. Which couldn’t be better timing for us.

So what made you decide to make the jump from homebrewing for fun to transitioning into a production level business?

Well this is where our story gets interesting. Full time I’m actually a pastor. I’m Lutheran, and I started a church near the UT campus called Threshold. Probably ⅓ or better of our attendance is college-age students. It’s a young church. The apprentice brewmaster is actually from the church. So in that ministry at the same time, I have this love of beer that goes on in my life also. So there was a period in which I had a beer tasting bible study at my house.

You turned water to beer.

Haha, yeah. Well that grew, so because of that a lot of people in our church turned into craft beer lovers. And I started thinking about, how in our current culture climate, how difficult it is to fund a church and make a young church sustain financially. So I kinda looked back to our ancient roots in a way, because there was a time when monastaries did most of the brewing.

It’s still kind of that way right? Trappist ales are held to a high regard.

Definitely. Westvleteren is considered by many to produce the best beer in the world. So yeah, there was a time when St. Benedict kind of insisted that all of his monasteries come up with a plan for sustainability and alot of them brewed. So myself and these 3 guys I pulled in with me decided to start the brewery as a completely seperate entity, for profit. We all love craft beer—we’re in this business for our love of it. But what the brewery is doing is donating 20% of our profits to support the ministry. We wanted to be a part of the renewal downtown, creating jobs, and making the community more of a sustainable market.

And the community has kind of taken to it. Your facebook just exploded.

Yeah it really did, it’s been overwhelming the support of the community. And we want to give them support back. An idea we have floating around is to do a 'farm to tap series,' using as many locally sourced ingredients as we can. It’ll get tricky, but we’re passionate about it.

So do you guys have an M.O. you’re kind of operating under, or a mantra that summarizes your brewery?

Yeah, what we’ve been saying lately is, "great beers with a great purpose." Which speaks to both things we want to do. We want to brew great beer but we really want to leverage our company to really make a difference.

So tell me about the Kickstarter campaign you’re launching. How does that work?

 We’re looking for $55,000, which I’ll admit is ambitious. It accounts for a good chunk of our total costs to get started, which are around $400,000.

Do you think the community will be able to raise that amount?

We’ve done investor equity raising. But the great thing about Kickstarter is that it comes back to the community. Not everyone has, you know, a ton of money to invest in anything other than their livelihood. But what it does is invite the community to really feel involved in what we’re doing, which is important to us.

To contribute to the Kickstarter campaign visit kickstarter.com/projects/1398622540/black-cloister-brewing-company. For more information on the brewery, check out www.facebook.com/BlackCloister. 

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