E-Malt.com News article: USA, OH: Brighten Brewing Co. sets opening date around mid-June
New breweries pop up with a lot of hope and hard work. When Brighten Brewing Co. opens in Copley, it will have an award-winning brewer making beer, Cleveland.com reported on May 10.
Tom Robbins, who owns the brewery with Elliott Pickett, has earned not one but two Great American Beer Festival awards. In his previous job, with Lager Heads Brewing Co. of Medina, he won bronze for Smokie Robbins, a smoked black lager in the smoked beer category in 2015, and then bronze again for his Oktoberfest in the American-Style Amber Lager category in 2018.
He left the brewery in 2019, and is now getting back in the game. And it feels good, he said.
“It’s been a minute; the muscle memory is there,” he said. “But I definitely have to think a little bit. But it’s coming back. The more I get through it and use it and work with it, the more I will figure out about it.”
The Firestone High School graduates’ ballpark opening date is around mid-June. The brewery is on S. Cleveland Massillon Road in Copley, a Summit County township of about 17,000 residents.
Robbins has been brewing since 2008 and began working at Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. in Akron, then had a cup-of-coffee stint at Ohio Brewing Co. before landing at Lager Heads.
“I learned a lot there, I had fun,” he said. “If that (being let go) wouldn’t have happened I would not be here today. You’ve got to find a silver lining in things.”
Pickett, who said Robbins remains humble, very much understands the value his brewer brings to Brighten.
“People come in and say ‘Wow, this is bigger than I thought,’ " he said. “I say ‘The best asset is cleaning that keg out right now.’ We’re very fortunate to have Tom back there.”
Six months after Robbins left Lager Heads, he started a business plan. He considered downtown Akron and the Highland Square neighborhood, but Pickett was able to buy the 7,000 square-foot building in Copley.
“A week or so before the shutdown and everything happened, we got our plans approved. We kind of sat on that for a while and didn’t start breaking ground on anything for a month or two till we saw what was going on,” Robbins said.
“It’s been a long road,” Pickett said. “It’s been a process.”
He described the timing of having permits approved so close to the stay-at-home orders brought by the pandemic as “a gut punch.”
“We thought ‘Should we even do this?’ Pickett said. “We had a little bit of soul searching the first month or so.”
But Pickett said they were committed and had faith that conditions would change.
“Brighten - that’s actually Tom’s,” Pickett said. “After he left Lager Heads he had been kind of planning to do his own brewery. … We had known each other for a long time. We came together, and he had this whole plan ready to go and we made it work for that space. It was his idea. He likes the concept of brightening people’s days, of making everything more bright.”
In May 2020, they began demo work on the building, which had been an old Lawson store and Dollar General among other iterations. They dealt with an old drop-tile ceiling and drywall. They power-washed the entire place, and painted the exterior blue. They installed garage doors as well as a long, sleek, l-shaped bar made from poured epoxy – a tricky substance to work with that took 12 hours to get done right, Pickett said.
“It came out pretty nice,” he said.
For now, Robbins is doing double-duty working to get the brewery in shape while putting in hours at his brother-in-law’s company, EarthQuaker Devices, the Akron guitar-pedal maker.
Brighten’s customers will enter through the front where the tables are, with the bar facing the door. The brewing equipment is in back. The layout offers room for expansion down the line.
Out of the gate, Robbins said he will start with an assortment of styles.
“I plan on hitting everything from your classic Pilsners up to your fruit kettle sours,” he said. “You’ve kind of got to give everybody what they want.”
Four-ounce samples on a paddle will be available, as well as pint pours and 10-ounce snifters for higher-alcohol beers. And cans to go will be offered in four-packs or single cans.
Robbins said they will take things slow and gauge the market.
“I’d like to stick to a neighborhood joint and do a little bit of self-distribution on the draft end, but thinking about distribution and draft right now isn’t too realistic,” he said. “I’d like to get a handle on this operation first before pushing out a little more.”
Robbins is looking forward to the opening as he calmly winds his way through the seven-barrel system, hooking up equipment and preparing to have the beer flowing soon.
“I’m happy to be back in it,” he said.
Pickett adds: “We can’t wait to share some good beer with people.”
08 May, 2021