The Cleveland brewery settles in at the old Carfagna’s Downtown facility
Paul Benner and Justin Carson built Platform Beer Co. with the mission of lifting others, from homebrewers to restaurant startups. Their partnership was a natural fit. Carson operates a beer-line cleaning business and Benner owns Cleveland Brew Shop, a popular hub for homebrewers seeking out ingredients, equipment and training. When Carson purchased Platform's building in Cleveland's SoLo (South of Lorain) district and the city asked him for his plans, he pushed Benner to finally open his own brewery. Platform came to life in July 2014.
“It's called Platform because Paul felt extremely fortunate to have an opportunity that Justin presented,” says Matt Subel, Platform's director of sales and distribution for Columbus. “And he wanted to turn around and open that opportunity back up to all those people visiting his shop for so long.”
Late last year, Platform opened a second brewery and taproom here in Columbus, purchasing the old Carfagna's meat-packing and sauce-making facility Downtown on Sixth Street, sandwiched between I-670, Columbus State Community College and parking lots full of semitrailers. Benner and Carson asked Subel's opinion–during his job interview–of the building and the neighborhood. “I said, ‘I can tell you as a Columbus resident for 10 years, you'll be ahead of the curve in terms of up-and-coming neighborhoods,'” Subel says. “I told them I'd bet on that location.”
The rectangular taproom features a long bar with 20 seats, plus rows of tables surrounded by brightly colored chairs. The 3.5-barrel brew system sits in full view on one end. A set of garage doors open onto a small patio, and plans are in the works to add a rooftop patio this year. While the old industrial space can be echoey when busy, the open garage doors alleviate some of the noise.
The challenge of Platform's off-the-beaten-path location is parking. Subel says there are about 120 parking meters within four blocks of the brewery, and the city has plans to add more. But expect a short walk to the brewery, or try carpooling or grabbing a ride-share.
Platform produces an astonishing range of beers, including several project series that feature beers that vary by one or two ingredients. The taproom has 26 taps, 20 of which are dedicated to Platform brews. Expect to find IPAs, porters, lagers, farmhouse ales and sours. The tap tower includes two Randalls—clear chambers for infusing beers with everything from fruit to coffee beans to bourbon-soaked oak chips. Non-beer drinkers can enjoy cold-brew coffee and Cleveland-based Old City Sodas on tap.
Newcomers should start with Platform's two flagship beers, the clean and sweet New Cleveland Palesner and the citrusy and floral Speed Merchant White IPA. Other highlights include the High Brow Barista, a rye pale ale infused with dry coffee beans, and Paul Cider, a medium-dry cider that tastes more like a sparkling white wine.
In continuing its business incubator status, Platform invites a variety of food pop-ups to serve out of its kitchen. Local food trucks like Challah, Meatball Mafia and Put It In Your Face Sandwich Cart are in rotation, while Da Levee owner Justin Boehme is testing a new pizza concept, Creole Crust, on Friday nights.