Duck Island, the story of which is hard to nail down, is an unusual neighborhood. At once, it's home to the tony Velvet Tango Room, wherein stepping out for a cocktail is elevated to an event worthy of Gatsby, and the Duck Island Club, which invites customers to "duck in and duck out" for specials such as $3 "mystery beers."
A host of diverse beverage options is about to fill in the middle ground when Forest City Brewery, 2135 Columbus Road, comes online in as little as four months.
"This was a saloon that was built in 1865 by immigrants from the Alsace region of France," says brewery proprietor Jay Demagall from the Freeman Avenue Entrance of the 10,000-square-foot space. "There was a huge beer garden with an actual bowling alley at the very end of it."
The pins are long gone and much of the beer garden is enclosed in the timber-frame structure, but a few ideas are growing just the same despite the rough preliminary construction status of the building.
Forest City Brewery proper will occupy approximately 3,000-square-feet of the building. Master brewer Corey Miller, formerly of Indigo Imp, will oversee one- and 10-barrel systems. Duck Rabbit Coffee and Western Reserve Meadery, both of which have signed on for two separate 1,000-square-foot spaces, will join the brewery.
"He gets beans from all over the world, directly from the farmers and the foragers," says Demagall of Duck Rabbit proprietor Cal Verga, "And it's all small batch. When he makes it, that's it." Currently, Verga's unique roasts are only available locally at the Root Café.
Helming the meadery are Douglas Shaw and Jason Andro. The duo took a bronze medal for their 2013 fruit mead, which consisted of blueberry, fig, and locally sourced honey in the 2014 Wine Maker International Wine Competition. They've been home-brewing mead for about eight years.
The third tenant will not be part of what Demagall aptly describes as a "craft beverage guild," but Carol Stanek is welcome all the same.
"There's no motor on board," says Stanek, standing before the unusual craft that powers her small business, Cleveland Cycle Tours. "It's all by pedal. It's truly a cycle."
Powered by 10 humans, the mega-cycle transports up to 15 and is available for brew tours and other events.
"We felt it would be wonderful to be able to start and stop in a location our customers could use," says Stanek of her fellow Forest City Brewery businesses. "Also, this is very centrally located. We run pub-crawls in Ohio City and Tremont. From this location I can easily go either way."
While Demagall has successfully completed a $24,000 Kickstarter campaign, he's working with business partners Matt Mapus and Patrick McGinty to secure the rest of the funds needed to complete the build-out. Vestor is running a $250,000 debt equity campaign and they're also exploring traditional avenues.
"We're speaking to a bank and an investment group right now," says Demagall. "Both are very positive." As soon as funds are in place, which he estimates will be in less than two months, "I have things lined up and ready to go," he notes, adding that contractors are set to begin work any time. Demagall forecasts the actual build-out will take two to three months, during which time, he expects federal and state liquor permitting to clear.
The move is a complete turn around for Demagall, who spent 14 years as a labor negotiator for public school employees.
"I got tired of the politics," he says. Instead he's anticipating being part of an unusual new union of his brewery, the two other beverage craftsmen, and a human-powered cycle bus.
"It's more than just a brewery. It's about all of us together."