The Story Behind Two Craft Beer Series Inspired By a 103 Year Old Funeral Home

Built in a restored mortuary, the Phoenix Brewing Company is now a staple in Mansfield, Ohio.

September 27, 2017
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Opened in 2014, Phoenix Brewing Company was founded by local beer lovers who wanted to bring a craft beer revival to the area.

Located near the original pre-prohibition brewery district, the brewery was built in the 103-year-old Schroer Mortuary and Funeral Home. Charles Schroer was a successful furniture maker in Mansfield, and, at the time, it was common for the local furniture maker to also craft caskets.

Schroer then bought the building next door, and opened the mortuary and funeral home in 1914, which operated until his death in 1932. The original hand-operated elevator still exists, and has been converted into storage and HVAC equipment. The chapel is now that renovated taproom, and the embalming and prep area on the bottom floor now houses the PBC equipment and cold storage.

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During the renovation, as much of the original architecture that could be kept was reused or recycled. The original windows were refinished, tabletops were recycled from a local bowling alley, and bricks used in the adjoining patio were salvaged street pavers from Cleveland.

The Phoenix Brewing Company embraces its past in everything they do, from taproom
decorations to brew names. The taproom features 16 taps, including six Phoenix flagship beers, and rotating seasonal and high gravity beers. With names like John Doe, Krampus Kandy, Eerie Crossing, and Pale Ale 419 – the police scanner code for a human dead body – the Phoenix Brewing Company offers a unique bar experience.

Throughout the years, Phoenix has developed a few series of brews that embrace the death
industry and derive their inspiration from the old building and its history. There is the mortuary series, which includes lighter IPA’s and ales, with higher gravity ‘hoppier’ brews, and the cemetery series, which are stouts and porters, also with a higher gravity.

The mortuary series includes Black Aggie, Mary Jane, and Santa Muerte, all named after female urban legends, with Sweet Lillith debuting later this year. The cemetery series includes brews named Embalming Fluid, Toe Tag, and Undertaker, with a fourth brew coming next year. When inventing a new brew, the Phoenix will have a roundtable discussion, throwing out naming options and taking outside feedback into consideration. They confirm that their nameof choice is not already registered in the state of Ohio. They use artwork and the building as inspiration, and research new urban legends and mortuary terms.

The cemetery and mortuary series’ are released separately each year, and the Phoenix says they have lines out the door on release day. Public response has only been positive, and everyone seems to be comfortable and interested in the death-themed brewery. Many customers offer name suggestions for new beers. With names like Embalming Fluid and Undertaker, one may assume that a customer would be uncomfortable placing an order. Carmone Macfarlane, who oversees marketing and swag, says that new customers might giggle when ordering, but the names are a conversation starter. A conversation is then launched about the name, the history of the building, and the customer is engaged.

Phoenix has a large following from funeral directors, with a few being members of their
Founders Club. On Instagram, their Undertaker brew has a wide following, with funeral directors from across the country wanting to place orders. The Phoenix Brewing Company does not currently ship their products or accept orders.

The Phoenix Brewing Company continues to embrace their building’s history, their love for craft brewing, and their passion for Mansfield, and their community seems to embrace them right back.

Article and interview by: Madison Smith, DISRUPT Media

Video and Photography by: Joshua Tisonyai, DISRUPT Media

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