Masthead Brewing Co., which opened in January 2017, is the brainchild of founder and CEO Frank Luther and founder and head brewer Mike Pelechaty, who were avid home brewers in their student days at The Ohio State University.
After graduation, Luther worked as an engineer at Procter and Gamble, and Pelechaty finished his degree in electrical engineering. Instead of pursuing work as a full-time engineer, Pelechaty cut his professional brewing teeth at Black Box Brewing in Westlake and soon became head brewer. In 2011, the itch to turn a passion into a business started, and the seed for Masthead Brewing Co. was planted.
The six-year journey from the initial idea in 2011 to the grand opening in 2017 was neither easy nor cheap. “Having great personal wealth certainly would have made the process of opening a brewery much easier,” Luther says.
After meeting with more than a dozen banks and courting upward of 100 individuals for private investment, he and Pelechaty ultimately funded the startup with a mix of bank loans, private investors and a $50,000 recoverable grant from the City of Cleveland based on job creation.
In early 2016, Luther and Pelechaty brought in a third partner, Matt Slife, a CPA who rounds out the ownership team with a finance background. To get it all launched, Luther added “everything takes about twice as long as you think it will during start up.”
The decision to open the brewery downtown came after a year of scouting over 200 prospective locations. A brewery and restaurant of Masthead’s scale would require more than 15,000-square-feet, high ceilings, ample parking, a loading dock and decent foot traffic.
“We checked all those boxes with Downtown Cleveland,” Luther says, referring to its prime location at 1261 Superior Ave.
In addition to a booming lunch business serving the people who work nearby, the customers at Masthead Brewing Co. range from families during days and weekends (they’ve had to order more high chairs), beer enthusiasts from all over Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan who want to try the special limited brews available exclusively at the brewery, tourists tipped off from hotel concierges and locals who live downtown — all of whom enjoy the wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, salads and shareables, in addition to the beer.
According to a recent report by crainscleveland.com, craft beer manufacturing jobs have grown 1,700 percent in Northeast Ohio since 2005. Since its opening last year, Masthead has more than doubled its brewing capacity, brewing nearly 2,000 barrels of beer in 2017 and trying to reach a pace between 6,000 and 7,000 barrels by the end of 2018.
Business is brewing nicely. “It’s exciting to see how Northeast Ohio has embraced both our restaurant and our brand out in the marketplace,”