Holy beer: Locals converting old Youngstown church into brewery

The Gerhart's hope to open their brewery, the former Butler Memorial Presbyterian Church on Rayen Avenue, in summer 2017

Building a new business is never an easy task -- especially when you have to take an old building and turn it into something it wasn't exactly designed for. For example, the former Butler Memorial Presbyterian Church.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Building a new business is never an easy task, especially when you have to take an old building and turn it into something it wasn’t exactly designed for.

For example, the former Butler Memorial Presbyterian Church.

If all goes according to plan, the old Rayen Avenue church will soon be Youngstown’s newest brewery, hoping to open in the summer of 2017.

“We knew we wanted to be in the downtown area and this seemed like a good spot,” said Ira Gerhart, owner. “In the backside of campus and a couple blocks away from downtown.”

Ira Gerhart has been working as a professional brewer since 2010. His wife Marcy has experience as a kitchen manager.

It was Marcy who came up with the idea.

Ira and Marcy Gerhart
Ira and Marcy Gerhart

“I had a class at YSU where we had to design a menu,” Marcy said. “So we called it ‘Bagels and Beer,’ so we’ve been talking about it for a long time.”

The Gerhart’s had their eye on the area for several years and wanted a building with old character. The church has all of its original features — including the piano, bibles and even the confessional booth.

They’re putting about $150,000 of renovations into it. Meanwhile, they’ll reuse the pews for seating and keep the original woodwork and windows.

However, a lot of other aspects have to go to create room.

The deck in the back will overlook YSU and the hill where the MVR sits at the bottom.

As far as the beer…

“I’m going to be doing a lot of sour beer and barrel-aged beer with local native yeast that I can get from the area,” Ira said.

With micro-breweries popping up across the Valley, Ira said the point is to keep the production local.

“It really should be a local fresh product,” Ira said. “And the idea is to get people to come to Youngstown here.”

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