Some aspects of BottleHouse Brewery's early success came as a surprise to owner Brian Benchek.
Popularized on the West Coast, Benchek was positive that the brewery/public space business model would be a hit in Cleveland Heights once he and founder Dave Schubert opened BottleHouse in May. He just wasn't sure that the gathering spot would be popular because of his own beer.
BottleHouse was originally meant to be a brew-your-own-beer premises, complimented by beer brewed by Benchek and Schubert and drinks from other vendors. Four months later, BottleHouse sells every drop it produces — six barrels per week or about 12 kegs worth of beer.
The customers aren't doing much brewing, but they are packing the place and enjoying BottleHouse's variety.
"It was always the intention to feather BOP out as the brewery grew, but we imagined that would be years down the road," Benchek said. "It's just a matter of demand for our beer. We're very happy with the quality of our beer.
"We're just trying to keep up with demand."
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In addition to house beers like Mostly Toasty ESB and Doan Brook Dunkelweizen, customers enjoy hosting parties for free there and the freedom of bringing outside food into the establishment. A brewery possibly leaving dollars on the table in favor of comfort isn't all that unusual to Benchek, who saw plenty of similar bars during his time in Arizona, Colorado and Northern California.
It's all part of brand development, Benchek said, which, along with beer brewing, is the area that helps BottleHouse make money. That idea has worked, as displayed by recent, crowded parties for Ruffing Montessori School and the 20-year Cleveland Heights High School reunion.
Though many patrons bring in their own food, BottleHouse has also created relationships with vendors to provide food in the brewery. They include Perla Homemade Delights of Parma and Forno, famous for its wood-fired pizzas served at events like Wade Oval Wednesdays in Cleveland.
But even if sales continue to soar, don't expect outside food to be forbidden, fees to be placed on big parties or any other major changes, Benchek said.
"Obviously, other owners have a vision for their place, but that's just not our vision," he said. "We wanted to be an Irish public house, a place for the community, thus the picnic tables. People often come in here and sit down with people they don't know and make new friends.
"If we wanted to be like everyone else, we'd have no advantage. I feel like making this place open has been huge for us."