By Nicole Hennessy
Sun shining in the open garage door reveals a thin layer of malt covering every surface in Railroad Brewing Company: a row of Ohio-shaped tables, a few picnic tables and the bar complete with salvaged railroad tracks.
Loose malt clouds the air, too, as 1,000 pounds of grain is converted into more than 300 gallons of beer, a process that happens during off-hours.
Many of the brewery’s features are made with salvaged or unique materials.
The Ohio tables were created with old wood ripped from the walls of the barn that now serves as the main part of the pub during renovation.
Dave Lengyel, one of Railroad’s four owners, is out back chopping up random pieces of wood for a new project.
Located on the Avon side of the tracks on SR83, Railroad joins pubs like the nearby Avon Brewing Company.
“In this area, there’s a need and there’s a quality of life where people can support craft beer and enjoy it. There’s some great bars, and there’s some great bars that serve other craft brews,” said Lengyel.
“There’s not, in Lorain County, a brewery that brews on-site like us.”
However, competition isn’t Railroad’s goal. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Lengyel says they hope to work with as many local organizations and businesses as possible, whether it be through stocking its beer at local bars or hosting charitable events.
The vibe at the brewery is relaxed and inviting. And this is no accident.
Modeled after the laid-back Colorado breweries Lengyel and his partners fell in love with, Railroad invites customers to bring their dogs and families; play cards or one of the board games stacked near the bar; shoot hoops on a small basketball machine and most of all, get to know one another.
Customers are also invited to bring their own food or order takeout from nearby restaurants. There are also nights when food trucks will operate.
Lorain County pride – and eventually historic railroad memorabilia – will also play a large role in the brewery’s developing character.
Commenting on the importance of creating new products locally, Lengyel reflected on the area’s economic history.
“We used to ship so many things out of Lorain County, whether it’s manufacturing to anything we could produce here: steel, cars, GM – they all went down the rail,” he said.
“It went down to Toledo, to Chicago, to Detroit, all the way up to Erie, to Buffalo. We just want to – as Lorain County reinvents itself – we want to be there, too.”
“Since we grew up in this area, it means a lot to us,” Lengyel added.
With Lake Erie just miles from his new pub, Lengyel counts this as a blessing, but it’s not something he takes for granted.
Like many residents, officials and business owners, he’s wary of President Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal, which calls to cut the $300 million in annual federal funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has received since 2009.
The funding helps combat invasive species, remedy toxic waste, restore wildlife and native habitat, and prevent toxic algae growth.
Congress recently approved funding for the initiative for another five years, but now that funding is threatened, as is the freshwater source companies like Railroad depend on.
“Anytime you affect the quality of water, you affect the quality of beer,” said Lengyel.
“The Great Lakes were bad in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. To finally get them revived into what we can say is a success just to have it turned away by these cuts,” Lengyel explained, would be “devastating.”
He says he’s contacted a lobbyist who works with craft brewers to make sure the little guy’s voice is heard.
“It’s gonna be a fight,” Lengyel added.
“Everyone in this region is going to be affected by water quality.”
Mainly, he just wants everyone to enjoy his team’s beer.
Reiterating the approachable vibe they’re going for, Lengyel said, “We’re local guys.”
Tags: Avon Lake
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