On Wednesday afternoon, word broke out that Platform Beer Co. would be sunsetting operations (what a stupid new-age corporate term) by closing its Ohio City taproom, shuttering its nearby Phunkenship warehouse, its sour-production facility as well as nearly all production other than three IPAs. Haze Jude IPA, Odd Future Imperial IPA and the newly-hyped Canalway IPA, which was supposed to include a kayak giveaway.
Sadly, it appears there won’t be a free kayak for someone to paddle along the Cuyahoga River while crushing the latest bitter brew. Nor will anyone, really, be able to enjoy Platform’s multitude of sours and the various Martian mascots adorned on the cans. In the spirit of pure consumerism, that’s the real tragedy since, let’s be frank, IPAs suck. No one likes sucking down a can of bread that’s unbelievably bitter. Take this from a guy who was once told I huff on my own farts while drinking IPAs – only one of those things is true. I huff on my own farts while drinking sours, thank you very much, and until the end of time, that’s on the record.
Honestly, though, the real tragedy of Platform closing up shop is the people impacted by this. Based on conversations I’ve had, roughly 30 or so people were working between the production facility and the taproom. According to ZoomInfo, the brewing company had 43 people on its payroll as of 2023. So, there’s a sweet spot somewhere in there but, nevertheless, that’s now a large portion of people that ended up jobless on Wednesday evening when Platform announced on social media channels that they closed their taproom for the last time.
Sure, Canton-based Royal Docks Brewing told me that they’re trying to find jobs for some of the displaced workers so there’s a bit of a silver lining. But, this news still stinks because the story of Platform is one of triumph. Nine years ago, the brewery made a name for itself locally with its fun focus on being experimental in its brewing and marketing strategy. It burst onto the scene in 2014 with sleek cans and a constantly new selection of beers. Beyond two core beers and a few seasonals, it never brewed the same beer twice. In fact, Platform used to pump out more than 200 unique beers per year back in the day, not to mention its forays into ciders and hard seltzers.
At one point, Platform was also a Cleveland incubator that would allow up-and-coming brewers to have their homebrewed recipes enjoyed by the general public — hence the name Platform. These brewers in incubation would get hands-on training from Platform’s brewmaster while being shadowed by Platform staff during all facets of the brewing process.
Unfortunately, the money machine comes for all of us and Platform was no exception. Anheuser-Busch acquired the brewery in 2019 and that somewhat marked the beginning of the end for Platform. At its height, Platform owned and operated four facilities in Ohio: its flagship Cleveland tasting room, a 60-barrel Cleveland-based brewhouse, a tasting room in Columbus that doubled as a distribution center and warehouse and its Cincinnati Tasting Room and coffee shop concept “LOCOBA.” There was also Platform’s dedicated sour beer brewing facility and on-site tasting room Phunkenship as well which could double as a venue for events.
After a mass staff walkout at its Columbus taproom in 2021, Platform never reopened that location, and its Cincinnati location closed recently as well. Platform last year also laid off dozens in its Cleveland production facility as well as some in sales all while the company tried to string together ideas to keep the ship from sinking. They partnered with the Cleveland Browns to make a signature tailgate beer. Platform tried adding a kitchen and food menu to their flagship tap room, which Right Down Euclid got to sample, to coincide with their eighth anniversary as well.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to keep things going and now, Platform is just a footnote within Anheuser-Busch’s massive portfolio. Honestly, that’s an awful way for things to end for a Cleveland success story like this. But, in a Cleveland sort of way, it’s somewhat fitting since it’s the most Cleveland way for something successful to end. Now, all that’s left are the three IPAs the brand will be relegated to and, considering how good the Martian Sours are, it’s a crying shame.
On a personal note, it feels like I’m saying goodbye to a friend with Platform closing its doors. Mind you, this isn’t me being a lush or a call for help. Clearly, I had a lot of admiration for how Platform functioned as an indie brewery and as a major advocate for the greater-Cleveland community. Platform opened my eyes to the craftsmanship and care behind the brewing process and, in turn, gave me delicious new options to imbibe myself with too.
Not only that but, I also met my soon-to-be wife at their taproom during the height of the pandemic as well. We matched on a dating app and talked about our favorite brewery and, funnily enough, Platform and their sour series were something we had in common. Of course, we discussed the light-hearted topics of the Rwandan genocide and what we would name our children. She also swerved me when I tried to kiss her when saying goodbye as well. Thankfully, there clearly was a second date and many more followed after that. Whenever we had small victories in life or occasions to celebrate, we would go back to Platform since it was where things first sparked into a flame for us.
That brewery was the beginning of our story and a part of several chapters after that and now, it’s gone. It’s not the end of our story but it’s still sad to think that such an important part of our lives is now relegated to three IPAs that neither of us will drink. After the news came out, I called her at work and broke it to her myself. She encouraged me to run out and grab a few more packs of our favorite Martian flavors before they became relics of time. Thankfully, the nearby Minotti’s had some and now we have several four-packs that will be like the wine someone buys you but you never drink.
Okay, it’s a little different from that since it’s not shit like the wine but something you want to savor for as long as possible. So, goodbye old friend and thank you for letting me be a part of your existence. You created so many more memories as well and that’s what I’ll be most thankful for. Cheers.
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.
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