Category Archives: Toledo

Lime City Brewing

One of Cedar Creek’s Church buildings

A few weeks ago, on April 1 to be exact,  my wife sent me a YouTube video via Facebook messenger. It was a video about a new brewing initiative that was in the process of being launched in the northwest Ohio area -Lime City Brewing. The video (which can be viewed here) is just over three minutes long. It was produced by Cedar Creek Church. Cedar Creek is a large non-denominational church which has five campuses throughout  northwest Ohio. According to the video Cedar Creek was getting into the craft beer brewing business.

Cedar Creek’s video was filmed inside the Black Cloister Brewing Company
Martin Luther was known to enjoy a few beers

The video caught me by surprise. I had not read anything in local media about Cedar Creek brewing beer. There had been no mention of it on social media. None of my craft beer friends had said anything to me about it. So as I watched the video I found myself trying to process and make sense of what I was hearing and seeing. There were parts of the video that seemed to add up (yes this looks real) and parts of it that had me scratching my head. The video opened with a representative of the church introducing the audience to Lime City Brewing. As he did so I quickly recognized where the filming had taken place; Black Cloister Brewing Company in downtown Toledo – the huge black and white wall mural was unmistakable. Why had they filmed the video here? Was their brewery still under construction? After watching the video a second time I realized that there was never any actual reference to a physical brewery – this was a “brewing initiative”. The thought then quickly passed through my mind that perhaps Lime City were contracting with Black Cloister to brew their beer for them. Knowing what I knew about the brewing set-up at the Black Cloister this did not make sense to me so I dismissed that possibility. The tag line associated with the new brewing initiative was introduced as  “Brew Well Do Well”. This seemed like an appropriate tag line for a church-sponsored brewery. Yet it sounded familiar. Then it struck me that it was very similar to Black Cloister’s tag line – “Brew Good, Do Good”. The presenter then noted that there is a long history of brewing being associated with the Christian faith. He mentions Martin Luther and the tradition of beer being brewed in monasteries. This was correct. It is well documented that Martin Luther enjoyed a few pints, while his wife Katie brewed beer for the household. And there is a tradition of European monasteries brewing beer since the Middle Ages. Today some of the best beers in the world are brewed by or under the supervision of Trappist monks. The video then cuts away to the brewmaster who runs through Lime City’s portfolio of beers – Perrysburg Porter, Findlay IPA, South Toledo Stout, West Toledo Weiss, and Whitehouse Wheat. The brewmaster looked the part, complete with beard and a Lime City Brew t-shirt. At various points during the video you see bottles of Lime City’s brews. I am not sure what is inside the bottles but each one has a very authentic looking label. I must admit the labels impressed me – they were, in my opinion, both attractive and well-designed. The video finishes with the individual who introduced the new brewing initiative standing behind the bar at the Black Cloister. He has six packs of the five Lime City beers in front him. He tells the audience that supplies of the intitial batch of Lime City beer is limited, but that an order can be placed at livingitstout.tv. So I went to the website and scrolled down until I found the “Buy Now” icon. I clicked on it, not sure what to expect next. This took me to a YouTube video in which Ben Snyder (lead Pastor at Cedar Creek Church) informed viewers that the church was in fact not brewing beer and that it was all an April Fools prank. In producing the video he hoped that it would “create conversation about Church”. He then spent the next minute or so inviting viewers to worship at Cedar Creek while also noting that a lot of time, energy, and talent went into the making of the video I had just watched.

The video caused quite a firestorm on social media across northwest Ohio. Quite a few people were upset and/or offended by it. This included both those who worship at Cedar Creek and those who do not. Cedar Creek’s Facebook page was inundated with comments about the video. A number of my own Facebook friends posted their own thoughts on their own personal Facebook pages, with each of these postings generating a number of comments. Some of the opinions expressed were knee-jerk, while others were carefully thought out and very well articulated. Some  people were upset that their church produced a video about alcohol, seeing it as condoning its consumption. They were particularly upset about the timing of the video; just a few days before its release a drunk driver had caused the death of three area residents. Others were upset at the Black Cloister Brewing Company for allowing Cedar Creek to film the video at their brewery, thereby being complicit in the prank. I have my own personal opinion and perspective about both the video and the resultant backlash against it. But I am going to keep those to myself. This is a blog about beer. It is not a blog about theology or religion.

So let’s turn to the beer aspect of this. In this regard I want to make a couple of points. First, it is not out of the realms of possibility that a church might consider getting into the brewing business. In fact, go to Orlando, FL and you will find Castle Church; a Lutheran church that owns and operates its own brewery. The brewery cleverly leverages its Lutheran connection – among the beers brewed at Castle Church Brewing you will find  Katie’s Kölsch (named after Martin Luther’s wife), Mighty Fortress Doppelbock (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is one of the best known hymns written by the Luther) and Indulgences IPA (Luther was against the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church). Now I really do not know enough about Cedar Creek to say whether they would pursue such a venture. But if they did, they would not be the first. And as noted in their video, beer and Christianity have a long relationship  dating back to medieval times when European monasteries brewed beer. The monks would drink beer during the Lenten period as a source of sustenance. Tom Schaeffer, the CEO and co-founder of the Black Cloister Brewing Company, where the video was filmed, is an ordained Lutheran pastor.  The congregation at his church, Threshold, supported his decision to establish Black Cloister. Last year I attended Threshold’s Easter worship service which was held in the Black Cloister’s tap room.

Second, the fact that Cedar Creek opted to pretend that they were going to brew beer is informative of the status of the craft brewing industry in the United States. Craft beer has arrived, it is here to stay, and increasing numbers of people (even those who do not drink craft beer) are aware of its existence. It is not a passing fad and indeed one may even argue the case that it is now part of mainstream American culture. I suspect that the folks at Cedar Creek were clearly aware of craft beer’s rising star when they brewed  up their April Fools prank. This is not a video that would have been produced twenty years ago.

Third, I was intrigued, and frankly impressed, by the lengths to which Cedar Creek had went to pull off their prank. The name, Lime City Brewing was appropriate. The original Cedar Creek campus is located on Lime City Road in the suburban community of Perrysburg, OH. But it was the bottles and labels that really impressed me. It was clear that a great deal of thought had went into designing and producing what, to all intents and purposes, were authentic-looking beer labels. Not only that, but considerable thought had also went into the naming of their five beers. All five beer names – Perrysburg Porter, Findlay IPA, South Toledo Stout, West Toledo Weiss, and Whitehouse Wheat – were named after the five locations in northwest Ohio (Perrysburg, Findlay, South Toledo, West Toledo, and Whitehouse) where Cedar Creek have campuses. Naming beer after local places, people, and historical events is not uncommon in the craft beer industry. Indeed, in collaboration with two colleagues (Peggy Gripshover of Western Kentucky University and Tom Bell of the University of Tennessee) I am currently working on a project examining the names that Ohio breweries give to their beers. We are particularly interested in those beers that are named after Ohio places, people, and events. To date we have identified over one hundred and sixty such beers in Ohio. Naming beers in this fashion is tied to with the broader neolocalism movement, by which the names given to beer (and other products) are one of the numerous ways in which beer both reflects and promotes its localness.

So at the end of the day I am not sure to what extent Cedar Creek Church achieved their intended objective (“create conversation about Church”) with their April Fools prank. They certainly attracted a lot of attention and generated a lot of chatter on social media. Much of the response that they received was negative. I suspect that Cedar Creek, in making the videos, knew that this might be the case. As I read much of the critique of the video I was reminded of Oscar Wilde’s Lord Henry, who said in The Picture of Dorian Gray, “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Moses’ Acquittal

Jackie Robinson is famous in the world of sport for being the first African-American, in the twentieth century, to play Major League baseball. Robinson’s first professional game occurred on April 15, 1947 when he played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers were the only Major League team for whom Robinson played; his final game for them was on October 10, 1956. Among other achievements Robinson was named Major League Rookie of the Year in 1947, chosen as the National League MVP in 1949, and won the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955.

Advertisement for the Blue Stockings vs. Eclipse game that appeared in Louisville’s Journal-Courier newspaper on May 1, 1884

Robinson was not the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, however. On May 1, 1884, sixty-three years before Robinson played his first game for the Dodgers, a twenty-six year old African-American made his Major League debut. His name was Moses Fleetwood Walker and he turned out for the Toledo Blue Stockings in a game against the Louisville Eclipse. The game, in which Fleetwood played catcher, took place at Eclipse Park in Louisville, KY. ; the Eclipse won 5-1.

Moses Fleetwood Walker (back row center) and the 1884 Toledo Blue Stockings team

The Toledo Blue Stockings were established, as a minor league team, in 1883. That year they played in the Northwestern League, which they  also managed to win. In 1884 the Blue Stockings joined the American Association. The American Association was an alternative professional baseball league to the National League. The Blue Stockings lasted just one season in the Major Leagues (finishing eighth out of thirteen teams)  and in 1885 were back in the minors, before being disbanded at the end of that season. They played their games at League Park which was located on a city block in downtown Toledo; the block being bounded by Monroe Street, 15th Street, Jefferson Avenue, and 13th Street. This meant that League Park was located just a few blocks northwest of the Fifth Third Field, where the present-day Toledo MudHens currently play.

Moses Fleetwood Walker Ohio Historical Marker

Walker was born in Mount Pleasant, OH on October 7, 1856. He was the third-born son of Moses W. Walker and Caroline O’Harra Walker. In 1879 the Walker family moved to Steubenville, OH and it was probably here that Moses first played baseball. In 1877 Moses enrolled as a student at Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH) where he played catcher and lead-off hitter for the Oberlin College prep team. In 1888 Oberlin fielded its first varsity baseball team, of which Walker was a member. In the final game of the season Oberlin defeated the Univetsity of Michigan, 9-2; so impressed were Michigan with Walker’s performance that they invited him to join their team. So Walker transferred to the University of Michigan in 1882, where he spent his junior year studying Law and playing baseball. The  following year he decided to not return to Michigan, opting instead to sign for the Toledo Blue Stockings. And it was with the Blue Stockings that Walker made history when he became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.

An excerpt of the letter warning the Toledo Blue Stockings not to play Walker in their game against the Richmond Virginians appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer.

As an African-American it is perhaps not surprising to learn that, during his career, Walker faced opposition because of the color of his skin. There were a number of times when opposition players and managers objected to his playing against them. For example, on September 5, 1884 prior to a visit to Richmond, VA Charlie Morton, manager of the Toledo Blue Stockings, received a letter from the Richmond Virginians which contained the following:

Dear Sir: We the undersigned, do hereby warn you not to put up Walker, the Negro catcher, the evenings that you play in Richmond, as we could mention the names of 75 determined men who have sworn to mob Walker if he comes to the ground in a suit. We hope you will listen to our words of warning, so that there will be no trouble: but if you do not, there certainly will be. We only write this to prevent much blood shed, as you alone can prevent.

As it was Walker was released by the Blue Stockings prior to the trip to Richmond and so this particular situation never came to a head. After being released by Toledo, Walker bounced around from one minor league team to another before finally retiring from the game in 1889.

Richard Reed’s painting of Moses Fleetwood Walker inside Fleetwood’s Taproom
Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theatre put on a play about Walker’s murder trial

Although not from Toledo, it was in Toledo that Walker made history. And it is a history of which an growing number of Toledoeans are increasingly aware. And beer is playing a part in this increased awareness of Walker. In April 2016 a new bar opened in downtown Toledo. In honor of Walker, it is called Fleetwood’s Tap Room. It is a bar with a craft beer focus and Fleetwood’s menu includes over one hundred craft beers. One of these beers is called Moses’ Acquital, a Brown Ale brewed exclusively for the tap room by the nearby Black Cloister Brewing Company. The brew is the creation of Black Cloister’s Head Brewmaster Shannon Fink. The name of the beer refers to an event that has its beginnings in Syracuse, NY in April 1891. Walker was walking home from a bar when he was challenged by a group of white men. Words were exchanged, Walker drew a knife, and killed a man by the name of Patrick Murray. Walker was tried for second degree murder; the jury, which was all white, acquitted him; hence the name of the beer.  Interestingly, in 2015 a Chicago theatre, the Black Ensemble Theater, told the story of Walker’s trial in a play. Titled The Trial of Moses “Fleetwood” Walker, the play was met with acclaim from a number of theatre critics, with one describing it as a “brave, honest, and powerful drama”.

Island Sanctuary for the Ghost of Moses

Inside Fleetwood’s Taproom there is a painting of Walker that was done by local artist Richard Reed. The artwork in Fleetwoods is not the only image of Walker you will see in Toledo. There is a wall mural in downtown Toledo that bears his image. Completed  in October 2015, it is the work of artists Natalie Lanese and Douglas Kampfer and is called Island Sanctuary for the Ghost of Moses. The mural, at 19 St. Clair’s Streer, is about a block from Fifth Third Field, home of the MudHens.  Walker is the central figure in the mural, which also includes other Toledo-related content such as the city’s High Level Bridge and Mud Hens among the rushes.

In March of this year the Ohio House of Representatives voted 92-0 to designate October 7 (Walker’s birthday) as ‘Moses Fleetwood Walker Day’ throughout the state of Ohio. It still has to be approved by the Senate and the Governor. But if it is, and hopefully it will, this will be a fitting tribute to a great Ohioan.

Further Reading:

Zang, David W. 1995. Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer. Omaha, NE; University of Nebraska Press.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to my friend and colleague Peggy Gripshover of Western Kentucky University for providing me with old newspaper articles about Moses Fleetwood Walker.

Black Swamp, Black Frog, Black Cloister

There are five breweries in the city I call home, Toledo, OH. Three of these have one thing in common; they all have the word Black in their name; Great Black Swamp Brewing Company, Black Frog Brewery, and Black Cloister Brewing Company. Despite this Continue reading Black Swamp, Black Frog, Black Cloister

Rose of Shannon: A Conversation with Shannon Fink

While archaeologists are confident that the brewing of beer occurred in ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around 3,500 BC there is some evidence that people living in the same region were quite possibly brewing beer as early as 10,000 BC. In these
ancient societies brewing was a task performed by women. In medieval Europe and colonial America much of the beer that was consumed was produced in the home, with Continue reading Rose of Shannon: A Conversation with Shannon Fink

The Black Cloister: Challenges, Creativity, and The Future – A Conversation with Tom Schaeffer

The Black Cloister Brewing Company opened its doors for business in downtown Toledo one year ago today. An anniversary, particularly a first one, provides an opportunity to reflect upon the past and think about the future. With this in mind I sat down with Black Cloister’s CEO and Founder Tom Schaeffer. I wanted to chat with him about the ups and Continue reading The Black Cloister: Challenges, Creativity, and The Future – A Conversation with Tom Schaeffer

Beer and Bagpipes

My local brewpub, The Black Cloister, had a couple of bagpipers entertain patrons last Tuesday evening. These weren’t your run-of-the-mill bagpipers (if indeed there is such a thing). Andrew Bova and Dan Nevins are World Champion bagpipers – both members of the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipeband who were crowned the Grade 1 World Champions at the 2015 World Pipeband Championships. Continue reading Beer and Bagpipes

Beer in the Old West End

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One of the Old West End’s beautiful homes

The Old West End is a beautiful historic neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio. Comprising over 25 city blocks the tree-lined neighborhood is home to one of the largest concentrations of Victorian, Edwardian, Queen Anne, Romanesque, Arts & Crafts, Neoclassical, and Colonial Revival homes in the country. Every June the people that Continue reading Beer in the Old West End