Founded in 2019, the brewery's saintly-named beers subtly evangelize
TOLEDO – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John refer to the Gospels and to a flight of beer that you can order at Patron Saints Brewery in Toledo, Ohio.
Founded in 2019 by co-owners Aaron Grizaniuk and Eric Pfohl, the brewery features saintly brews of Grizaniuk and Pfohl’s own design.
Grizaniuk, father of three boys, got into home brewing 15 years ago. Prior to making the brewery his full-time gig, he worked for the Diocese of Toledo in the Office of Catholic Schools.
Pfohl also tried his hand at home brewing but was not as successful.
“I missed some steps, and it wasn't very good,” Pfohl chuckled.
Grizaniuk and Pfohl met through Pfohl's mother and Grizaniuk’s mother-in-law, who were coworkers at St. Ursula’s, a local all-girls Catholic school.
“My mom loves beer, and she was over with (Aaron’s) mother-in-law at their house one night with Aaron and his wife, and Aaron asked if she wanted to taste some of this beer he made,” Pfohl said. “She loved it. Aaron put it in a growler, and she took it home to me. It was excellent.”
Grizaniuk and Pfohl brewed their first beer together soon after.
The idea for a brick-and-mortar brewery started as a desire to turn a hobby into a side gig for extra income. The brewery was opened in July 2018 on the west side of Toledo and soon after became a full-time job for both men.
“There was nothing on this side of town for sure, and that's one of the reasons we wanted to open something near our homes and give the local community around here somewhere to go to have a good beer,” Pfohl explained.
Since then, the brewery scene has expanded, and Patron Saints has become a popular stop for those looking to brew hop in the area.
“We kind of rode the wave with them of bringing more brewers to Toledo,” Grizaniuk said. “We're seeing people from out of town now coming by here to get to five or six breweries within five miles. People are coming from hours away to do that.”
The patron saints’ theme came to them organically, Pfohl said.
“At the time when we signed our LLC in October 2016, we were brewing a Christmas ale, and we decided to name it St. Nick,” Pfohl said. “A lot of beer names are kind of crazy, but saints are easy. We thought, ‘well, we could just name our stout St. Patrick, and there are a thousand other saints we could use. Let's just stick with saints.’”
The beer names came first, and the brewery’s name, theme and logo – a Fleur-de-lis with a cross – followed.
In addition to the Gospel flight, customers can order a pint of St. Ursula and St. Francis – named after two local Catholic schools, which in Fall of 2023, will be joining the Catholic High School League. The brewery offers a rotating selection of beers throughout the year, sometimes inspired by the season.
“A lot of the beers do match up to the patron saint: for spring, we have a St. Fiacre. He's the patron saint of gardeners. So it has rose hips, lavender and coriander in it,” Grizaniuk said. “St Francis is our farmhouse ale; St. Brutus, he's a patron saint of public speaking, and that one is a champagne brut IPA, in reference to when you raise a glass during a toast.”
During Lent 2020, Grizaniuk gave up beer, which led to the additional selection of gluten-free saintly seltzers on their menu.
While the brewery is not licensed to sell food, customers can grab a bite from a rotating selection of local food trucks that park out front throughout the week to enjoy along with their drinks.
And for those who don’t imbibe, the brewery offers root beer, which became such a hit it now has its own tap. The root beer is affectionately named for one of Grizaniuk’s sons: St. Anatoly.
“We started off by just donating (root beer) during COVID,” Grizaniuk explained. “Our friend has a firetruck that he converted into having ten taps, and he found people wanted root beer floats.”
The friend asked if Grizaniuk and Pfohl would make him some root beer, and he requested 60 gallons of root beer, which was then donated to hospitals during COVID. Pretty soon, customers started asking for it.
The brewery has become a local staple: they regularly host Theology on Tap, and every Wednesday from late April through November, they lead a group called Pedals and Pints from their brewery and an adjacent bike trail down to another bar, restaurant or brewery.
They move at a slow pace, Grizaniuk said, making it accessible to people of all ages.
The clearly Catholic theme of the bar allows for a subtle form of evangelization, Pfohl and Grizaniuk said. The brewery utilizes old church pews from decommissioned churches as seating. They have a section of the brewery called the "Holy Hallway," which features old repurposed confessional doors and pictures of the local churches. They also have books on saints and saint flashcards for those who wish to learn more.
While they were initially worried that the faith aspect would be a deterrent, they decided to “put their faith into action” and run with the theme, Grizaniuk said, always remaining respectful of the faith along the way and being careful not to mock anything.
Pfuhl thinks people were almost more willing to come to the brewery because it is Catholic – the theme is unusual yet welcoming.
“It’s very subtle, but I think it keeps faith in their mind,” Grizaniuk said. “ You hear people say things like, ‘I'm a drinking a John.’ There is a piece of evangelism there without really pushing hard or thinking about it.”
And it has been edifying for Pfohl and Grizaniuk, too.
“If we didn't know what the patron saint was, we know now,” Pfohl said. “It has caused us to kind of research who they are and what they are named for that. And then, when people ask, we can tell them about the patron saint.”
Learn more about Patron Saints Brewery or plan a visit at: https://www.patronsaintsbrewer...