By Kelcey Norris
Ira Gerhart co-founded Noble Creature Cask House with his wife Marcie Gerhart, transforming their interest in homebrewing beer into a booming business in December 2017.
This October, they began donating 100% of the sales of their original “Black is Beautiful” beer to the Youngstown Freedom Fund to fight racial injustice.
Gerhart provided an inside look at the history of Noble Creature and how he and his wife transformed a church into a modern bar, with a full-functioning brewery in the basement.
“This place is awesome. It was a challenge, but great to save an old building that would have been otherwise probably gotten torn down,” he said. “We tried to save as much of the original woodwork as we could from the basement. The bar, the tables are all made out of original wood flooring from the basement.”
With 14 original brews on tap, Gerhart declared lagers their specialty. Lagers are popular among beer drinkers, usually a lighter-colored beer fermented and mixed at lower temperatures.
“We like to do a lot of stuff, but really focus on brewing classic lagers, some experimental lagers,” he said. “We’ll always do some IPA’s and some seasonal stouts, stuff like that, but mainly what we like to do is lagers.”
Gerhart’s initial infatuation with brewing beer started in college when he tried a Belgian amber ale, described as a very light lager, smelling slightly of caramel with a heavy yeast taste.
“I was just blown away because it tasted so good,” Gerhart said. “I got hooked on craft beer because I didn’t know beer could taste like that. Then, one of my professors at Edinboro, where I went to school, was really into homebrewing, so I … was pretty much hooked after that.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff introduced an outdoor seating area and limited space indoors as well.
Gerhart’s journey to Youngstown began when a mutual friend introduced him to Marcie. They’ve lived here since 2009.
“She was going to school back at YSU. Then I was in a transition, in and out of jobs, looking for something, and we decided to move to Youngstown,” he said. “We always wanted to start a brewery after I got hooked, so we were always kind of shopping around for cool buildings with character.”
Gerhart said the pair was looking for something with unique architecture and a history. After stumbling upon the former Butler Memorial Presbyterian Church, the couple gave it a new identity.
Gerhart said he takes an experimental approach to brewing, but he isn’t afraid to try the traditional methods.
“My real passion is doing wild ales,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of work with the local flora and capturing, cultivating, wild yeast strains that are more, like, indigenous to this area, kind of creating our own house flavor. It’s pretty experimental; sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
He explained a traditional craft brewing method they recently started incorporating called Lambic style, where Gerhart actually keeps the brew outside to develop and ferment during the winter.
“Then, once it cools down, we send it right inside to barrels we have downstairs to spontaneously ferment. So you’re getting a lot of that flora from whatever’s hanging around outside in the air in the winter time,” Gerhart said.
Gerhart encourages Youngstown State University students of legal drinking age to visit Noble Creature Cask House, open Wednesday through Friday from 4-10 p.m., Saturday 12-10 p.m., and Sunday 12-6 p.m.
“Stop by and check out some cool beers, I’m sure you’ll try some new things,” he said.