black cloister bar
Food + Drink | Craft Beer

Black Cloister Brewing Co., Toledo

This former feed store downtown stood vacant for four decades before brewer Tom Schaeffer brought a reverence for European beer styles to the space.  

Leading a congregation of 40 church members is just one of Tom Schaeffer’s jobs. The other is brewing beer. In 2015, the pastor of Toledo’s Threshold Church opened Black Cloister Brewing Co. in an 1874 building that once housed a feed store. “I was a home brewer,” he says. “My congregation urged me to open my own brewery.” 

The History: The downtown Toledo building where Schaeffer opened the brewery had been abandoned for 40 years before he set up shop. “The original building didn’t have electric or plumbing,” says Schaeffer. “We updated everything except the original brick walls.” The brewery is named after the Wittenberg, Germany, monastery where Martin Luther studied before going on to found the Lutheran branch of Christianity. “We wanted to make sure we tied Martin Luther and the original Black Cloister in with our brewery,” says Schaeffer.

The Atmosphere: A large mural depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse greets visitors. Painted by local artist Doug Kampser, the figures represent the brewery’s four co-owners. “We wanted it to become a real conversation piece for the customers,” says Schaeffer, “and it certainly has.” The brick archways original to the building, as well as the wood and black iron fixtures, reflect the brewery’s namesake. “I wanted it to look like 16th-century monastic minimalism,” Schaeffer says.

The Menu: The brewery typically offers 14 beers on tap and brews around 22 varieties each year. Schaeffer points to the Helles Angel lager as the most popular style. “These European brews are what we are becoming known for,” he says. The food menu features gourmet pizzas, ranging from the customer-favorite chicken barbecue to a dessert pizza with a butter crust, cinnamon sugar and vanilla icing. The traditional pizza is another favorite. “It’s just your typical pepperoni, sausage and mushroom,” says Schaeffer. “But it’s the thick crust that makes it.” 

Note: This spot permanently closed in 2019.