MEDINA, Ohio – Cruise down the curvy Pearl Road in Medina County, and the sign for Planted Flag Brewery is easy to miss.
It’s not a brewery yet. It’s a field of gravel and weeds, but owners Aaron and Karen Wirtz broke ground Wednesday with friends, family and supporters.
It actually was more than a groundbreaking. Aaron Wirtz thanked everyone involved, including support and advice from local brewers – Vaughn Stewart of Bookhouse Brewing, Karl Spiesman of Brick and Barrel, Corey Miller of Hansa Brewery, Shaun Yasaki of Noble Beast Brewing, Mike Piazza of Blue Heron Brewery, and Wirtz’ boss, Matt Vann of The Jolly Scholar.
Wirtz is head brewer for The Jolly Scholar, which is currently seeking his replacement.
Planted Flag’s target construction completion date is mid- to late October with opening by the end of the year, Wirtz said.
The nearest breweries would be Medina County neighbors Lager Heads, about 3 miles to the south; Blue Heron Brewery, about 7 to 8 miles away; and Wadsworth Brewing, about 15 miles away. Fat Head’s Brewery is about 16 miles up Interstate 71.
When completed at 3594 Pearl Road, the 3,100-square-foot, 60-seat restaurant-brewery will be “a reflection of its owners and community,” Wirtz said.
Its name “represents a serious journey to the past and to future adventures. Each flag is a chance to share our stories.”
Both are Air Force veterans: Aaron was a pilot-turned-teacher. Karen, originally from Michigan, was a linguist.
Their travels took them overseas to Okinawa, Japan; and throughout the United States to North Dakota, Oklahoma and Hawaii.
It was in Hawaii that Wirtz attended a beer tasting (a gift from Karen). A brewery rep told Wirtz: “A great story can make great food and beer better.”
That bit of advice has stuck with Wirtz.
“My love of teaching is matched only by my love of beer,” he said.
Family will be at the root of this brewery – literally.
Wirtz, who lives in Medina and is from Parma, attended St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. He ran on a track at St. Ignatius, adjacent to Great Lakes Brewing Co. and not far from where August, his widowed great-great grandfather – and a brewer – worked more than 100 years ago.
In fact, for a time August worked at a bottling company in Cleveland. His 13-year-old daughter- Tilly, for Matilda – would haul his lunch to him. As a familial homage Wirtz plans to make a beer called “Tilly’s Lunch Run.”
Wirtz aims to produce what he calls “three spheres of brewing:”
• Hoppy ales – India Pale Ales, Pale Ales, and the like.
• And because of his German heritage, German-style lagers.
“Home is where your heart is,” Wirtz said, “and our hearts are firmly planted in Medina Township.”