Colin Cook and Joe Karpinski Will Soon Open Lock 15 Brewing Company
words and photos by Emily Anderson
In Akron’s earlier days, the corner of North Street and Howard was one of the biggest centers of productivity. It contributed to what later became Akron. The corner was along the path of the “Cascade Mill Race,” a huge tunnel that was used to harvest water power for a series of cereal mills in the early 1800s. This boosted our young city’s economy and growth. The Ohio & Erie Canal ran parallel to the Race, and the Mustill Store was built right next to Lock 15 in 1847. It was one of the busiest grocers in the area at the time, selling provisions to canal boat crews as they passed through.
Today, that corner is affectionately called NOHO, and the Cascade Mill Race is now abandoned. Where Schumacher’s Cascade Mill was located now stands the Cascade Locks Park and towpath trailhead, completed in 2009. The Mustill Store is still open as a museum and visitors center. The old Swinehart Tire and Rubber Company on the corner has been renovated into the modern Cascade Lofts, complete with the Trailhead Events Center and a new little brewery called Lock 15 Brewing Company.
Lock 15 Brewing Company is the brainchild of two cousins, Colin Cook and Joe Karpinski. Colin has a long, impressive resume in the hospitality business and Joe is an avid home brewer. They recruited another cousin, Tom Eaton, who according to Colin, “put in countless hours building our financial model to make all this possible.”
While the team was optimistically shooting for a May opening, it has encountered its fair share of complications and setbacks. They now plan to start training staff in the middle of June and set an opening date from there. They have been sharing their adventures leading up to the opening on social media, so check out their Facebook for updates on their progress.
Much of the operation is ready to go. They have a really cool food menu featuring pub classics from all over the world with a chef-inspired flair. They’ve partnered with Green City Growers and Bloom Bakery for their greens and bread, and look forward to using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. There will be vegan and gluten-free options, and a fun kids menu featuring artwork by some local elementary artists. They’ll be open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, with a Sunday brunch pending. Dinner on Sunday night will be a family-style fixed menu curated by the chef. They will be closed on Mondays.
As for the beer, the recipes are all nailed down and the brewing and draft equipment is installed. They plan to open with 10 house beers and six guest taps. The beers all have clever Akron-inspired names, like the Swinehart Stout, Signal Tree Tripel, and 1913 Pilsner. I got to sample the Mustill Mild (a slightly sweet English-style ale) and the Station 3 Habanero IPA, and they are both really good! I’m definitely looking forward to trying the rest of Joe’s creations, especially since each beer will have its very own snack pairing. They also plan to start distributing their beers to local vendors as soon as possible, and the artwork for the labels is being done by one of Akron’s favorite cartoonists, Chuck Ayers.
While the food and beer options look very promising, what I liked most about Lock 15 Brewing Company is the space. There is a real flow throughout the dining room with an exposed kitchen area and a large beer garden outside. It’s a perfect location, right on the towpath between downtown and Cascade Mills Park. You can just picture a family sitting around a table outside, enjoying the food and beer after a long walk. The rich history of the area adds some real personality to the Cascade Locks area. The landscaping and gardens outside are in their very early stages now, but they will no doubt be a huge attraction as they mature over the next few years.
As I spoke to Colin about the project, one overarching theme became clear: Quality. The beer is precise and clean, the space is well thought out, and the food menu is diverse and creative. Anyone who ventures into Lock 15 Brewing Company is going to get five-star service from a well-trained staff. Despite the extra time it has taken to get everything together, the team working on this project is exceptional and I think we can expect that to come through in the dining experience. To quote Tony Troppe, the developer of the Cascade Lofts where the brewery is located, “I love it when a plan comes together. It’s a great place for a brewery, along the Ohio Erie Canal – a gateway to the future, rooted in the past.”