Immigrant Son Brewery in Lakewood nears opening, founded on heritage, good beer, quality food
Sometimes owners base names for their breweries on an impish whim, an epiphany or a theme they keep coming back to. Then there is Andrew Revy.
In his case, he is the brewery’s name.
Revy’s Immigrant Son Brewery, which he hopes to open by June, could not be any more autobiographical in its nature.
“Both of my parents immigrated from Hungary,” said Revy, who attended Hungarian scouts and school growing up in Lakewood. “English actually was my second language. I grew up speaking Hungarian, and my mother learned English with us.
Decades ago, his father’s family saw what was coming in their homeland – communism and Russians. They urged his father to leave. He escaped across the Austrian border and made his way to Ellis Island.
New York, it turns out, painted a surprising picture for Revy’s father. It was Jan. 1, 1957.
“It was a cold winter, early morning, 6 a.m.,” Revy said of his father’s first day in the United States. “The only thing left on the streets were partiers still out and vagrants and people huddled in doorways. And a bunch of garbage ‘cause it was New Year’s Eve (the night before). He’s looking around like ‘This is America?’ He was cold, miserable, alone, and didn’t speak English.”
But like so many immigrants flooding into this country over decades, funneling off boats into Ellis Island, he mustered his way through. He made it to family in Cleveland and eventually brought over Revy’s mother.
“Yes,” Revy said proudly, “I am the immigrant son.
A brewery is born
When it came time to name the brewery, Revy was surprised it was available.
“I was surprised no one had taken it before because we’re a nation of immigrants,” he said. “The immigrant vein is really very strong through our nation and history. I was more than mildly surprised it was available once I did the deeper dive for trademarks and legal aspects.
“It really resonates with me on a personal level of my parents’ voyage here, of mine and my siblings assimilating, but also just how America has grown. The other aspect, this is why it’s so fantastic from a brewpub experience … every culture has great beer and food. All these cultures have brought it here to America. That’s the concept we have. It’s the old-world concepts and new-world techniques.”
That extends to the design of the space, elements working together – steel, wood and glass in the former Constantino’s Market at 18120 Sloane Ave., Lakewood.
“What I am really envisioning here,” Revy said, “is a community space.”
To fill that space he looked to connect the right people with the right jobs. He crafted what he sees as an all-star team. Mutual friends led him to Cara Baker, an award-winning home brewer who had experience working with commercial brewers in the area, and Vinnie Cimino, a veteran chef originally from Akron. Rounding out the team is general manager Eric Kaizer, a service-industry veteran.
“Our goal here is to have consistent quality beers,” said Revy, adding he hopes brewing can start in May.
“Cara brings this brewing acumen and creativity,” said Revy about Baker, who will be one of a very few female head brewers in Ohio.
To start, a quartet of core cans will be offered: American Pilsner, India Pale Ale, Saison and Common Ale. In the works: Witbier, American Stout, Coffee Porter and Belgian Blonde, which will help fill out 20 taps eventually. A barrel-aging program and seasonal beers are planned. (Immigrant Son will have a full liquor license, so a cocktail program and wines that match the food are planned. He and his wife curated the wine list at Constantino’s, he said.)
‘A culinary destination’
With Cimino, Revy hopes to make Immigrant Son “a culinary destination as well. It gets the hopheads, the beer aficionados, as well as the ones seeking a great culinary experience.”
Cimino is working with an initial menu that looks to include the likes of a local cheese board and spicy cucumber salad with Kirby cucumbers, red onion, fermented red pepper, sesame-barbecued carrots and roasted beet, jalapeno yogurt and za’atar – a spice mixture. Also being considered: Grilled octopus, pork belly, Navajo tacos, smoked-bacon smash burger, charcuterie with smoked Hungarian sausage, chicken rillette and black-pepper mortadella. Revy said langos – Hungarian fried bread – also is a possibility, along with seasonal oysters to be paired with beer.
“What’s better at 3 in the afternoon than oysters and beer? Or midnight,” he said.
The word ‘immigrant’ might constitute old traditions, but that’s not the sole meaning for Revy. He is about respecting the past while looking ahead.
“Sometimes bar food, certain aspects of brewpubs, there’s just this sort of stale epicurean (approach),” he said. “What we have here is a well-crafted, well-created menu. … We’re making sure we’re doing it right. There’s a lot to accomplish, and there’s a lot in the queue.”
Revy, 49, has been mulling the idea for a brewery for quite some time, through a variety of accumulated jobs and experiences. The opportunity came up with the Sloane Avenue space, which he purchased for Constantino’s Market as part of the family business. That Constantino’s closed in 2019.
“It’s almost as if it was built to be a brewery,” he said. “As I was really looking at it I started to see it. I’ve always liked breweries, I’ve always liked craft beer.”
Meshing his passion, knowledge and experience in the service industry, he concluded: “You know, we’re going to make this happen.”
Revy lined up the work. Signs and permits were approved. Initial construction was just about to start in March 2020 “and everything came to an abrupt halt.”
It’s become a sad but true proverbial wrench thrown into best-laid plans: Coronavirus restrictions. But he doesn’t complain.
“It goes to the understanding of the struggle of opening a business,” Revy said. “It’s not like all of a sudden mandates started easing up and you pick up where you left off. There’s a lot of things that happen sequentially.”
Trades workers and sub-contractors have their own deadlines to keep. Covid just threw a giant eraser into their schedules. By the time Revy was able to kickstart the project over the summer, many workers had moved on to other jobs.
Revy was left with what he calls “the magic behind the curtain” – the scheduling, planning and financial preparation. He was prepared because of work experiences that he says describes his career as “circuitous.”
“I’ve worked in the private sector, public sector, non-profit. I’ve been in business for myself, I’ve worked for other people. There’s pros and cons to all of it. I’ve seen it from all sides. I think that’s also given me a very healthy outlook on life in general. It’s really given me a keen understanding to the relationship between management and employee,” said Revy, who has worked for former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan and in the county’s Office of Budget and Management.
“It’s great to dream – crawl, walk, run,” he said. “My goal is to get open and make sure of what we create in the beginning. Then the growth will come.
In the short term, brewing equipment is expected this month. Self distribution “for the foreseeable future” is likely.
“Profitability means the ability pay your staff, the ability to take care of the needs and continue on and stay afloat,” he said. “And then the growth. If you’re not innovating to do things to grow, you are dying on the vine. That’s the goal here. The growth potential is here.”