When it comes to dream jobs, brewmaster ranks right up there with movie star and singer in a rock 'n' roll band. At the tender age of 27, Shaun Yasaki can call himself that and more thanks to his partnership in Platform Beer Co., Cleveland's newest brewery, alongside owners Paul Benner and Justin Carson. Located at West 41st Street and Lorain Avenue, the 10-barrel microbrewery and 99-seat taproom is just the latest in a string of new craft breweries to come online.
One dream job wasn't enough for Yasaki, who grew up in West Park and went to college at a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. After graduating with a major in entrepreneurship, Yasaki went on to launch a successful career as a wedding and portrait photographer.
"I'm still not making as much money as I was when I ran the studio," Yasaki says with a perfectly straight face. "But that's the nature of the beer business."
That, and wedding photography — like most dream jobs — ain't always what it's cracked up to be.
"There are plenty of long and stressful days," he says. "I was ready to be done with weddings."
During a return visit home to Cleveland, while he was still practicing photography in Philly, Yasaki bumped into Matt Cole, an old acquaintance who was now the brewer-partner in Fat Head's. Like many homebrewers, Yasaki wondered what it might be like to pursue the craft on a professional level. He wondered that out loud to Cole, who offered him a job on the spot.
"It was definitely a dream situation that fell into my lap," Yasaki explains. "So I moved back to Cleveland and started brewing at Fat Head's."
Serendipity again would come calling when, two and half years later, Paul Benner of the Cleveland Brew Shop approached him. He told the young brewer about a project he was working on in Ohio City and wondered if he might be interested in coming onboard as a partner.
"It's a great next step to be able to have that creative control — to be able to express your own creativity instead of somebody else's," Yasaki says about the opportunity. And given Yasaki's approach to craft brewing, creative control means everything.
"I'm not really big on flagship beers," he says. "I don't want people to come in and expect certain beers. I would like people to come in with the expectation that there's going to be a completely new line-up of beers and that's why they want to go there."
Yasaki apparently has impeccable timing. Platform's recent opening seems perfectly aligned with the mounting demand for locally produced craft beer. It's one of many smaller operations that are poised to open in the coming weeks that aim to quench the thirst of their immediate neighborhoods rather than the region at large. Beer, like many things, is best when freshly made and served at the source.
"It's almost like a snowball effect," Yasaki says of all the new breweries. "As far as the market goes, there are more and more people drinking craft beer."
What's more, he adds, "There is no shortage of homebrewers like me who dream of opening a brewery. I think they see all these breweries pop up and think..."