Phoenix opens whiskey bar in former mortuary viewing room

The new Spirit Room at the Phoenix Brewing Company. The iconic Diamond Street window, to which the owners have added their signature Phoenix logo, is the focal point of the new whiskey bar and event space.
The new Spirit Room at the Phoenix Brewing Company. The iconic Diamond Street window, to which the owners have added their signature Phoenix logo, is the focal point of the new whiskey bar and event space.

The former viewing room of the Schroer Family Mortuary has been resurrected with a new lease on life as the Spirit Room, a whiskey bar and private event space.

Located above the Phoenix Brewing taproom at 131 N. Diamond St. in downtown Mansfield, the public opening was on Friday evening.

For the last nine years the upstairs floor at the Phoenix hasn’t been open to the public.

The former Schroer Mortuary houses three floors. The basement, previously the preparation room, currently houses the 5 bbl. pilot brew house.  The first-floor taproom was formerly the chapel, and the upstairs which served as a viewing room for the funeral home, was mainly used for storage by the Phoenix.

Carmone MacFarland, marketing director for The Phoenix, said the Spirit Room will offer bourbons from all over.

"The tap room focuses on Ohio products, Ohio craft beer, Ohio distilled spirits, Ohio wines. We like to feature things more locally as well," she said. "While we're still offering spirits in the tap room, they are still Ohio distilled spirits."

Co-owner Steve Zigmund said they've always had spirits up here.

The space has undergone an extensive restoration for the last seven months. The formerly unfinished floor and a wide open space with no walls.

MacFarland said Adena Corp. did a fantastic job on the renovations.

"The architect, Dan Seckel, worked so hard to make this the perfect environment for all of us," she added.

Eclectic furnishings, original artworks

Eclectic furnishings fill the space including repurposed items; an industrial cart salvaged from the old Westinghouse building along with questionably salvageable 6-inch butcher blocks transformed into the back bar counter. Reclaimed beams found in the Phoenix warehouse were incorporated into the bar construction.

The original brick walls are adorned with a permanent art collection including works by Sally Green, Artist 44, Ken Arthur, Melissa Compton and others.

Unique interior features include a barrel stave wall crafted from barrels used to age Phoenix beers. The bar is constructed from reclaimed wood beams, metal, and live-edge wood.

But the focal point is the iconic Diamond Street window, to which the owners have added their signature Phoenix logo. During the day, the sun casts a soft glow through the window and at night it is lit from the interior and exterior. It wasn’t visible in the original plans due to strict codes and requirements.

Seckel and Associates design firm first began discussions and submitting drawings to renovate the space in 2015, not long after the Phoenix opened. Their designs combined with the crew from the Adena Special Projects division, and the vision from the Phoenix have created a place to enjoy a beverage on the weekend or host a private event.

Ian Cardwell pours one of the Phoenix Brewing Company's beers Wednesday afternoon in the new Spirit Room.
Ian Cardwell pours one of the Phoenix Brewing Company's beers Wednesday afternoon in the new Spirit Room.

“After responding to a very common question, for the last nine years with, 'I'm not sure if we'll ever open the upstairs,' I am now very happy to say, "We're opening the upstairs, and I really think you're going to like it up there," Zigmund said.

Spirit Room offers a bourbon locker club

The Spirit Room is open to the public. Anyone over 21 is welcome.  It features a curated menu offering a large selection of bourbon, scotch, whiskey, barrel-aged beers, selected craft beers, local wine and a limited specialty cocktail menu.

Reasonable prices will allow guests to sample new bourbons. And where the brewing company offers mug club memberships with special glassware, the Spirit Room offers a bourbon locker club with lockers for members to store their customized glassware and purchased bottles in. Lockers are currently sold out for 2023 with a waiting list for openings in 2024.

“The bourbon and other whiskeys being stocked will be the finest legally available to us for purchase,” said Scott Cardwell, co-owner of the Phoenix and bar manager. “We are also working directly with distilleries to do Spirit Room exclusive barrel picks. One will be available in March with a second one scheduled to be obtained within a year.”

Cardwell said the new Spirit Room has been a dream even before the Phoenix opened downstairs.

Among the many bottles available, one stands out for its local connections. Distiller John Bassett from Iron Vault Distillery, Galion, Ohio, first collaborated with the brewery in 2019 to craft the Phoenix Fire Whiskey. Iron Vault distilled wort from the brewery created with Ohio barley, before aging it in oak barrels.  The whiskey was aging well before the restoration and construction began. Both the distillery and the brewery feel the 2022 vintage will be even more popular with its notes of toffee, caramel, and vanilla, with a slightly sweet yet bold lingering finish.

Duncan Macfarlane, head brewer and co-owner, said the barrel-program at the Phoenix in 2020 was suspended.

"We reinstituted it in late 2021 and plan on having some very special barrel-aged beers available exclusively in the Spirit Room and the Phoenix taproom. They will complement the bourbon selection, but still push the boundaries a little for us. We have a barrel-aged sour that will be introduced later this year. We also have some hard-to-find barrel-aged guest beers we are excited to share,“ he said.

Sunday Songwriting Series scheduled

Valley Media and Productions will host the Sunday Songwriter Series featuring four different touring musicians in 2023. Abe Partridge from Alabama is a songwriter and folk artist with a gravely pension for storytelling. Phillip-Micahel Scales will bring his "Dive Bar Soul" that stems from his Chicago roots. Husband and wife duo Ordinary Elephant offer incredible harmonies and a style that transports the audience to another era. .  Clint Knight from Valley Media said when he was playing music listening rooms and small bars were the most special because the performer and audience are more intimate.

"It's an amazing experience for everyone involved," he said.

Author John Kropf will be hosting a discussion of his latest work, "Color Capital of the World," on Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. McManes Personal Training, out of Lexington will be offering meditation workshops in the space throughout the year. Guests can expect additional events such as distillery-led tastings and educational opportunities. Information about these events can be found on the Spirit Room website and Facebook page.

The Spirit Room grand opening weekend hours will be Friday, Feb. 17, 5 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., and Saturday from 4 to 10:30 p.m.  Beginning Feb. 23, the Spirit Room’s regular hours will be Thursdays, 4 to 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 10:30 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays the Spirit Room is available for private rental.


Twitter: @LWhitmir

This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Phoenix brewery opens Spirit Room in former mortuary viewing space