Willoughby Brewing Company, launched in 1998 by T.J. Reagan, helped spur the revitalization of downtown Willoughby while simultaneously making some damn fine craft beer. The award-winning brewpub, set in a 120-year-old railcar repair depot, enjoyed a remarkable run under a handful of owners until January 2020, when the landlord locked out the last owners for nonpayment of rent.
Since then, the hulking property has sat fallow. But as luck would have it, entrepreneur Bobby Ehasz was looking for his next craft beer project. Ehasz, a career military guy, is a partner in Pompatus Brewing, a nano brewery in Bainbridge. While scouting locations for possible expansion, he was pointed in the direction of downtown Willoughby. While the former brewpub was not a good fit for Pompatus, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, he says.
“In `96, `98 when they were building this place out, they had some real vision,” he explains. “Whoever did that was brilliant; they really did a beautiful job getting this place built.”
Already work has begun to convert the former Willoughby Brewing into Tricky Tortoise (4057 Erie St.). It’s a hefty undertaking considering the building’s current state of affairs, but Ehasz is already knee-deep into the venture.
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