Alumni Spotlight: Mike Pelechaty
After immersing himself in the craft-brewing phenomena, from the flavors to the makers, Mike Pelechaty was sold. Setting up a home brewing station in his off-campus house, he began fermenting up homemade recipes for his friends and get-togethers.
A 2012 electrical engineering (EE) graduate from The Ohio State University, Pelechaty eventually parlayed his technical skills into a full-fledged business venture. This past January, he opened the downtown Cleveland brew house, bar and restaurant, Masthead Brewery.
“I took a brewing job [in Cleveland] out of college instead of taking a double E job,” Pelechaty said, referring to electrical engineering. “And I really kind of fell in love with the city.”
Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Pelechaty had a deep interest in math in science. Even though he took a less traditional route for an engineer graduate, he still uses some of his electrical knowledge at the brewery.
“[EE] ended up being the right fit because there is a lot of science of math, but there is also actual application, common sense, and you work with your hands,” he said. “I definitely think [EE] was critical, because at the end of the day, a brewery is a manufacturing facility… I’m always troubleshooting, replacing pump heads, and rewiring stuff.”
Apart from designing the mechanics of the Masthead Brewery operation, Pelechaty is hands on in the brewing process, creating at least 95 percent of the several dozen beers the company produced.
“When you’re writing a new recipe… you get to be creative,” he said. “We [brew] styles that we prefer, but we’re not going to work ourselves into a box.”
Pelechaty said their most popular beer is the Wit, a spiced Belgium wheat beer, or their classic IPA, a fruity beer with a soft bitterness. Pelechaty’s favorite? The Pils, a crisp yet hoppy German-style Pilsner, which he describes as a “brewers beer.”
The Ohio State ECE alumnus is serving up more than just crafted booze at Masthead. A full bar is available in its urban, 1921 warehouse-style building. For diners, grab one of 300 seats or chill on the patio area with some homemade wood-fired Neapolitan pizza.
He said serving up hearty dishes has allowed Masthead to market its beer easily.
“If you start out and you’re just on store shelves, it’s really easy to get lost in the crowd,” he said. “Where in this way, it makes you stand out… you’re going to attract people for what you have there on the brewery side and on the kitchen side.”
And success has flourished at Masthead.
“I saw Cleveland as a place where there is a culture a brewery could thrive in,” Pelechaty said. “And it just kind of worked out.”
- Starting out as a young teenager and up until late high school, Pelechaty worked as a caddy at local golf courses. Because of this “easy paying job," he was able to apply to the Chick Evans Caddies Scholarship, a program that only accepts students with a strong caddie record, excellent academics and outstanding character - and he won. Pelechaty was able to attend Ohio State tuition free with housing included. Start caddying!
- Brewing beer isn’t that difficult, Pelechaty said. He started out by buying a brew kit from a man in Athens online. All he had was a little propane burner, bought the proper ingredients and began following the steps of basic recipes. The more he practiced though, the tastier it got. Maybe you could own a brewery too.
The story behind Pelechaty naming the brewery Masthead: In 1976, General Moses Cleaveland, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, claimed the northern Ohio area a suitable spot for a city, so he deemed it Cleaveland. But in 1831, once the area was well established, a newspaper started up. Unfortunately, Cleaveland was too long for the masthead, so instead of obtaining new printing equipment; the company just removed the A... introducing Cleveland.
“I assumed there was a lot of beer drinking that went along with the decision,” Pelechaty said.