Unfortunate events brought Jan Shoup and Lisa Anzalone together.
Something spooky is brewing in Oak Park Cemetery.
And while October’s end is several months away, every day is Halloween for Brian Petrus and his family, who live in a historical, multi-story renovated home on the cemetery grounds, just off Neshannock Boulevard/Graceland Road.
Petrus, 35, an assistant professor of business administration at Westminster College, is continuously perfecting his pastime of home-brewed beer, and he’s readying batches of it now to donate to the Sham-Rock Cancer Brews, Bands and Bites event being sponsored by two Relay for Life teams April 1 at the New Englander.
People who attend the event can easily find his booth. It’s the one with a display called Oak Park Manor and “American Hop Story,” and promoting “Handcrafted Ales from the Netherworld.” Its beer names are all scary or supernatural.
Friends of Petrus have said that his brews are well worth sampling.
He makes about a dozen different types, and his home brewery is in the basement of the restored house that he and his wife Traci, bought in 2010 when they rescued it from the demolition list and remodeled it into their home, now known as Oak Park Manor.
Petrus’ parents, Ed and Lorraine Petrus, members of the Lawrence County Historical Society board of directors, learned the house was to be razed, and they alerted Brian and Traci about it, thinking the house had historical significance.
“We bought it and fixed it up, and next thing we knew, we were living here,” Petrus said. They moved into it in 2012.
Around 2011 while they were renovating, Petrus was enrolled in a Master’s of Business Administration program at Youngstown State University. He was taking an entrepreneurship class, and he had to come up with an idea for a business venture. He decided home brewing would be a good choice because it held his interest.
“I did an ungodly amount of research, and I learned a lot about brewing but I had never done it,” he explained. He bought the supplies and brewed his first batch on the stove.
“It was basic ale, nothing special, and it wasn’t half bad,” he said, qualifying, “Like all things I do, I don’t do anything minimally. I have to do it well.”
The idea grew for him as a hobby, and “it’s just become a rabbit hole,” he said.
He and his wife decided to keep the scary, cemetery theme going in their home.
And because Petrus’ favorite holiday is Halloween, he has carried that motif through in naming of his individual craft beers, such as Funeral Director Nectar, Morticia IPA, Rest in Pieces and Wicked Pumpkin Spice, to name a few.
His favorite is Black Casket, a black IPA that not many brewers attempt to make, “but it’s darned good,” he said.
Most of what he brews is for enjoyment among family and friends, but he has been known to donate his craft to events such as the Superbrew cancer fundraisers at the New Englander and the upcoming Sham-Rock Cancer event.
He engages in friendly competition with his product, and he has won plaques and trophies. He pitches his beer at the nonprofit events with T-shirts, slogans and images.
He typically donates 10 to 15 gallons in kegs for each event, a quantity that yields 155 to 120 12-ounce glasses.
Petrus finds one of his biggest challenges is consistently brewing the same type of beer to always come out the same way, he said. “You’re keeping track of everything — the ingredients, the amount of water, the quality of the water and your results. There’s a lot of continuous learning, collaboration and data analysis.”
Making up his own beer recipes is “the fun of it,” he said. “That’s why I enjoy it so much.”
He loves to cook, and creating new beers is an extension of that, he said.
His stainless steel setup in his basement was built for him as a class project by welding students of the New Castle School of Trades, under supervision of their instructor.
Petrus buys most of his brewing supplies locally, at a Union Township business called Croakers Kegs and Corks on West State Street, owned by Chris and Mara Palipchak. They offer him a wealth of information, advice and tips, he said.
Petrus earned his undergraduate degree from Westminster College in 2010 before attending YSU. He joined the Westminster faculty in 2013. He is its coordinator for the human resource management and marketing programs and teaches introductory business and marketing courses and upper-level human resource and capstone courses. He is the faculty of record associated with Westminster’s analyst program and is a certified professional in human resources.
When he’s not teaching or brewing, one of his favorite pastimes is relaxing around a campfire at home with friends and family, drinking his homemade beer and listening to music.
“It’s a fun thing to get people to come out here to enjoy a beer,” he said, “and I have 200 neighbors who never complain.”
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