Shiny Hoppy People: Navigating Cleveland's Beer Explosion - Cleveland Article

Shiny Hoppy People: Navigating Cleveland's Beer Explosion

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Shiny Hoppy People: Navigating Cleveland's Beer Explosion

Published Aug 21, 2016
Updated Dec 6, 2017

by Justin Glanville

Something seriously hoppy is going on in Cleveland. Suddenly, it seems like there are  brewpubs everywhere.You could stand on a random street corner, lift a stein in the air, and someone would probably fill it with suds.

Maybe it’s C-town’s working class heritage, the legacy of steel and automobile workers who capped off their shifts with a shot and a beer at the corner bar. Combine that with the rise of the national craft beer movement -- the number of breweries in the U.S. now exceeds 3,000, according to the Brewers Association -- and the brewpub-ness of Cleveland starts to make a lot of sense. The good news is starting to spread: In 2012, GQ magazine named Cleveland one of the top five beer cities in the country. The city’s unpretentious but hard-hitting brew scene is “a welcome respite from snootier beer meccas on the coasts,” the

magazine raved.

Given all that, a visitor might feel overwhelmed by choice. Assuming you can’t spend all your time drinking, how do you choose where to imbibe and where not? Our handy guide will help you prioritize.

When it comes to food, I like...

Stick to your ribs comfort food. Great Lakes Brewing Company, established in 1985 at the pre-dawn of the city’s microbrew movement, has had plenty of time to perfect its menu of burgers, fried fish and mac-and-cheese.
Whatever the season, you’ll find something tasty and filling to match the brewery’s rotating -- and nationally renowned -- selection of beers. Kraut, schnitzel and other dishes whose names I can’t pronounce!

The $8 million, 20,000-square-foot Hofbräuhaus Cleveland offers a menu nearly as imposing as its 1,700-seat dining hall. You’ll find such exotic offerings as Münchner wurstsalat (sausage-andonion salad) and Knusprige schweinshaxe (crispy pork shank), as well as more familiar schnitzels and sauerkraut, to go along the house-made lagers and ales.

Meat. Maybe even raw meat.

As its name suggests, downtown’s Butcher and the Brewer pairs house brews with meat curated by its inhouse
butcher and charcutier. Among their offerings is a steak tartare with poached egg and capers -- though vegetarians won’t go hungry, either, thanks to B&B’s decidedly less bloody tofu and pasta selections.

The tastiest, chewiest soft pretzel ever.

There’s heaven, and then there’s Market Garden Brewery’s soft baked pretzel. Who knew the simple combination of wheat, yeast and salt could be so utterly transporting -- chewy and pillowy in all the right places? Add garnishes of housemade, whole-grain mustard and fluffy cream cheese, and you’ve got an appetizer that almost upstages the brewery’s excellent beer.

Lots of variety

To go along with its DIY ethos -- the brewmaster offers a handful of his own beers, along with more than a dozen
guest brews by novice brewers -- Platform Beer Co. brings in a rotating cast of local restaurant and food truck
chefs to feed its hungry drinkers. On Mondays, you’ll get selections from the Wok N Roll food truck, while Fridays
feature wildly popular brunch spot Jack Flaps. The stuff’s cheap, too, with baskets of food averaging under $10 a

I’ll eat when I’m dead. Just give me the beer.

Nestled into an old elevator factory in the city’s Asiatown district, Indigo Imp Brewery opens its doors on Fridays
between noon to 7 p.m. to serve samples of its smallbatch ales and porters. Just finding the place feels like an adventure: Pull into the rear parking lot behind the hulking 19th century facade, look for the orange door past the loading dock, then follow the signs down the long hallway...

Atmosphere is important, and the vibe I’m looking for is...

Present meets past.

New owner Rick Semersky is busy turning the 60-year-old Sterle’s Country House into the center of a vibrant urban district. He’s kept the restaurant’s ski-chalet interior and most of its original menu, but also added healthier, locally sourced options -- and, yes, a biergarten serving beer brewed on premises. He’s now expanding into surrounding buildings, where he’ll open a full-scale brewpub in spring 2015.

Informal, with great local music.

Bottlehouse Brewery produces small batches of beer and mead (it’s one of only four meaderies in Ohio) in the
bustling Cedar-Lee district of Cleveland Heights. At the communal style tables, you can listen to local bands on
weekends, or try your hand at trivia or board games during the week.

Weekend’s here, let’s PARTY!

The densely populated west side enclave of Lakewood has long been known for its party ethic, aided by the sheer number of bars on offer. Buckeye Beer Engine is the serving outpost of Buckeye Brewing Company, whose
brewing facility is across town. The Engine’s big, open bar area encourages circulation and mingling.

Family friendly.

Rocky River Brewing Company and Willoughby Brewing Company, both in the suburbs, are always
chock full of families, and feature kids’ menus to keep the youngsters happy while mom and dad drink well-respected craft beers. Hip guys and gals -- and their bicycles.

Nano Brew in Ohio City serves one fresh-brewed beer at a time from its single-barrel brewhouse, along with more
than 20 other local brews and a small dinner menu. The pub especially caters to bicyclists, with an in-pub tune-up
station where drinkers can tinker with their rides. People with bike helmets get half off their first drinks.

I’m willing to go farther afield. What else is out there?

Fat Head’s Brewery and Saloon

This much-decorated brewery and restaurant in suburban North Olmsted recently expanded to Pittsburgh and
Portland, Oregon.

Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.

Nationally recognized warehouse brewery (no restaurant) with a tasting room open Thursdays through Saturdays.

With all these options, I can’t trust myself to drive.

Call for cabs, or better yet make a reservation on the Cleveland Brew Bus ( 440-876-7188), which offers 4-hour group tours of multiple breweries on its big yellow bus.

As for the beer itself, my palate tends toward...

Thick, wheaty, German-style.

Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Try: Christmas Ale (winter warmer),
Eliot Ness (Vienna lager)

Classic brewing with a modern twist.

Butcher and the Brewer

Try: Hasselhefe (hefeweizen)
Hoppy, with hyper-local ingredients.

Market Garden Brewery
Try: Citramax (American IPA)
Small-batch, unpasteurized.

Indigo Imp Brewery

Try: Blonde Bombshell (American blonde ale)
Experimental, adventurous.

Platform Brewery or Nano Brew

Try: Whatever’s featured that week!

Mead to go along with my beer!

Bottlehouse Brewery
Try: Gewurtzraminer Pyment

This is fun! I’m ready to homebrew. If all the imbibing has given you a yen to try your own hand at craft brewing, check out the brand-new Cleveland Brew Shop, a homebrewing emporium located right across the street from 

When should I come back?

Soon! Cleveland is set to become an even richer beer mecca in the next couple years, with new breweries set to
open soon in Ohio City, the Flats and North Collinwood.

Happy drinking, and we’ll see you at the bar!

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