Cleveland Beer Scene- No “Mistake by the Lake”

Being from Michigan, I often comment on how spoiled I am when it comes to craft beer. When traveling I rarely have found the plethora of breweries that match my home state. I’m biased, and I’ll admit it. When traveling to Cleveland this past Memorial Day weekend, however, I found a number of breweries doing very good beer, and heard about a bunch more that I wasn’t able to visit on this trip. Here’s a summary of 7 I visited on this trip, plus two I’d visited on previous trips when passing through the city.

The Cleveland Brewery, 777 E 185th St, Cleveland

I’ll be honest… This place isn’t much to look at, and it’s only open 8 hours a week (6pm-10pm Friday & Saturday). That said, if you are going to visit only one brewery in Cleveland, this is the one. Brewer John Fuduric is making some impressive beers. On my visit he had on Buzz Beer (classic Drew Carey Show reference), a ‘white stout’ that is one of the most remarkable beers I’ve ever had. Coffee, chocolate and vanilla that seems to grow as it warms. I was also impressed with the Rock N Roll DIPA and the AWFUGIT Triple IPA, both hoppy and over 10% but with a balance almost impossible to imagine. I had the good fortune of meeting John while there and was impressed by his humble approach. Here’s to hoping he decides to expand the hours in the future to let more people partake of a truly gifted brewer’s beers.

Avon Brewing Company, 37040 Detroit Road, Avon

This small-town brewery is located on the far western outskirts of Cleveland’s suburbs. They’ve got a wonderful outdoor seating area next to the river. Their beer was also good- I was particularily a fan of King KoKonut, a toasted coconut porter & Birchin Lane, a coffee stout collab with Franklin Brewing Company. They also feature a full food menu, with good happy hour specials and prices that were much more reasonable than many of the Cleveland breweries I visited.

Sibling Revelry, 29305 Clemens Rd, Westlake

Another one of the west side’s breweries, Sibling Revelry is a larger place with big bay doors they can open when the weather is cooperative. The taproom has a ton of natural light and has a welcoming vibe. They also have one of the best flight boards- being a geography geek I’m always impressed when breweries use the state outline for their design. They can their four standards (IPA, Swing State Pale Ale, Lavender Wit & Rowan’s American Red) along with some of their seasonals, including the highly rated Imperial IPA. As the name indicates, this brewery is owned by a family with a ‘passion for beer’.

Platform Beer Company, 4125 Lorain Ave, Cleveland

Located in the trendy Ohio City district of Cleveland, Platform Beer Co. is focusing on giving up-and-coming brewers a ‘platform’ to try out their beers on a larger scale. The result of this is the brewery produces a wide variety of beers, from standard & seasonal styles, to unique one-offs that are somewhat in the vain of Michigan’s wildly popular Short’s Brewing Company. My favorite in the taproom was the strawberry & kiwi berlinerweiss called Basic Beach. The The Project Series – Idaho #7, a pale ale with Idaho 7 hops, was the best of the pale ales & IPAs we tried, but they were all solid. Platform has a large production facility and has a wide range of cans available- these ones make great gifts for beer drinkers outside Ohio, since that’s where their distribution is limited to now. The brewpub was an especially welcoming place with a comfortable beer garden.

Market Garden Brewery, 1947 W 25th St, Cleveland

Going in to my visit to Market Garden, I’d heard mixed reviews from the friends that had either visited or had their beer. I found it surprising that I had heard some less than stellar reviews, as we found everything we had there to be quite solid. The huge beer list was rather impressive and covered the widest possible range of style. The facility is located right next to Cleveland’s incredibly interesting West Side Market (so worth a visit if you are in the area). The interior of the building features a couple of different bars and a more wide open floor plan than expected. Outside is a comfortable beer garden with a larger fireplace. My favorite beers were two of their standards, Citramax IPA & Midnight Vorlauf Coffee Porter.

Great Lakes Brewing Company, 2516 Market Ave, Cleveland

There is no more famous or widely distributed brewery in all of Ohio than Great Lakes. Long before I made my first visit to this iconic brewery, I had been drinking (and enjoying) their beers. Their standards are names most Midwestern beer drinkers know well- Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Dortmunder Gold Lager, Eliot Ness Amber & Commodore Perry IPA, just to name a few. The perpetually crowded brewpub is located across the street from the previously mentioned West Side Market and Market Square, and it features a gift shop that not only offers their beer for take out, but also just about the most wide variety of brewery related goods I’ve seen anywhere outside the macros. The food here is also well above most brewpub (both in artistic quality & price). Don’t skip Great Lakes on a Cleveland visit just because you’ve had their beers- the brewpub has a decent selection of pub-only brews, as well as those standards you’ve come to love.

Willoughby Brewing Company, 4057 Erie St, Willoughby

On our way back from our East Coast beer adventure in September of 2016, Chris & I hit traffic on I-90 approaching Cleveland. Our ever helpful GPS routed us north to US2. When passing the exit for the town of Willoughby, Chris remarked “I think there’s a brewery here that has some good stuff.” That’s all I needed to hear and he turned out to be right. After a week of drinking the dank and juicy East Coast beers (few dark beers to be found), we delighted in their three most popular beers- Peanut Butter Cup Coffee PorterNut Smasher (Peanut Butter Russian Imperial Stout) & Crème Brûlée Coffee Porter. They also had some nice hoppy beers, including Cosmic IPA. We didn’t eat here, but I’ve heard the food is excellent and the space is large and welcoming. Another visit here is in order.

The Brew Kettle, 8377 Pearl Rd, Strongsville

Whenever I drive through Ohio, or visit Toledo to bring back some Ohio beer to Michigan, the beer I am most often asked to bring back with me is The Brew Kettle’s awesome IPA White Rajah. Their main pub in the southern suburb of Strongsville has a comprehensive list of the Brew Kettle’s own beers (including the Black IPA Black Rajah) but also has a impressive list of guest taps as well as affordable pub style food in a family friendly environment. The Brew Kettle also has a “Brew Your Own Beer” program where you schedule an appointment, and they provide the ingredients and assistance in brewing.

Brick and Barrel Brewing Company, 1844 Columbus Rd, Cleveland

I’d read positive reviews about Brick & Barrel before this past trip to Cleveland, and we were able to make it a stop on our brewery tour as it is about halfway between the Market Square area, where Great Lakes and Market Garden are located, and the Flats & downtown, where the other breweries we’d hoped to visit are located. (That never happened as we hit the Flats/Downtown area right as the Indians game let out, which meant long wait we weren’t willing to do.) That tap room is located right in front of the brewing equipment, and they’ve gone as far as to set up some comfy seating right in the brewery area. I was a fan of the The Central Run Imperial Red IPA & the Bitter Chief IPA, which seemed to be their flagship beer. A good, under-the-radar stop.

Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon, 24581 Lorain Rd, North Olmsted

This is another one of the more famous Cleveland area breweries for two reasons- they distribute throughout the state and therefore are often brought out of state, and they have a brewpub in Pittsburgh as well. The original pub in North Olmstead is a large facility, with a spacious bar and a huge restaurant area. They have on almost 20 of their own beers, but also an impressive guest tap list. Fat Head’s really knows the hoppy beers- including their staple Head Hunter IPA and the extremely high rated (and less available) Hop JuJu DIPA. On this visit, I was able to try their Hippy Sippy Imperial Stout, the first dark beer from them I loved, and the Black IPA Midnight Moonlight. The food menu is also varied and affordable.
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Cleveland, for all the ‘mistake by the lake’ jokes, really has a fun and vibrant downtown area, and also has some cool neighborhoods surrounding it in Ohio City, Market Garden & The Flats. There are still a number of well-reputed breweries in the area that I need to visit, including Butcher & Brewer, Portside & Goldhorn. There are also a number of breweries opening in the next year, including Noble Beast, one we heard about at a number of places.
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