I recently visited Cleveland and Akron, Ohio for my good friend Kris’s wedding. First of all, Congratulations, Kris & Shetal for a beautiful and incredibly memorable wedding. How many times am I going to get to wear a Kurta and help lead the groom in on a white horse while dancing to Jai Ho music? It was so much fun! Again, thanks for including Katie and I during your special day. You two truly are an amazing couple.
My buddy Travis and I flew into Cleveland on Wednesday morning and had some time to kill before we could check into our hotel in Akron. So I, as I always do, suggested that we find a brewery in the area. I had heard very positive things about Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland, so I recommended we head over there for lunch. Upon parking in the neighboring lot you could instantly smell the aroma of barley being mashed – I love that smell. They have a small brewery in the restaurant, but the majority of the work is done in the giant brick building across the street. I didn’t have the honor of going on a tour of the brewery, but Brett covered the Great Lakes Brewery tour in his “Beer, Brett, and Baseball” Series, so check it out if you are interested.
Back to the restaurant: the first thing I noticed was the Locavore emphasis. The server explained to us that their specials use ingredients from their own organic garden – wow! We ordered a barley crusted pretzel, an heirloom tomato pizza, a pretzel burger, and a flight of beers. The beer menu
actually turned out to be the tasting key, as all the beers were placed on top of their corresponding name. What did they taste like? Great Lakes Brewing, like a lot of brew pubs, focuses on classic styles. There really wasn’t a lot of deviation or experimentation here. Everything is a prime example of what the style should be, and I’m sure some BJCP judge out there is giving a gold star. I tend to be a fan of the more outlandish and interesting beers, but I have to say that Edmund Fitzgeral Porter is perhaps one of my favorite porters of all time. It’s perfectly balanced and very robust. It’s not one you can easily pick up in So Cal, but if you have a friend that frequents Cleveland, make sure you ask them to smuggle some back for you. I also recommend Elliot Ness Amber Lager and Burning River Pale Ale. All in all, Great Lakes is a great brew pub, has fine food, brews classic beer styles, and has a family-oriented atmosphere. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. Also, if you aren’t too scared, take a trip to their taproom in the basement. It’s an 1860’s era bar where you can find the famous Elliot Ness bullet holes!
After a very long and exciting day of Cedar Point in Sandusky, Travis, my friend Jon, and I headed back to Cleveland to do some airport pickups. Katie was flying into town that night, so we all decided to hang out in Cleveland for a while prior to the pickup. We drove back to the Great Lakes Brewing Co as a starting point, but this time headed to the place across the street, Market Garden Brewery. Market Garden is very reminiscent of some of the new gastropubs popping up around LA. Like City Tavern, Fathers Office, and Beer Belly LA, it has a very swanky interior, seems to be very hipster friendly, and has a huge emphasis on eating and drinking local. One thing you’ll notice right off the bat while walking into the place is the giant fairground arcade-style lights behind the bar that spell out the words Beer & Spirits. Even Ralphy from A Christmas Story would be proud, as his dad’s leg lamp is prominently displayed for all to see. It’s a cool place to hang out, although we didn’t enjoy the inside until we were forced to flee the back patio during a freak thunder storm.
We weren’t extremely hungry, so we ordered some wings and fries to share between the three of us. Trav and I ordered tasting flights while Jon went straight for the Forest City Brown Ale pint glass. I did not do a great job of writing down tasting notes during my time at Market Garden, but I did write down 3 beers of exceptional note. Black Hops 484, a Cascadian Dark Ale, Wallace Tavern Scotch Ale, and Cluster Fuggle IPA. I’m a huge fan of the Dark/Black IPAs; this one was brewed with a new hop variety they label as 484. The scotch ale was a great example of the classic style, and I would love to have a bottled version of it in the fridge on stand by. The Cluster – Fuggle IPA is just what it sounds like, but it’s an excellent citrus beer bomb. If you are a Stone fan or a hop head, I would really suggest ordering this beer. You really can’t go wrong with any of the offerings here at Market Garden. Like Great Lakes Brewing, they focus on classic styles, but they have a strong emphasis on unique IPAs and American style ales. They seemed to branch out a bit more on some styles, and the experimentation was very enjoyable.
I have to give a shout out to our server who was awesome. He was an impressive beer salesman and had great beer tasting advice. I know you advised against the watermelon beer, but I appreciate your humoring me while I gave it to Jon and Trav. The beer I’m referring to is 21st Amendment’s “Hell or High Watermelon,” which is an acquired taste. To be fair, the can we got seemed a little temperature damaged and oxidized.
I don’t really feel like it was the freshest example of the beer. If you are a watermelon juice lover you might want to try it. Even if you aren’t a fan of it, it’s a great beer to have at a party for people that like flavored beers.
I’m going to wrap up our trip in the next post, where we head to one of the premier breweries in Akron, Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. It’s a must-visit place, so stay tuned.
– Kip B.
Los Angeles Ale Works™