Road Trip Cleveland: Day One
Road Trips for Beer recently spent some time in Cleveland, Ohio, home to the Indians and Browns, the Rock and Roll Hall and Fame and a whole lot of bitterness about LeBron James’ unexpected abandonment of the home NBA team.
But I’m here to talk (mostly) about the Cleveland area’s impressive craft beer scene. This is the first of three installments chronicling three days spent in a city that really DOES rock.
Day (actually Night) One:
Dinner at Metro Bar + Kitchen, an eclectic restaurant and bar in downtown Cleveland’s Warehouse District that offers about a dozen craft beers on tap and a bottle list about twice that long. Because an ideal road trip for beer should focus in part on trying new beers unavailable where you live, I ordered a Goose Island Pere Jacques, a Belgian-style abbey ale with an ABV of 8 percent. I hesitate when ordering Belgian-styles – I love the good ones, but there are a lot of bad ones – but I had never had any of the Chicago brewery’s products before, so I took a chance. To my taste buds, this was one of the good ones.
Next we headed to Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon in nearby North Olmsted, a neighborhood restaurant and brew pub that sprang forth 14 months ago from the original Fathead’s in Pittsburgh. Besides its own brews, Fat Head’s has a respectable number of “guest taps” featuring the beers of other craft breweries. We landed there during its “Christmas in July” festival, featuring a limited release of the brewery’s Christmas Ale (7% ABV; 24 IBU). Maybe I just couldn’t get into the spirit of the season, but the beer didn’t do much for me that night. To the Head Hunter IPA (7% ABV; 87 IBU), though, I say “WOW!” I’m not a beer reviewer, per se. I know what I like when I drink it, but I don’t have the vocabulary and sensitive taste buds of a sophisticated connoisseur. In this case, I wish I did. When the brew won the gold medal at the 12th annual IPA Fest in Hayward, California, (against 51 other mostly West Coast breweries) the Pacific Brew News called it “an absolute gem of an IPA: a big hairy fruit aroma followed by an almost sticky balance of more hops riding a thin rail of malt.” I’ll go with that.
Our final beer stop of the night was at the Tremont TapHouse in the historic south-of-downtown neighborhood of Tremont. The funky gastro-pub in a restored early 20th century brick building gives thirsty customers a plethora of choices from its 24 taps and extensive bottle list. TapHouse owner and operator Chris Lieb promised that there will be “48 taps, coming soon.” About a dozen of the taps are dedicated to beers on a rotating basis – the beer list splits it into “On Tap” and “On Deck”: When an On Tap keg is finished, the On Deck replacement moves into the starting lineup. I had a pint of Green Flash Hop Head Red (6.3% ABV; 45 IBU), which was better than most IPAs and the first-ever beer for me from the San Diego Brewery. I also had some tastes of others, including imperial stout Southern Tier Crème Brulee (9.2% ABV). Let’s just say I love crème brulee as a dessert; not so much as a beer. The sweetness was a little overpowering. The TapHouse features a 2,000-square-foot patio where movies are shown on an outdoor screen and where hops vines climb the walls. By the way, Lieb said an expansion plan includes installing brewery equipment so the pub can offer some of its own brew. I wish I could have stayed longer to try more of the many offerings, but it was time to return to the hotel.
Next installment: Grilled cheese, a microbrewery giant and bonding in the FanCave.