Road Trip Cleveland: Day Three
Road Trips for Beer recently spent a long weekend being shown the sights and attractions of the Cleveland, Ohio, region. Much to my surprise, I discovered a thriving craft beer scene in this city on the shore of Lake Erie. I’m still puzzled as to why LeBron James abandoned it. This installment covers the third and final day of the visit.
The day started early with a return to the Warehouse District and an 8 a.m. visit to Constantino’s Market in the historic Bingham Building on West Ninth Street. Tom Wiskowski, who runs catering and event sales, kindly opened the doors early for our group and gave us a tour of the neighborhood grocery store. It is a wine-lover’s dream, with an extensive selection representing what looks like every wine-producing country in the world. Several deli cases throughout the store offers gourmet prepared foods, there’s an in-house bakery and deli, and the shelves are filled with gourmet products and various sundries. In a back corner, Constantino’s has a walk-in beer cooler with a nice assortment of locally brewed and other craft beers, along with the typical macrobrewery offerings. Wiskowski said that customers are welcome to buy a beer and drink it outside the store in the al fresco dining area. It would be a great place to while away a few afternoon hours with a cold brew or two from Great Lakes Brewing and a fresh meal, just watching the world go by – at least during the warmer months.
Then after visiting the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, we had lunch at Menches Bros. restaurant in Uniontown, a family owned eatery that claims its founders, Frank and Charles Menches, invented the hamburger at the 1885 Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York, and later the ice cream cone. I stuck with water and stayed away from the beer list, which primarily offered macrobrews and the popular imports. I wanted to save my beer drinking mojo for our next stop.
The second annual Cleveland AleFest took place at Lincoln Park in Tremont. Typical of many outdoor beer festivals, sampling tents representing the breweries were lined up along the edges, with a large central area for attendees to gather and sample the offered beverages. Sponsored by local alternative weekly Scene Magazine, the fest also had areas set up for volleyball games, cornhole playing and food vendors, as well as a stage where a local band rocked the grounds. Reps served more than 100 beers, including many from local brewers such as Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon, the Ohio Brewing Co. and Cornerstone Brewing Co. Chicago’s Goose Island had a strong presence, and I was looking forward to trying the Brew Free or Die IPA from San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery. Unfortunately, by the time I got to its tent, that keg was done. Luckily, our group had access to the VIP tent, where I indulged in some Goose Island brews and shared a bottle of the brewery’s outstanding and powerful imperial stout Night Stalker (ABV 11.2%; IBU 60). Noticeably absent was Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing, which was a sponsor of the ginormous Burning River Festival, also taking place that weekend on the shores of the Cayahoga River. Besides some of the beer running out too soon, my only complaint relates to a disproportionate number of Budweiser-Miller-Coors and corporate import tents. I hope the organizers will try to offer fewer macrobrews and more craft beers as this festival matures. After all, why travel somewhere to taste beer that you can buy at corner markets around the world?
After a welcome rest at the hotel, we headed out to dinner at the upscale Red, The Steakhouse in Beachwood, where we were served delicious steak dinners and vino from its extensive wine list. Afterward, we went to check out East Fourth Street, an entertainment and dining district. in downtown Cleveland. Our first stop: bowling and beer at Corner Alley. The massive bowling, dining and drinking establishment is one of the few places we visited without a long craft beer list – it did have Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold on tap – but the establishment made up for it with a full bar and an impressive martini list.
After proving to myself that my bowling skills lacked any, well, skill, we hit a couple of pubs on Fourth Street. First up was The Greenhouse Tavern, a cozy pub with an impressive beer list. Much of the décor is fashioned from reused products, which made it fun to try to figure out what some of the fixtures used to be. I indulged in my first pint of Ithaca Beer Co.’s Flower Power IPA (ABV 7.5%; IBUs 75). I found it to be a very nice, well-balanced brew with a strong but not overpowering hops presence. We finished the night at Flannery’s Irish Pub, where I felt obligated to quaff a couple of pints of Guiness Stout – and they were Imperial pints – while we conversed and watch the people of Cleveland go by.
This essentially ended my long weekend in Cleveland; my plane left early the next morning.
In conclusion, the Cleveland beer scene – and the city in general – exceeded my expectations. In many ways, it reminded me of my last visit to the Denver-Boulder region of Colorado in that nearly every bar, restaurant and pub offered a wide variety of craft beer, especially the locally produced brews, and the local beer community was tight and eager to talk about their craft and vision.
Thanks to the Positively Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau, which hosted our group of men travel writers and showed us that great guy trips aren’t limited to Las Vegas, New York City or South Beach.
Thanks also to the Radisson Hotel Cleveland – Gateway for putting us up, and putting up with us, and the representatives of the various venues that we visited who took the time to speak with us.
Stay tuned on Road Trips for Beer, as I plan to post several photo galleries from our visit.
I hope to return to Cleveland soon. And I really am sorry about what LeBron James did to you.