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Home » Featured Trip, Spring Beer Festivals

Road Trips for Beer 2012 Itinerary: Cleveland International Beer Festival

Submitted by on April 1, 2012 – 11:39 amNo Comment

In May 2011, a beer festival debuted that in a few years could become a Midwestern rival to the Great American Beer Festival.

It’s in Cleveland, and last year’s festival proved such a success that they’re doing it again.

The Cleveland International Beer Festival made a big splash during three sessions over two days at the Ohio city’s cavernous I-X Center, with more than 200 breweries from around the world pouring more than 800 beers.

Some of the notable breweries were 21st Amendment, Bear Republic and Pizza Port out of California; Brewery Ommegang from New York; a slew of Belgian brewers including Brouwerij Liefmans, Brouwerij Van Eecke and Du Bocq Brewery; and local favorites Great Lakes Brewing Co., Fat Heads Brewery, Willoughby Brewing and Hoppin’ Frog Brewery.

The festival included a beer competition sanctioned by the American Homebrewers Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program, presentations by some of the most illustrious names in craft beer culture, live music and plenty of brews to sample. Here’s a list of the beer competition winners.

Some highlights from the 2011 Cleveland International Beer Festival.

  • Presentations by Chris Staten, beer editor of DRAFT Magazine; John Palmer, author of “How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time”; Chris White of White Labs ; and others.
  • Cooking demos by John Schlimm, author of “The Ultimate Beer Lovers Cookbook”; Lucy Saunders, author of “Cooking with Beer” and other beer-and-food related books; and chefs from local establishments such as The Greenhouse Tavern and Thirsty Dog Brewing Company.
  • “Brew U,” with educational sessions on such subjects as “Intro to Homebrewing,”  “Living Beer: The Story Behind the Cask Conditioned Ale,” “Sustainable Brewing” and more.
  • Special tasting pours in the VIP Lounge featuring such brewers as Chris Reilly from Weyerbacher, and Fred Karm from Hoppin’ Frog and representatives from breweries including Sierra Nevada and Ithaca Beer Co.
  • Meet & Greet sessions in the festival store with authors.

Fred Karm of Hoppin' Frog Brewery in Akron, Ohio, infuses B.O.R.I.S the Crusher Imperial Stout through coffee beans.

An especially nice feature was the Real Ale Bar. The bar featured samples of cask ales, some one-offs and special blends, that were rotated throughout the weekend on the hand-pull beer engines.

Pouring from the casks at the Real Ale Bar.

Click here to see the complete list of brews poured at last year’s festival.

More than 8,500 beer fans attended the 2011 festival, but with the three sessions, large number of booths and plenty of room to move around, the venue never felt crowded and waits were never too long.

Festival organizers faced a bit of controversy shortly before the festival last year, when the state of Ohio  at nearly the last minute decreed that planned unlimited tastings could not happen, and attendees were instead given 30 tasting tickets (40 for those who purchased VIP entrance). Though there was grumbling on the fest’s Facebook page, organizers offered refunds to those not happy with the new limitations. There were some takers, but I don’t recall hearing any at the festival complaining that they did not get their money’s worth.

Road Trips for Beer photo by Gerard Walen

Most creative use of extra drink tickets.

There were a few other critiques after the festival, the main one being that many of the volunteer pourers at the tasting tables did not have much knowledge of the beers or breweries. The organizers listened to the critiques, and said they would try to improve the experience this year.

Tickets are on sale now for the 2012 International Beer Festival, which will be held May 11-12. Prices start at $45 for a one-session, general admission ticket, and $75 for a one-session, VIP ExBEERience ticket, which allows admission to the VIP Brewers Lounge, among other perks. Discounted admission for designated drivers is available. Click here for more information.

Hotel packages are also available with shuttle service to the I-X Center.

I stayed at the Cleveland Airport Marriott, a very nice hotel with the world-class AMP 150 restaurant and lounge that boasts an impressive list of bottled beers. The lounge area also offered a nice “after-party” experience where you can rub shoulders with brewers and brewery representatives.

Stayed tuned to the festival’s website and Facebook page for more details.

Here’s a link to more photos of the 2011 festival and below is a video the organizers produced, in which your humble road-tripping editor makes a cameo appearance.

Disclaimer: The Cleveland I-X Center provided us with a media pass for the 2011 Cleveland International Beer Festival, and the Positively Cleveland CVB provided air transportation and lodging. All opinions expressed in the post are genuine.

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