While the initial inspiration of the trip to Cleveland was to see Metropolis with its expanded footage, a visit to Great Lakes Brewing Co. was not far behind on the list of things that would lure us onto I-71. (Technically, the film will soon be shown at the Wexner Center, so one might deduce that the brewery did – in fact – play a major role in the production of this trip.)
As soon as we knew the trip was a go, we (wisely) booked our bed and breakfast to be within stumbling distance of the brewery and downloaded the menu from the restaurant, to, you know, study. Great Lakes offers free tours of their facilities every hour, on the hour on Fridays (5 to 9 p.m.) and Saturdays (1 to 8 p.m.)
In these tours, the entire brewing process is explained, as is the company’s philosophy and its relationship with Cleveland. Baseball Boy and I got triple-hit with our collective interest in brewing, sustainability and history. The brewery and restaurant are committed to preserving Cleveland’s history through renovations of older buildings, and northern Ohio-based branding of their beers. The restaurant sources locally, when possible, and both entities look for sustainable solutions for limited waste.
Midway through the hour-long tour, we stopped to sample the beers. Because of Ohio’s antiquated liquor laws (literally based on prohibition), we had to pay for our samples. Eager to try anything that we don’t get in Columbus, our first sample was Great Lake’s answer to Budweiser, The Wright Pils, brewed especially for regional airports (but not CMH). That was, for me, the second lowest point of the tour. The lowest was when I learned that my beloved Grassroots Ale would not be making a comeback. Apparently, the people had spoken and at least 75% of the brewery’s feedback indicated that people would rather catch the Cuyahoga River on fire again than drink another Grassroots.
Brewing, unfortunately, sounds a lot sexier than it looks. For me, the stories along the way made the tour incredible. But I’m pretty sure that BB was lustily gazing upon the warehouses of stainless steel, dreaming of a day when brewing does not involve my basement.
After the tour, we headed over to the restaurant to begin our journey through ten different beers and four courses of food. Although it was prime dining time on a Saturday night, we scored a table in the courtyard fairly easily.
As soon as we sat down, we got to work. Drinking samples of each of the beers that Great Lakes had on tap would be tedious and would likely cause us to break a sweat, but we were up for the task. Pictured in the top row, from the left, are: Commodore Perry IPA, Eliot Ness Amber Lager, Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Dortmunder Gold Lager and Burning River Pale Ale (a beer which my mom once described – if I remember correctly – as tasting like motor oil). I, however, am a fan of the stuff. People have different tastes in beer. (See Grassroots Ale reference above for proof.)
The rest of the beers, the seasonal and special ones, from left to right (small, big, big, small, big) are: Blackout Stout, Moondog ESB, Wit’s End, Lake Erie Monster and The Wright Pils. We were, of course, most interested in these beers, as they aren’t readily available in Columbus.
As we sipped and/or gulped along, we also ate. We started with the local and fresh plate, filled with locally-sourced goodies. When I asked our server where the food came from, she brought back a sheet with farms and addresses listed. The sausages were from Berea, the butter was from Wooster, the cheese from from Hiram, and the produce was from Perry.
Our second course was the Stilton cheddar ale soup, made with Dortmunder Gold. We’d made a conscious decision to order anything on the menu that was cooked with beer, so this soup was a must. When it came out, though, we had so much on our table that we asked our server to hold back the entrees for a bit; we had beer to drink.
While BB ordered a wood-fired pizza (spiked with blue cheese and rosemary), I went with Dortmunder bratwurst and pierogies. At this point, I was too far into the beer tasting to notice the interesting artistry that went into plating my very, um, masculine dish. So much so that I tweeted a picture of my meal along with the words, “How in the bleep am I going to tackle this?” My tweet was from a different vantage point, and, well, the responses were very…creative.
Even though we could hardly touch our actual dinners, we closed the evening with Edmund Fitzgerald Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream. (We had to; it contained beer.) It was delicious, and well worth further breaking my “no dairy” rule. And to wrap things up, we headed back to the gift shop to buy a couple four-packs of our favorite beer of the trip: Lake Erie Monster. After trying some at home, we found that it’s a little smoother on tap, and so I recommend getting to Cleveland as soon as possible, before the Monster goes the way of the quickly forgotten (but not by me) Grassroots Ale.
No matter which beers they have on tap, a trip to Great Lakes is excellent exposure to the production that is brewing. From behind the scenes to live shots, we enjoyed every aspect of it. And between you and me, I hope that there’s a sequel.
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
2516 Market Avenue