It seems that on my travels I often find myself in a city with only 1 day to jump around and explore the best beer joints.
That is probably because I prefer to travel around forests, mountains and lakes…but eventually you need some civilization (and food and drink).
My first couple of visits to Cleveland were all about baseball games – cheering on the Blue Jays when they were in town to take on the Indians. Compared to the beer options at Rogers Centre in Toronto, the beer choices at Progressive Field are pretty decent. They have a bar with 40 different beers on tap! Half of them are local Cleveland / Ohio brews. I think Toronto has a total of 10 different beers available, with next to no local craft beers.
Perhaps now that we have taken Cleveland’s GM, he’ll bring a craft beer loving mindset to Rogers Centre?
Breweries to Visit in Cleveland
Anyhow, enough about baseball, back to craft beer in Cleveland. There are a few solid places to visit. The big guy is Great Lakes Brewery. They’ve been around for what seems forever, and they have a great bar/restaurant that serves up a wide selection of their beers. Definitely worth a visit. I was there during Oktoberfest celebrations and had some solid food to go along with their quality brews. Their Lake Erie Monster and Edmund Fitzgerald are worth trying, but if they have any special barrel-aged or infused versions of their tops beers on tap, go for those too!
Nano Brew is another top spot. I’d say it is my favourite place overall for local beer in Cleveland. They had a very unassuming vibe, and knowledgeable, friendly staff that were more than happy to talk about their beers. they had good food options here too. It’s not a huge place (as you may guess by the name), but the outdoor patio in summer is great, complete with a life-size Jenga game.
Their tap list is damn good, featuring not only their own one-off brews and regulars, but a careful selection of taps from other Ohio brewers and great brewers from other states. Expect about half the taps to be Nano brew and Market Garden Brewery beers. Why? because Sam McNulty, the owner of Nano Brew also owns Market Garden. If a beer experiment does great at Nano, it has a good chance of becoming a regular brew over at Market Garden. Oh, and Sam also owns Bier Markt, a top spot for Belgian-themed food and brews in Cleveland.
Funny how that works. If you’ve read my Beer Day in Buffalo post, you’ll recall how many of the best beer spots are owned by one guy there too.
For non-McNulty places, check out Platform Brewing. It’s a really cool concept of being an incubator for homebrewers, and you’ll find many of Cleveland’s most interesting, different and unusual beers here. Worth supporting if you want to see the beer scene in Cleveland continue to grow and improve!
Finally, the best spot for beer + food is Butcher and the Brewer. A simple name that, as you may have guessed, serves up their own beers alongside some great cuts of meat. Hit this place when you’re hungry and you won’t be disappointed.
Realistically, a beer day in Cleveland would end here. The above spots are more than enough for a couple of meals and lots of sampling. Actually, they’re still the best options even if you delve into beer bars and restaurants. But hey, if you want to go all out, or turn your trip into a beer “Days” in Cleveland, then read on.
Beer Bars to Visit in Cleveland
To be honest, I’m not a fan of any of the beer bars in Cleveland. I much prefer the breweries themselves. If you have more time, or want to squeeze in some other beers, then see what La Cave du Vin has on tap. They often get special variations of top beers on tap. They have a huge bottle selection as well. It’s an intimate, small kind of place so if that is what you’re looking for, check it out.
Unless there is a special beer event going on, skip Tremont Tap House. Seriously. If you only have 1 day of beer-ing in Cleveland, it’s not worth it. Go to Cave du Vin instead. Chances are if you check the tap list here before hand you’ll be able to find everything at the breweries or other bars in town. My last visit to Tremont included one of the managers/owners sitting at the end of the bar harassing his employees and bitching about how some customers complained about him. Yet, here he was again making a fool of himself. The female employees were obviously intimidated by him, but he was too drunk and obnoxious to realize how harassing he was being. It was the type of scene that wouldn’t be tolerated at home in Toronto or at any other decent bar.
I’d throw it out there that the Winking Lizard chain is even worth visiting, depending who you’re travelling with and what you’re looking for. As far as beer chains go, they really aren’t so bad and you can always find a beer or two worth trying. I wouldn’t put this Ohio beer chain up at the same level as Flying Saucer or even Yard’s, but they can be a good compromise if you are with some non-craft beer lovers.
Where to Buy Bottles in Cleveland
If you need to hit a bottle shop while in Cleveland, then there are two spots I suggest. First, visit Beverage Warehouse. It may be the only place you need to check out. Their selection is massive and you’ll find local Ohio stuff well represented. The second spot to track down is EZ Shop. I found a few real treats here, including a number of B.O.R.I.S. variations from Hoppin Frog brewery in Akron. The guy that was working was super friendly.