It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the beginning of the Christmas shopping season; your credit cards can rest easy for at least another week or two. It’s time for a cold brew – the second annual Cleveland Beer Week starts today! And, if you’re a beer lover like me, you’ve been spending your hard earned money on tickets to upcoming events and salivating at the seemingly endless list of dinners, tappings, and festivals that will bring over 80 of the best breweries in the world to our fair city. But the sheer number of things going on can make it difficult to pick an event or two without being overwhelmed, especially for anyone without a ton if experience with breweries and beer culture. Don’t worry; I’m here to help!
For the next week, Cleveland becomes the center of the beer universe, and I want to be sure you get to enjoy the spotlight. The list of events this year is amazing, with so much more quality and variety than the all-too-common $10 buckets of Dortmunder listed last year! But it is extensive. So, I’ve compiled a shorter list of the events I think are the best of the bunch. Remember, there are hundreds of events all around the area, so check out ClevelandBeerWeek.org to see what’s going on in your neighborhood, favorite beer friendly restaurant or bar. Consider this the first annual ‘Bobby’s Picks’ for Cleveland Beer Week!
Friday, October 15th
- Although the official first event isn’t until 7:00 at Crowne Plaza, Cleveland Beer Week kicks off at 4:00 at all Winking Lizards with the tapping of Stone’s 2010 Vertical Epic beer. This year’s release is a Belgian ale fermented with grapes and spiced with chamomile. It should be a nice start to the week, but get there early. This will go fast!
- The official kick-off and ceremonial keg tapping for Cleveland Beer Week is Crowne Plaza downtown at ‘Grains vs. Grapes: The Ultimate Match-up’. Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head brewery and soon-to-be star of the Discovery Channel TV Show “Brew Masters” and Marianne Frantz, president of American Wine Schools, have each selected pairings for the evening. Complete with a four-course meal by Michael Symon, this is a pricy ticket at $75 a head, but should be a great start to the festivities. If you want to go, get your tickets NOW – they go “off sale” at 3:00.
- Just want to stay home and save money for Brewzilla (more on that later)? Swing by select Heinen’s at 7:00 and get a growler of Ghidora, the beer Heinen’s Beer Specialists brewed in Chico California this summer. It’s a huge, hoppy Double IPA and is perhaps the best beer I’ve ever had from Sierra, and that’s saying a lot! 30 growlers will be at each of the following Heinen’s locations: Brecksville, Mayfield, Mentor, Hudson, and Rocky River.
Saturday, October 16th
- Things really get in full swing Saturday as Fat Heads presents two sessions of their Celebration of the Hop IPA Festival – the ‘Early Session’ goes from 1-4 and the ‘Evening Session’ goes from 6-9. Technically, the fest starts on the 15th with a VIP session, but by the time you’re reading this, you’re already too late – it is sold out. Not to worry, there are loads of hoppy brews to last the weekend, including some San Diego area rarities never before tapped in Ohio. This is my “Can’t Miss” event of the day!
- For those to the Northeast of Cleveland, Cornerstone in Madison celebrates their Harvest Festival, featuring the tapping of their own Pumpkin Ale, ‘Linus’ Revenge’. Other seasonal favorites from Cellar Rats, The Brew Kettle, Fatheads, Thirsty Dog, Rocky River and Great Lakes Brewing Company will be on tap, so head out if you’re in the area.
- Buckeye Beer Engine in Lakewood kicks things off with two Sweetest Day events at the Beer Engine, a Cheese and Beer Pairing with Lucky Penny Creamery featuring brews from the phenomenal ‘The Bruery’ and a Chocolate Pairing with Sweet Designs. The events are at noon and 2 respectively. You can get tickets now at the Beer Engine or on their website.
- Right down the street from the Beer Engine. Rozi’s in Lakewood is having a beer and wine tasting extravaganza with more than 60 brews and 150+ wines. Holy cow, this has to be the value of the day for just $25. The event runs from 12-5, so get there early, wear your drinking shoes, and have a cab on speed dial.
- Finally, those Ohio State Buckeye fans in Rocky River can head to Market for Market Fest and see the scarlet and gray kick some Badger butts. Over 20 different Autumn seasonals will be on tap, and they’ll be firing up the grill and putting the game on the big screen. This will be the best tailgate around!
Sunday, October 17th
- Beer isn’t just for lunch and dinner. Case in point: three great events from the Winking Lizard, Melt and Buckeye Beer Engine to start Browns vs. Steelers Sunday in style.
- The Winking Lizard has Founders Breakfast Stout in Lakewood and the ultra-elusive and delicious maple bourbon barrel-aged Canadian Breakfast Stout in Bedford along with a delicious buffet brunch.
- Not the Founders you’re looking for? Check out Melt in Lakewood for an 11:00AM tapping of Black Biscuit – perhaps one of the best beers I’ve ever had. It’ll be joined by other Founders favorites including the ever popular Dirty Bastard, no relation to the guy from WuTang Clan.
- The Buckeye Beer Engine has Dark Horse Brewery doing a five-course breakfast featuring a horizontal tasting of their stouts. One, Too, Tres, Fore, and Plead the Fifth are some of the best in the country and the food sounds incredible – warm Beignets with caramel espresso glaze and hash and eggs. Yum! Pre-gaming was never so tasty!
- Not the breakfast type? You’re in luck as the Ohio Brewery Bus Tour is rolling around town. If you’re not worried about missing what promises to be another painful Browns game, hop aboard the bus and visit Great Lakes, the Brew Kettle, Thirsty Dog, Cornerstone, and Fat Heads. I’ve done five breweries in one day and let me just say you might want to tip the bus driver to drop you off at home at the end – no driving afterwards. The bus departs from Thirsty Dog at 11:00 AM. This is perhaps the best event of the week for any out-of-town guests.
Monday, October 18th
- The keg tapping choice of the day has got to go to the The Winking Lizard, who is putting Victory Scarlet Sunset Keg on tap in their Coventry, Cleveland Heights location at 5:00. This slightly smoked Autumn beer has been getting rave reviews all across the country.
- The event of the day is a toss-up between two “tap takeovers”. Market in Rocky River has Goose Island lining up a substantial number of rarities on their 24 taps, while Tremont’s Southside is hosting a Dogfish Head Invasion with all sorts of offerings, including the ultra-rare (and delicious) Bitches Brew.
- Want to try some new imported beers? The Winking Lizard has you covered. Duvel’s rare Triple Hop is being sampled in Bedford and the new-to-America Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is on the menu in Independence.
- Great Lakes will be tapping Berlot, their collaboration beer with Cellar Rats from the CBW Ohio Brewery 12 pack for lunch. The 8.6% barrel aged strong ale promises to be a unique beer, having been aged in Merlot barrels.
- Finally, it’s ‘Exotic Night’ at La Cave du Vin in Coventry. They’re featuring beers brewed with smoked tea leaves, chili pepper, absinthe leaves, mustard seed and chinotto peel. Tired of the same old, same old? This will be interesting for sure. Call it my wildcard pick of the day.
Tuesday, October 19th
- Thing globally, drink locally! The Independence Winking Lizard Local Brewery Night is my pick for the pay-as-you-go option of the day. The GABF (Great American Beer Festival) silver-medal winning Headhunter from Fat Heads will be on tap alongside some specialties from Great Lakes, Indigo Imp, and a bourbon-barrel aged version of the Brew Kettle’s Imperial Stout called Tunguska.
- If you have the time and the funds, head to the Buckeye Beer Engine and check out the Adam Avery experience. Fifteen, count ‘em 15 beers will be paired with an equal number of courses of food. I attended Adam’s experience last year and let me tell you, the guy is amazing – stories galore and some of the best beer anywhere. This year includes a few extremely rare barrel-aged American Wild beers named Sui Generis and Quinquepartite. This is hands down the event of the day, if not the week but is a tad pricy at $65/head, or you could say that’s a bargain for 15 courses of beer and food!
- If you’re a hop head, let me introduce you to your new best friend. His name is Randall the Enamel Animal and he’s an original gangster Organoliptic Hop Transducing module. That’s a fancy way of saying a filter that runs fresh beer through fresh hops for maximum, well, freshness. The Randall will be at the Gateway Winking Lizard at 5:00 running Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and at the Coventry Lizard at 7:00 running Midas Touch through Saaz hops. Just remember to see your dentist afterwards!
- Road Trip? Well, not exactly, but if you’re in the mood to do a little traveling, get aboard the Goose Island & Thirsty Dog Party Bus. The bus will depart the Winking Lizard in Independence at 5:30 and will chauffeur you around town in style, hitting up House of Blues, Dante’s and Metro along the way. Sounds like a party for sure!
- Feeling charitable? Hit up the Pints for Prostates event at the Happy Dog. Buckeye Beers will be on special, Chris Allen will be supplying the tunes, and you could win a $6500 trip to Oktoberfest! This is hands-down my favorite charity. Please donate anytime through the link at the bottom right-hand corner of this page.
- Finally, Victory’s own Cameron Russell is hosting a dinner and beer pairing at the House of Blues in the swanky Founders Room. It’s your chance to get behind the velvet rope and see how the rock stars relax before and after a show. Knowing Cameron, he’ll have some excellent pairings and stories to share!
Wednesday, October 20th
- Have you ever wanted to be in the beer industry? Do you think brewers are rock stars?? If so, check out Buckeye Beer Engine’s Red Carpet Night, kicking off at 5:00. The photo booth is back and you can get a snapshot with your favorite brewer. Look for a ton of rare kegs and representation from just about every brewery in town over the course of the week. A can’t miss event for the beer aficionado or anyone curious about the industry.
- Troegs will Scratch & Splinter the Lakewood Winking Lizard at 6:00 with a 1/6bbl of their Splinter Saison, which is an amazing beer. As if that wasn’t enough, Brewer Chris Trogner will be on hand answering your questions and filling your glasses with the legendary Splinter Blue Wild Ale and the debut of Splinter Black Russian Imperial Stout. No tickets are required, so stop in and say hi!
- It’s Saison happy hour at the wonderful Greenhouse Tavern starting at 5:00. You know Chef Sawyer makes the best food in town. Well, he may have the best Belgian Beer selection as well, as saisons from the Bruery, Jolly Pumpkin, and many more will be available!
- McNulty’s Bier Market will tap a Bell’s 2 Hearted Firkin at 6:00 and will have the Bell’s crew on hand. Compare the cask to the tap version and let the hops take over!
- Stone is at La Cave du Vin starting at 8:00 with some interesting beers, including San Diego County Session Ale, a beer brewed by Stone/Ballast Point/Kelsey McNair (winner of the homebrew competition to collaborate on a beer with Stone and a brewery of his choice). A few big beers from the Stone cellar will be represented as well. A great post-dinner option for East Siders.
Thursday, October 21st
- Melt is stepping it up on Thursday, beginning at lunch and lasting all day long. To accompany their world-famous grilled cheese, the East-Side location is throwing a “3 Breweries Unite (Dogfish Head/Victory/Stone) @ Melt” event while the west side has Bell’s Brewing in the house. Look for all three versions of Saison du Buff on tap in the Heights, and a rare Bells keg or two in Lakewood.
- Tremont Tap House is featuring a Bell’s Takeover. I’ve heard that such incredible rarities as Oracle, Wild One, and Quinannan Falls will be on tap alongside Hop Slam, Expedition and a host of delicious Kalamazoo brews.
- Fat Heads has an event starting at 4:00 where you can “Meet the Brewer” of Stone Brewing Company. Mitch Steele is renowned for his knowledge of all things beer, and you can be sure he’ll be bringing along a keg or three of some amazing Stone beers that have never been in Ohio before.
- If you know what the Brew Keeper on Miles Road was, then come to the Buckeye/Keeper Reunion at the Bedford Winking Lizard starting at 6:00. I hope to see some old faces from back in the day. Remember the great hoppy beers, the popcorn, the warehouse feel of the place, and the feeling you were in a secret club? Well, the feeling is back for one night only.
- Founders is at The Brew Kettle for a tasting, but it’s already sold out. If you snoozed, you loosed (lost)!
- The rare keg of the day has to go to La Cave du Vin in Coventry for their tapping of Oak-aged Hell Hath No Fury from Bell’s. This Belgian-style dubbel is aged in Bourbon barrels and has hints of vanilla and coconut. Such a gem of a beer!
Friday, October 22nd
- Friday is just plain crazy, with the most amazing events of any day of the entire Cleveland Beer Week! In what could be the coolest opportunity anywhere to witness history in the making, Fat Heads has a “collaborative brewing session” with Stone Brewing starting at 11:00 AM. Mitch Steele and Matt Cole will be inventing a new style of beer on the spot, and you can watch these two Masters of the Brew-niverse do their thing in the brewhouse.
- The night is full of special keg tappings. Notably, Nighttown plays host to the Bell’s Jazz Trio, three Biere de Garde style beers that have never been tapped in Ohio before. A Founders Harvest Firkin will be tapped at the Tremont Tap House. And La Cave du Vin will be packed all night, first for a Founders Event featuring Devil Dancer and then for a Victory Returns party with unknown rare and specialty kegs. Well, one guy knows but he wants to keep it a surprise!
- Mitch Steele gives his presentation entitled ‘Hops! The Spice’ at the Bedford Lizard at 7:00. He’ll lead you through several of Stone’s best beers and give you the story behind the hops used in each one. The Lizard always puts on great events and this should be no different. This presentation is a must for any homebrewer or hop-head.
- Ever want to travel on a train while sipping amazing beer? If so, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad has ‘Ales on Rails’ – a tasting of great beers from Smutty Nose, Fullers, Sam Smith, Thirsty Dog, Bluegrass, Chimay, and Ithaca. The whistle blows at 6:30 at the Rockside Station. Don’t miss the train!
- The charitable pick of the day has to be the Taste of the Harvest festival at the Historic McGuffey School Building on West 29th street, featuring specially brewed beers from Cellar Rats and Crooked River and a bevy of beers and appetizers from all the big names in town. Benefiting the Covenant Adolescent Chemical Dependency Treatment & Prevention Center, this is a great event. So show your support!
Saturday, October 23rd
- Really, there’s only one place to be on the 23rd if you’re in the mood to drink some of the best beers in the world. The 2nd annual Brewzilla tasting is at the Galleria at Erieview starting at 7:00 and it’s the grand tasting/closing event for Cleveland Beer Week. A ‘Brewers Circle’ ticket will get you in an hour early and will get you special beers all night. Food is included, and this is one you don’t want to miss – all of the collaboration beers made for CBW will be on tap, Great Lakes will be debuting 2010 Christmas Ale, and there’s even rare barrel aged beers from Stone in the lineup. With over 80 breweries and hundreds of beers to try, this is the one event everyone should attend. If you go out just one night for Cleveland Beer Week, make it Brewzilla!
Sunday, October 24th
- Just when you thought CBW was over, the Buckeye Beer Engine decides to keep the party going with their Founders beer brunch featuring the amazing Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) and some other great beers. Keep the party going at the Engine before a long, overdue nap (or another Browns game, sigh).
Now get out there, have fun, be safe, and Celebrate Beer!
How cool is it that Cleveland is about to begin one of the biggest celebrations of beer in all of the United States? I hope this guide has helped you to pick an event or two (or twelve) that fit your tastes, budget, and schedule. I highly encourage each and every one of you to get out there and enjoy the best week of the year. Truth be told, there’s not a bad choice in the bunch! Be sure to check back here for reviews and follow me at Twitter for late-breaking news! Have a great week!!
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