Cleveland Beer Week is more than just a reason to celebrate our favorite fermented beverage. In its third week, this premier city-wide, week-long event is like Beer Christmas and your Beer Birthday rolled into one. It’s like Mardi Gras with kegs instead of parade floats (although some of the great events just may get people dancing in the streets). It’s the North Coast’s equivalent of the ancient Bacchanalian festivals, a chance for us to express our gratitude for the greatness of the grains and the hellacious hops. More than anything, Cleveland Beer Week is a time for Craft Beer to shine – a chance to gather with our best friends and friends we haven’t yet met at exciting beer dinners, keg tappings and educational journeys that are simply all about the beer.
Whether this is your first Cleveland Beer Week, or you’ve been with us for the past two awesome years, there is so much to see and do that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t worry, that’s what I’m here for. This year boasts over 350 events – so many that even I had to make a spreadsheet/cheat sheet to keep track of what to do each night. Here’s the coolest thing – there are no bad events! The quality this year is second to none! Not only do we have one of the best up-and-coming craft beer scenes in the country (complete with a fantastic community and world-class brewers), but we have easily the best beer week anywhere. Whether you’re an old veteran or just getting started in your craft beer journey, there’s something for everyone.
But the list on the Cleveland Beer Week website can be a bit daunting. That’s why I decided to make my picks and share my list with you. In the past, I picked an event each night, but this year I’m going to do things just a bit differently. I’m going to pick the best beer dinner or educational event and the best two pay-as-you-go events each day (East Side and West Side). That way, whether you want a complete experience or just a pint or two with friends, there’s something for everyone’s taste and budget. And that’s the beauty of Cleveland Beer Week!
Here are my picks for the best events of the week:
Friday, October 14th
Premier event: Grains vs. Grapes, the Ultimate Matchup at the Crowne Plaza City Center, Downtown Cleveland.
Not only is this my pick for the kickoff of Cleveland Beer Week, it’s also my pick for the ‘can’t miss’ event of the week! But here’s the thing – you only have a few hours to get tickets! Go now! Still reading? This event features four courses of food prepared by the Michael Symon group, each accompanied by a beer picked by none other than Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewing. He literally wrote the book on beer and food pairings. Plus, as if that wasn’t enough, Marianne Frantz, national wine expert, has selected a wine to accompany each course. This promises to be a fantastic way to start the week!
Pay as you go (East Side): Southern Tier I-90 American Ale keg tapping at Winking Lizard (Bedford Heights, Independence, Cleveland Heights, Gateway and Lakewood).
Southern Tier made this special American Pale Ale just for Cleveland Beer Week. All Cuyahoga County Winking Lizards will tap a keg to celebrate the kickoff of CBW 2011. Get there and enjoy a pint or two!
Pay as you go (West Side): Thirsty Firkin night at Edison’s Pub, Tremont.
Thirsty Dog makes great beer, and their firkin treatments are legendary. Edison’s will be featuring no less than four firkins for your sampling pleasure. I’m getting very thirsty, dog!
Saturday, October 15th
Premier event: Lilly’s Chocolate and Beer Brunch at Lilly’s Chocolate, Tremont.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’re in luck. The incomparable Lilly’s Chocolate in Tremont is featuring an incredible brunch that pairs unbelievable breakfast food (kicked up with sweets and chocolate of course) with four fantastic beers, including Southern Tier Mokah and Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch. There are two seatings, but I think the early one is already sold-out. That means you need to call Lilly’s right now and get in on what promises to be the best hangover cure ever after Grains VS Grapes!
Pay as you go (East Side): Thirsty Dog Barrel Aged Keg Tapping at Lizardville, Bedford.
Not only will Lizardville be featuring three Bourbon Barrel Aged Thirsty Dog beers on tap (including the debut of BA Cerberus Belgian Triple), the big dog himself, owner John Najeway will be present from 12-4.
Pay as you go (West Side): Rogue Oysterfest at Buckeye Beer Engine, Lakewood.
Like Oysters? Beer Engine has you covered – 1200 Yaquina Bay Petites will be flown in from Newport, Oregon for this throwdown. Oh, yeah, and Rogue VP Jim Cline will be on hand to talk all things Rogue.
Sunday, October 16th
Premier event: Meet the Brewer of Jackie O’s at Rozi’s Wine House, Lakewood.
Jackie O’s is easily Ohio’s most creative brewery, and the experimentation of Brew Master Brad Clark is second to none. His dedication to small batch beers, barrel aging and “treatments” with exotic ingredients has earned the respect and admiration of beer geeks across the country. In a rare Northeast Ohio appearance, Clark stops at Rozi’s Wine House in downtown Lakewood to pour some of his latest creations, including a brandy-barreled beer, Scottish ale, and even a beer that’s targeted to taste like Baklava. Come check out Rozi’s remodel and enjoy a night you’ll remember for a long time!
Pay as you go (East Side): Jolly Pumpkin La Parcella keg tapping at Winking Lizard (Bedford Heights, Independence, Cleveland Heights, Gateway and Lakewood).
Jolly Pumpkin makes some of the most innovative beers in America by embracing the tradition of hundreds of years of Belgian brewing with wild yeast. La Parcella is one of their best, so what are you waiting for? Go try some!
Pay as you go (West Side): Victory Brewing at the Tremont Tap House, Tremont.
Victory Brewing company should be a national treasure, and not in a Nicholas Cage movie sort of way. They make seriously great beers, and when their Midwest Sales Rep and Brewer touch down at the Tap House, it promises to be a great time!
Monday, October 17th
Premier event: Beer Sensory Evaluation class at Willoughby Brewing Company, Willoughby.
Do you ever get stuck explaining the flavors of a beer? Have you ever had a beer that just tasted “off”? Well, never fear – Willoughby brewing company has your back. This is a class everyone who is serious about beer needs to take once in their life. You’ll learn about the ways beers can go wrong, taste some isolated flaws, and, best of all, you’ll get to learn from certified beer judges with years of experience. If you’re serious about reviewing or brewing beer, come out and learn. Class is in session at Willoughby!
Pay as you go (East Side): Hoppin’ Frog at Lizardville, Bedford Heights.
Hoppin’ Frog brought home some serious hardware at the 2011 GABF. Get to Lizardville to meet brewer Fred Karm and enjoy the release of BA Naked Evil and BORIS Royale, plus some batch 1 BA BORIS Imperial Stout!
Pay as you go (West Side): Thirsty Dog Firkins at Fat Heads, North Olmstead.
Tim Rastetter, the Brew Master of Thirsty Dog, and Fat Heads Matt Cole will be on hand to tap two Thirsty Dog firkins – a Belgian Pale Ale and Dry-hopped Saison. Sounds firkin’ delicious!
Tuesday, October 18th
Premier event: Bells Eccentric Café on Tour & Larry Bell Dinner at the Buckeye Beer Engine, Lakewood.
Larry Bell is a legend in the world of brewing. Besides starting one of the most influential breweries in the world (his namesake Bells Brewing Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan), Larry has been a prominent figure fighting for brewery rights and voicing his opinions on just about all things beer. The Beer Engine is hosting Larry for a dinner featuring six courses and no less than thirteen beers. Also, Bells is taking over the taps upstairs, bringing a ton of exclusives and rarities that are seldom seen outside the walls of their brewery’s Eccentric Café. Hopefully you already have a ticket, because this event is sold-out!
Pay as you go (East Side): Rolling Blackout with Great Lakes Brewing Company, Winking Lizard, Cleveland Heights Gateway.
Barrel-aged Blackout Stout isn’t just a beer. It’s an experience second to none. All week long, the Winking Lizard is tapping kegs at their Cuyahoga County locations, but Coventry’s the spot on Tuesday EDIT: Actually, the BA Blackout is at the Gateway Lizard. My bad – see, there’s a ton to keep up with here!!
Pay as you go (West Side): Sun Coast vs. Snow Coast Keg Tapping at the Tremont Tap House, Tremont.
Founders Brewing and Green Flash invade the Tap House with several of their best beers. Reps will be on hand to witness this battle of two brewing behemoths, who will emerge victorious? You decide!
Wednesday, October 19th
Premier event: Trappist Ales, Discovering the Monastery Breweries at Winking Lizard Party Room, Bedford Heights.
The Trappist monasteries of Belgium create beer with hundreds of years of tradition. But very few have been allowed beyond their walls. Jef van Den Steen has been to all of them, and he’s written an amazing book about the lore and legacy of these legendary breweries. Come taste some Trappist beers and appetizers while you learn from Jef, Bobo from Chimay, and Joe Lipa from Merchant du Vin about the best (and most mysterious) beers in the world. This is easily the best educational event of the entire week and one I encourage everyone to attend. Don’t miss it!
Pay as you go (East Side): Stone Bourbon Barrel RIS at Lizardville, Bedford Heights.
Once a year, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you may meet someone who’s tried this beer. You should become that person. Don’t miss this rarity, and Aaron from Stone will be on hand!
Pay as you go (West Side): Red Carpet Ride at XYZ Tavern, Cleveland.
The all-stars from Premium Beverage will be rolling around town on Wednesday with a slew of beer celebrities and special kegs, including this tapping (and Ohio debut) of Bells Kalamazoo Hopsolution!
Thursday, October 20th
Premier event: Culture Yourself, Beer and Cheese Pairing, Market Garden Brewery, Ohio City.
Beer and cheese go together like, well, beer and cheese! If you’ve never sampled a Blue cheese and a Barleywine, sharp cheddar and a stout or Trappist cheese and Trappist beer, you’re missing out. No worries, Market Garden is hosting a really cool event with 12 breweries pouring their best beers along with over 30 kinds of local, artisanal cheeses. You’ll get to hang out at the coolest new brewery in Cleveland and rub elbows with the brewers and cheesemakers themselves. Warning – tickets are going fast, so get yours now!
Pay as you go (East Side): Goose Island Vintage Ale Invasion at Winking Lizard, Independence.
Some of Goose Island’s rarest and vintage ales will be tapped at the new Winking Lizard Independence location. We’re talking Lolita, Indira, and even Gillian! Come get a paddle and taste what Goose does best!
Pay as you go (West Side): Sierra Nevada Night, Stampers, Fairview Park.
Stampers is bringing the heat, with two barrel-aged and rare-as-all-get-out kegs of Sierra Nevada Fritz and Ken’s Imperial Stout and Sierra Nevada 2×4 Belgian Ale. Reps will be on hand, so swing by!
Friday, October 21st
Premier event: Ales on Rails, Cuyahoga Railroad, Independence.
When I asked Samuel L Jackson about this event, all he said was “We’ve got beers, on this mother f%#$king train!” In all seriousness, though, how cool would it be to cruise around the Cuyahoga Valley in a train full of beer fans, watching the beautiful leaves at their peak! That’s what this event offers! Relax with friends or make new ones as you sample some of the finest ales around. Seats are filling up in the best cars and this event probably will sell-out soon, so get your tickets today and don’t miss out!
Pay as you go (East Side): Founders and Kokoborrego Cheese Pairing at La Cave du Vin, Cleveland Heights.
La Cave Du Vin hosts the guys from my favorite brewery, Founders. They’re breaking into their stash of Founders KBS, Nemesis, and more and pairing a flight with Kokoborrego’s incomparable cheeses! Or, just grab a glass of your favorite!
Pay as you go (West Side): It’s Going to be Epic at The Brew Kettle, Strongsville.
Epic Brewing makes beer so good it could only be called ‘epic’. Come out for a tap takeover at the Brew Kettle, featuring some amazing hoppy brews, Belgian ales and a keg of a primo barrel-aged stout called ‘Big Bad Baptist’.
Saturday, October 22nd
Premier event: Brewzilla at the Galleria, Downtown Cleveland.
There’s only one event on Saturday that you need to be at. If you don’t already have your tickets, you should buy them this very second. That’s because the best beer tasting event of the year in Ohio is happening downtown at the Galleria. This is the grand-daddy of them all, the only one good enough to cap off the country’s best beer week on a high note. We’re talking hundreds of beers, thousands of your best beer friends, food pairings from Heinen’s and Winking Lizard and, did I mention hundreds of beers? With favorites, rarities, locals, and brewery reps everywhere, Brewzilla is a celebration you need to be a part of! I’ll see you there!!
If you don’t see an event that appeals to you in my list above, you may not like craft beer after all. Just kidding – but there are hundreds more events around town, so check out the ClevelandBeerWeek.org website and don’t let this week pass by without enjoying some craft beer. After all, Cleveland Beer Week is truly the most wonderful time of the year! I hope to see you out and about. Cheers!!
If You Enjoyed this Post, Let Me Suggest:
- Buckeye Brewing’s Cleveland Beer Week 2011 Beer Unveiled! Today we got our first look at the Buckeye Brewing Co. Cleveland Beer Week 2011 Brew - A hoppy German-style Altbier. That means it's officially time to get excited about Cleveland Beer Week!!...
- Cleveland Beer Week Preview It's time for a cold brew - the second annual Cleveland Beer Week starts today! , I've compiled a shorter list of the events I think are the best of the bunch. Hundreds of events are happening all around the area, so check out ClevelandBeerWeek.org to see what's going on in your neighborhood. Consider this the first annual 'Bobby's Picks' for Cleveland Beer Week!...