Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cleveland Beer Week 2012 in Review Part 1

Wow...what a week, and by week I mean 9 days!  When Cleveland Beer Week rolls around, I come up with a plan for each and every night.  In this "Part 1" post, I plan to share with you what events I took part in during the first 5 days and my thoughts about the events.  I hope you enjoyed your Cleveland Beer Week as much as I did!

Friday the 19th--Winking Lizard Bedford and the Tremont Collaboration Crawl
Cleveland Beer Week started out for us with a very quick stop at Winking Lizard Bedford for a few pints of the Founders Harvest Ale cask!  This beer is so tasty when fresh, I have never had the cask version before, and it was every bit as good, if not better than the bottle!
Founders Harvest Ale Cask
Some CCBC Members getting ready to Crawl!
After this quick stop, we attended the Tremont Collaboration Crawl with many other craft beer lovers from the Cleveland Craft Beer Community.   The event led us to Southside to start, and we had a chance to try two of the collaboration beers.  The first collaboration beer was from Fat Head's and Chardon and was called CuyaHawga Smoked Maple Bacon Stout. This beer was ok because it was not overly smoky, but it lacked the body that I would attribute to a stout.  The Maple portion of it really didn't come through though as much as I would have liked.
The left overs of Tall Boy
The next brew we had was made by Market Garden, Indigo Imp, and Rocky River called Tallboy Wet-Hopped Brown Ale. Unfortunately, this beer was past its prime and the Wet-Hopped portion of this beer was not fresh. Many of us left our beers at Southside and then proceed on to our next stop, which was Fat Cats.  At Fat Cats we had the Thirsty Dog, Cornerstone, and Lager Heads Belgian style Dubble with plums.  I found this beer to be good, just not my favorite of the night.  After Fat Cats, we took a stroll down to Edison's Pub where we had the Buckeye Brewing, Ohio Brewing, and Black Box Nut Brown Ale with Maple Syrup.  Unfortunately, a large group of us didn't care for this one either due to a slight cardboard flavor, so off to Flying Monkey we went! At Flying Monkey we had the chance to try the Great Lakes and Cellar Rats Wet-Hopped Pale Ale.  I personally thought this was the best beer of the night, and many of the people I asked about it agreed! The beer had a very fresh hoppy flavor and was well balanced with no hint of the ABV.   Our last stop of the night landed us at the Tremont Taphouse for the Brew Kettle and Willoughby Brewing: Reinheits Kaput!, a hoppy hellesbock.  This beer was clean and very easy to drink and came in a close 2nd in my book.  The best part about this evening, besides the beers, was by far the fun we had as a large group bar hopping around Tremont.  The social nature of this event really made it fun, even despite a few poor brews and some rainy weather!  Also, Cheers to the Cleveland Beer Week organizers for making a feature event around our great area craft brewers.  This was a suggestion I made last year because I felt by only having them at BREWzilla, they sort of got lost in the shuffle.   I thought, and so did many others, that this was a great improvement!
As fun as it was, there were some areas that should be improved next year. First, the crowd. Having this event on a Friday night meant normally busy bars were now absurdly packed with people. The first 3 stops on our trip took forever to get beers and were so packed you could not move without bumping someone and spilling your beer. I feel as if the bars were not prepared for the abnormally large crowd.  If this event happens on a Friday next year, I think a good way to fix this problem would be to designate an area of the bar for ticket holders to stand and be served. This would eliminate both of the previously mentioned issues.  Three hours sounds like a long time to get 6 beers, but honestly we had to rush at the last two stops just to complete the crawl in the 3 hour time frame!
View from the back of the bar at Southside...PACKED!
View of Downtown from Fat Cats Patio
Saturday the 20th--Fat Heads Brunch, Lizardville Rocky River, and The Brew Kettle
After a long night on Friday, we slept in a bit before heading to Fat Head's for the Victory Brunch.  While at Fat Head's, we had the chance to meet the head Brewer for Victory Beer, Bill Covaleski!  The Victory/Fat Heads Collaboration beer called United was simply great.  The style of beer was very interesting too, a wet hopped pilsner.  It was great to have a chance to talk with Matt Cole of Fat Heads and Bill from Victory about how they worked together to brew this very tasty beer!  They explained how they had to really compromise with each other since Matt is a huge hop head and Bill knows pilsners like the back of his hand!  If you see this brew around town still, give it a try on a fresh palate.
Fat Heads & Victory United
After a very tasty brunch (I had waffle and sausage sliders which were delicious by the way) and beers at Fat Heads we headed over to Lizardville in Rocky River for the first time.  We kept it pretty simple and had a few sour brews with friends before heading to our final stop for the day/night, The Brew Kettle.  At 5pm they tapped an amazingly tasty keg of 2010 Bell's Expedition Stout.  It was so tasty I just had to have two pours with our good friends Bill and Renee!  At this point we decided to head home a bit early since Friday night was rough, and I knew we had an early start on Sunday.
A tasty sour at Lizardville Rocky River
2010 Bells Expedition Stout 
Sunday the 21st--Tremont Tap House and Culture Yourself
One of my favorite Cleveland Beer Week rituals is attending the Victory Browns Watch Party!  We arrived at The Tremont Taphouse around 11am and proceeded to have some Victory Brews such as the fresh Harvest Pilsner, and the D-town Brown which was on cask.  After having a few brews, we had to depart to head to an event I was really looking forward to, Culture Yourself.

The 2011 Culture Yourself was held at Market Garden in one session.  Long story short, the event was way over crowded and it made the event impossible for me to enjoy.  The 2012 Cleveland Beer Week organizers decided to make some changes.  First, they moved the event to Great Lakes Brewing. Second, they broke the event up into two sessions.  Upon entering the event, it was clear that the space was larger than the previous year.  The entire time we were there, 2-4 pm, we never felt cramped or even had to wait more than a few second to get a beer and cheese sample.  The smaller crowd and bigger environment allowed us the chance to talk with both the cheese and beer servers.  This educational experience was excellent and I have to say, this was the best premier event of the entire week. I really appreciated how every brewery had some sort of representation  as did the cheese-mongers  Also, Cheers again to the Cleveland Beer Week Organizers for listening to the feedback that myself and many others gave about last years event.  This year was a vast improvement! That being said, if I had to make one change, I would have the beer and cheese pairings actually together at one station, rather than having all of the beer around the outskirts and the cheese in the center. This would enable the beer reps and the cheese reps to work together more effectively together.  It would also allow them to collaborate on other suggestions around the room more easily.
Culture Yourself
So, what did I like? I had too many cheese and beer pairings to list every single one, so my top five favorites were:
  1. Hoppin' Frog Cafe Silk Porter with Oregon Blue by Rogue Creamery
  2. Brew Kettle White Rajah with Heinen's Hand Selected Cheddar by Maple Leaf Cheese
  3. Market Garden Centennial IPA with SarVecchio Parmesan by Sartori (The Centennial was the best I've ever had it!)
  4. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot with Beemster XO
  5. Bells Oarsman with Cognac Fig from Mackenzie
Brew Kettle White Rajah with Maple Leaf Cheddar
Market Garden Cententiall IPA with SarvVecchio Parmesan
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot with Beemster XO
Monday the 21st--Oskar Blues and Sensory Evaluation Night at Willoughby Brewing
On Monday we made our way up to Willoughby Brewing around 6 pm for Oskar Blues tapping.  I feel this was an important event for our craft beer market because it would be the first time that Oskar Blues was officially distributed and tapped in Ohio!  On top of that, the head brewer, Dave Chichura, would be in the house to officially kick off the event.  He took the time to talk with many of the people in attendance was very excited to be in Ohio. In the picture to your right, you will see the six different brews that were on tap, and that will be on shelves in Ohio from now on when available! (Ten Fidy is a seasonal imperial stout, and is amazing fresh and with age on it!) I had a chance to sample all 6 beers quickly before I had to move on to the next event, the Sensory Evaluation Night.  For this event, I asked to take on a different role since I attended as a participant last year.  Rick Seibt, Head of Brewing at Willoughby Brewing, was kind enough to let me help with the event.  It was fun to watch a packed room of participants taste and learn about off flavors in beer. In addition to learning about off flavors, BJCP National Beer Judge Paul Shick and BJCP Certified Beer Judge and Certified Cicerone Rick Seibt walked participants through the process of tasting beer and how to use all of your senses when trying a beer.  Don't worry, they also encouraged pulling up a chair to a bar and just enjoying a tasty brew too!  I highly encourage anyone looking to learn more about beer tasting and judging to attend this event next year.
From left to right: Dales Pale Ale, Yella Pils, Old Chub Scotch Ale, Ten Fidy Impy Stout, G'Knight Impy Red, and Deviant Dales IPA
On the Left: Rick Seibt of Willoughby, on the Right: Dave Chichura of Oskar Blues
Tuesday the 22nd--Willoughby Brewing Cask Night
Last year during Cleveland Beer week we also attended Cask Night at Willoughby Brewing with a group of friends.  This year, those same great friends decided we wanted to do it again since we had a blast last year...oh, and the beers were amazing too!  This year on cask there was a Dry Hoped Cosmic IPA with Galaxy Hops, Cosmic IPA with Habanero, Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter with Cocoa Nibs, and a Double Dry Hopped Aramis Pale Ale.  First, the Dry Hopped Cosmic was outstanding.  This beer just won 1st place at the Fat Heads IPA fest for a reason, and the cask version was amazing.  The habanero version was tasty, but the heat of the peppers didn't come through enough for my tastes.  The PBCP with Cocoa Nibs was out of this world, and probably one of the best beers I had during the entire Cleveland Beer Week.  The standard pub version of this beer is outstanding, but this cask version with the cocoa took the flavors up another notch.  The bold cocoa and coffee flavors was abundant and very much welcomed by everyone who tried it.   Next year you should put this event on your must attend list!

If you also attended any of these events please share your thoughts on them.  
1. What did you like?
2. What would you improve?

Well, the first 5 days of my 2012 Cleveland Beer Week are in the books!  I had an amazing time. Just wait until you read about my final 4 days!  Part 2 is now up live!  It includes a recap of events such as Columbus Brewing Night at the Taphouse, Bell's Black Note at Edison's, Fat Heads Beer dinner with Stone and Mitch Steele, Big Lebowski Bowling at Lizard Lanes, and finally my thoughts on BREWzilla!

For more information on craft beer in Cleveland and to chat with other craft beer enthusiasts join our Cleveland Craft Beer Community Facebook Page. Also, you can follow me on twitter @CleFoodandBrews and on my Facebook Page.  Cheers!!


  1. CBW 2012 was a little toned down compared to last year simply because I spend more time drinking great beers at home (via BA trading) and I did not attend Brewzilla. For me, my friends and I started at Lizardville West where I enjoyed an Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout followed by Troegs Flying Mouflan BW. On Friday night, my gf and I were downtown for a wedding where we consumed my second Heady Topper of the week. Following the wedding, a few of us went to Pickwick for their Goose Island specials. The bartender hooked us up with multiple styles of GI glassware as I consumed a GI Imperial IPA which was awesome. Saturday and Sunday last week was spent in the confines family homes and at John's Cafe in DTW where Icontinued with Stella, Bell's Best Brown Ale, Victory Dark Intrigue, Sierra Nevada Tumbler, Lawson's Finest Liquids Hopzilla and Founder's Centennial IPA. On Monday, we ventured to Southside for the DFH Tower Tipper where several 75min and 90min IPAs were consumed. The night continued as we traveled over to Ohio City's Nano Brew where i was delighted by the Fat Head's/Victory Collaboration United Ale. Tuesday night was spent at The Brew Kettle. There, I consumed Boulder Flashback on nitro followed by a glass of '10 Bell's Expedition. I then went to TBK on Wednesday night for the Finch's release, which was quiet and only represented by a regional sales rep that I was able to converse with regarding good beers and such. The Finch beers aren't anything exciting but i did try the full sampler that included Fascist Pig, Golden Wing, Cut Throat APA, and Threadless IPA. Also, I sampled The Fear from Flying Dog, there version of an imperial pumpkin ale followed by a glass of Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA. Then that was followed by a glass of Founder's Breakfast. MMMMMM!!!! I took it easy on Thursday and busted open a 2011 GLBC Christmas Ale. Against the recommedations of the brewery(good by date of 03/2012), I decided to cellar a whole case of this brew alongside a full case of Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas. Surprisingly, the XMAS ale was still good but the bite, spice and alcohol were subdued which I didn't mind. Can't wait to try the Thirsty Dog 2011. Friday night was also at home where I went through some beers I received from Texas. These included Karbach Weisse Versa Wheat and Hopadillo IPA. Karbach cans their beers so both were poured into appropriate glassware. Unfortunately, you could taste the metallic-like flavors of being in cans. Oh well. These were followed by better beers in Cigar City Jai Alai IPA and Terrapin Rye Squared. Saturday morning was a day of work around the house. The lunch break consisted of Five Guys and a 22oz bomber of Stone Ruination. The evening of the last day of CBW, I finished off my Texas brews (St Arnold Elissa IPA and Real Ale Rio Blanco Pale Ale). The final beer of the week was one that I have had since CBW 2011 and couldn't wait to open...North Coast Old Rasputin XII. Simply awesome RIS with booziness that lingered despite being a few years old. Can't wait til next year's CBW! Cheers!!!

  2. Beer week sounds different and being part of such kind of event is quite different experience and every person would likely to be interested to join such kind of party to feel relax.



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