Another glorious day to focus on beer in Cleveland. I made three stops after work this evening–two in Strongsville and one closer to home on the East Side.
My first stop was Heinen’s grocery store–for a mere 25-cents they’re offering tastes of fine craft beers, all week long, as a part of their sponsorship of Cleveland Beer Week. The offering at this particular store today was Ommegang–a Hennepin Saison farmhouse ale, and an Abbey Ale. Since I only had a sip of each, I can’t say if I truly liked them or not–I think I need a whole glass to decide. But my first impression of each style was favorable. It was time to move on down the road for the main event.
I had planned on going to the Brew Kettle in Strongsville because they were tapping the Sierra Nevada Jack & Ken’s 30th Anniversary Ale, a black barley wine honoring Jack for pioneering craft brewing in the U.S. I haven’t seen too many instances of Jack & Ken’s on the week’s calendar of events. Also, I’d never been to the Brew Kettle, so I thought it would be a good place to quaff something celebratory on a Tuesday night.
I’d met Brew Kettle owner Chris McKim once, at a brewmaster’s dinner at the Great Lakes Brewing Company, several years before. Great Lakes finished the meal with Chris as the guest brewer, and he offered a very tasty beer to go with dessert. Shortly thereafter, my husband Paul interviewed Chris on his radio show, Cleveland Business Radio, highlighting local businesses and entrepreneurs. So it was nice seeing him again when I visited tonight.
Chris has an amazing operation. To look at the place from the outside, you’d think it was just another bar. But make no mistake, the Brew Kettle is special. Homebrewers make their own batches of beer there–and you need a good year’s advance notice to get a reservation. A year! There is also a winemaking operation. And then there’s the bar/brewery and restaurant. Great concept. Paul and I are going to have to try our hand at batch there sometime.
Gathered around the bar were several of the Sierra Nevada reps, and they offered me a nice brandy snifter pour of the Jack & Ken’s, and we talked craft beer for a while. One of these days I really have to get up to Chico, California and tour the SN brewery.
Because the black barley wine is so strong (10% ABV), a small sifter was plenty to taste, and I took my leave with one more stop in mind. Keeping with the Sierra Nevada theme, I hit the Winking Lizard in Bedford, where they had tapped a very special keg of vintage 2001 Bigfoot barley wine. (Note the use of the crappy Coors Lite coaster in my photo, not really worthy of resting such a fine craft beer upon.) Wow–was that a strong assault to the senses! But it was a nice rich beer that smoothed out as I sipped. My companion at the bar was a lovely woman named Rita. She wasn’t afraid to try the big beer, and she said she enjoyed it as well. Rita and I shared some of the Lizard’s famed wings, conversation about men and children and jobs, Cleveland sports (LeWho?), and life in general. All of the things you’re supposed to enjoy with your beer.
Get ready for Wednesday, Cleveland Beer fans!