Cleveland Brewery Tour – Great Lakes Brewing

Cleveland sports have not been in the news for prowess or playoffs of late, but they are in the news for draft picks and hope.  The football Browns snagged Johnny Football and the basketball Cavaliers have been granted a #1 pick do-over from last year.  But lets start with a truly great brewery for our month long visit and Great Lakes Brewing.


Great Lakes is part of the storied class of ’88 and is one of those breweries that you hear about even if you aren’t in their distribution path.  Even with that disadvantage in L.A., I have (in my travels) had the good fortune to sample a couple of their beers.  Their Dortmunder Gold lager is lovely and light.  And their famous Edmund Fitzgerald porter is a layered and flavorful beer that really pairs well with food.

But if you are visiting then I would suggest the following beers for your taster tray….

Chillwave – their Double IPA with Mosaic and Nugget hops blended together.

Glockenspiel – primarily for the awesome name but also because it is a rare Weizenbock  in a world of hops

Engine 20 – a hoppy offering with undertones of smoke

Ohio City Saison –  with ginger, lemongrass and coriander from a local farm


Craft Beer & Craft Food – another look


The Brewer’s Association and their associated Craft website came to Abbot Kinney Boulevard last Tuesday, and they brought a bevy of brewers with them from all across the country.

Why?  Because they want to show that beer should be on the dining table and cooked with at home and at restaurants.  Like the Tasting Kitchen in Venice which served up a five course meal that would change even the most light American lager buyers heart.  And certainly filled my stomach and changed my way of thinking of pairing beer with food.


The evening started with a hybrid hefe-wit canned by Karbach Brewing in Texas.  Weisse Versa took aspects from both styles and created a nice summery beer that was a great way to ease into the evening that was curated by Julia Herz from the Brewer’s Association, Chef Adam Dulye from Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco who is also the culinary consultant for the association and Chef Casey from Tasting Kitchen.

Then the first surprise was unveiled when the first course was accompanied by not one but two beers.  Usually it is one beer that is chosen to either “juxtapose” against the dish or “delve” into the flavors with a similar set in the beer.  The plan this night was to have each different beer have a hook into a different ingredient or part of the course.


The “a-ha!” example of this was the brown butter ravioli.  The Abita Amber from New Orleans tied itself to the caramelization in the pasta and added a level of malty sweetness while the Crystal Bitter from No-Li Brewhouse in Spokane, Washington attached itself to the garlic blossoms in the dish.

It also succeeded to a slightly lesser degree with the Speck and Melon with La Blonde from Ladyface and Colorado Kolsch from Steamworks.  And with the Bistecca Fiorentina paired with olive oil and two radically different IPA’s.  The Pupil from San Diego’s Societe and a Rye IPA from Harpoon in New England.

This method really showcases the variety of beer more than any expert can do in a book or that I can reiterate over and over in multiple blog posts..  The shortcoming to it is that you get full a lot quicker. Plus it also increases the complexity of choosing the beer for the chef and beer staff.  It’s hard enough with so many options available now to pick one that us opinionated beer geeks can agree on.


Food and craft beer was the focus of the evening but the side dish (as it were) was both talking to the brewers and the reps who were there and eavesdropping on them as they struck up conversations with compatriots they had and had not met before.  Each brewery was allotted time to talk about the beer that was being presented and about the brewery itself.  Though the space upstairs was loud, the opportunity to meet the head brewer at Bridgeport or talk to Mark from Great Lakes about the scene in Cleveland is priceless.  And it was great to have Cyrena from Ladyface in the house representing the Los Angeles scene.

I have been reading a history of wine and it is only within the last couple hundred of years that wine became the beverage of choice at restaurants and beer was pushed to ale houses and taverns.  And as with much of history it was more by chance and timing and economics than it was due to which would improve a meal.

Review – Deschutes & Great Lakes Class of ’88 Imperial Smoked Porter


This is one of those beers where you know what you are going to get but it still hits with a punch.  Deschutes is known for their Black Butte Porter and Great Lakes has their Edmund Fitzgerald so you know going in that this beer is in each of these breweries wheelhouse.  But then the beer pours a light cola color.  Lulling you into thinking it is not that imperial.  The aroma hints at the smoke but chocolate notes come into play as well.  Then you take a sip and the smoke descends.  This is really “rauchy”.  And that liquid smoke lingers.  You would need a big BBQ sauce to soften this beer.  Otherwise, most other foods would pale against it.

Rauch is not my cup of beer usually.  But I can tell what was being aimed for here and it was hit.  If you don’t like the smokey then this is not the beer for you but if that is a something you like then this is one to pick up.


’88 like me

The collaboration craze shows no sign of abating and I, for one, am not surprised. If brewers can be creative with malt and hops then why would that end when more industry friends are invited in.

Now Deschutes will collaborate with breweries from the Class of ’88. North CoastRogueGoose IslandGreat Lakes Brewing who have all reached the 25 year mark. This will be a series of beers honoring that joyous mark.

According to schedule the first to appear will be a barleywine in March of this year.
Then a couple months later a Smoked Imperial Porter will be released and finally a Belgian Style Strong Golden will arrive late in the year.