Beer Tour

We can appreciate anyone dedicated to their craft — especially these 19 Northeast Ohio breweries.


Cleveland's microbrewing movement started here 25 years ago, with Patrick and Daniel Conway concocting their familiar fleet of beers in seven-barrel batches inside their historic restaurant. Great Lakes sailed past microbrewery status in the late '90s and now its brewing plant a block away produces around 132,000 barrels annually for customers as far away as Minnesota and North Carolina. Today, the original brewing system produces small-batch beers available only on the brewpub's rotating taps, including a Presidents Day beer based on a founding father's brewing formula: the Woodtooth Porter (George Washington's molasses porter) or the Thomas Jeffe-Weizen, a wheat ale. Drink This: Eliot Ness Amber Lager ($5/draft). 2516 Market Ave., Cleveland, 216-771-4404,

The BREW KETTLE est. 1995

What originally started as both the Ringneck Brewing Co. and the Brew Kettle in 1995 expanded six years later to a larger location and eventually became known as just the Brew Kettle. Keeping its popular brew-on-premise concept, it added a restaurant and a production brewery churning out seven year-round favorites such as White Rajah and seven seasonals, including Winter Warmer. Be sure to try one of the brewery's pale ales, which are crafted using special equipment created in-house to infuse more hop aroma and flavor without increasing the bitterness, says founder Chris McKim. Drink This: Old 21 Imperial IPA ($9.99/four-pack). 8377 Pearl Road, Strongsville, 440-239-8788,

Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. est. 1997

The Akron-based brewery housed in the 150-year-old former home of Burkhardt Brewing Co. has quickly become the second most popular brand in Northeast Ohio with six-packs in most grocery stores and kegs tapped at almost any beer bar worth its cocktail napkins. After adding new equipment in 2011 to meet demand, Thirsty Dog added more fermenters, a new bottling line and a new kegging unit to up its capacity to 25,000 barrels a year. But despite the growth, ingredients such as honey are still locally sourced. Drink This: Raspberry Ale ($4/draft). 529 Grant St., Akron, 330-252-2739,

Ohio Brewing Co. est. 1997

Chris Verich and his brother, Michael, had some experience in politics before they got into beer. It came in handy when the duo helped shape legislation aimed at eliminating the $3,900 state fee to open tasting rooms at breweries. The bill passed, and today Ohio Brewing Co. visitors can pull up a stool inside the Akron brewhouse, just a few feet away from the 15-barrel brewing system that produces more than 2,000 barrels each year. "We try to make a beer for the average person who wants to drink a micro-beer, but they're reticent about how strong it's going to be," he says. Drink This: Ohiofest ($8.99/six-pack). 451 S. High St., Suite B, Akron, 330-252-8004,

buckeye brewing Co. est. 1997

Garin Wright graduated college and wanted to do something different. So he and his father Robert started a brewery. "We do things that some people would think are wacky," says Wright. While the duo uses a single brew kettle to make four year-round beers and four seasonals, they are most known for one-off brews. "Once it's gone, it's gone," says Wright. Their latest, Warm Fuzzy, is a sweeter tropical stout that can be found at bottle shops such as Rozi's Wine House or at Buckeye Beer Engine. Drink This: Buckeye Hippie IPA ($5.99/22-ounce bottle). 9985 Walford Ave., Cleveland, 216-281-5347,

Willoughby Brewing Co. est. 1998

As the first brewpub in Lake County, this brewery, housed in an old trolley car repair facility, always offers five year-round styles and two seasonals (this month look for its 15th anniversary double IPA and an Irish stout). Putting out 1,000 barrels a year, the brewery pays special attention to its pale ales, striving for a hoppier flavor than other IPAs. In fact, Willoughby Brewing's Cosmic IPA beat out more than 30 other entries to win Fat Head's 2012 IPA Challenge. Drink This: Rusty Rail Pale Ale ($4.25/draft). 4057 Erie St., Willoughby, 440-975-0202,

Rocky River Brewing Co. est. 1998

Punchin' the Nuts, the peanut butter lager brewed three times a year at Rocky River Brewing Co., tastes like the hand-cracked nuts once served at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Made with a blend of U.S., German, English and Belgium malts, it's just one of the eight specialty flavors the brewery keeps on tap. Rocky River Brewing Co., which produces 500 barrels a year, makes all its beers on location using its six fermenters and six serving tanks. To ensure consistency, brewmaster Jim Lieb keeps detailed records of temperatures, times and grain texture in a handwritten notebook that goes back four years. The only way to enjoy these time-tasted beers is to come to the restaurant — Rocky River Brewing Co. doesn't bottle any of its brews. Drink This: Punchin' the Nuts ($4.50/draft). 21290 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River, 440-895-2739,

The Cornerstone Brewing Co. est. 2004

Owner Roy Blalock and brewmaster Jay Cox listen to their customers. The duo took note and changed the seasonal Erie Blue, with its hints of raspberry and blackberry, to a permanent fixture in the production process after rave reviews. "We can't run out of it or people are upset with us," says Blalock. As the mastermind behind the brews, Cox keeps the suds flowing by cranking out 500 barrels per year, mainly at Cornerstone's Berea location. (You can find its second location in Madison.) "Everything is a creative process, even beer," says Cox. Drink This: Rowan ($4/draft). 58 Front St., Berea, 440-239-9820,

Hoppin' Frog Brewery est. 2006

Fred Karm uses a custom-size mash tun (German for "pot") to produce every batch of beer he sells. It's bigger than a typical tun, holding more than 400 gallons of water for each 300-gallon batch, which allows him to process more grain — and therefore more flavor — into each brew. It explains why the word "hop" appears in the brewery name and why his brewers stir every 10-barrel batch of unfiltered beer by hand. Drink This: B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout ($8.99/22-ounce bottle). 1680-F E. Waterloo Road, Akron, 330-352-4578,

Cellar Rats Brewery est. 2008

"The term 'cellar rat' is actually a form of endearment," says Tony Debevc, self-proclaimed cellar rat, head brewer and co-owner of Cellar Rats Brewery. Debevc spends six days a week in the dark cellar where he produces 900 gallons of beer twice a week. The brewery, on-site at Debonne Vineyard, is the second in the U.S. to ferment beer using well water. This adds to its character, creating a richer, more robust — or as Debevc calls it — "beefier" flavor. Drink This: Rat Tail Ale ($4/draft). 7840 Doty Road, Madison, 440-466-3485,


Joseph Kearns brews up to 18 different varieties of beer throughout the year from the second-story landing of one of the oldest buildings in Portage County. Built in 1804 by the founder of Garrettsville, the former gristmill survived a 1940s fire and now serves as a microbrewery and pub overlooking Silver Creek. Each unfiltered brew goes through a 21-day fermentation process, leaving every glass with a more full-bodied taste. Drink This: Main Street Joe ($4/draft). 8148 Main St., Garrettsville, 330-527-3663,


Matt Chappel still personally brews his trio of year-round beers, even if he has had to hire some part-time bottling help. "I'm still there almost every day of the week," he says. His approach of fermenting his beers in open, steel milk tanks has garnered fans and pushed annual production to 600 barrels — about triple his first year. Since then, seasonal four-packs are part of his lineup and a new tasting bar is open Friday afternoons. Drink This: Blonde Bombshell ($9.99/six-pack). 3615 Superior Ave., Suite 4201B, Cleveland, 216-881-0650,

Fat Heads Brewery est. 2009

Although Fat Heads started in Pittsburgh, the brewery opened its North Olmsted location in 2009 and joined forces with local brewmaster Matt Cole. It's where Cole and his team produce 25 to 30 different beers per year, including its Head Hunter IPA, which was named one of the top 25 beers by Draft Magazine in 2010. To keep up with demand, Fat Heads opened a manufacturing facility in Middleburg Heights last year, allowing for the mass-production of seven of its beers, while a new tasting room and hourly factory tours will open by the end of this month. Drink This: Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale ($4.50/draft). 24581 Lorain Road, North Olmsted, 440-801-1001,


Mike Nedrow, a commercial pilot by trade, had been brewing at home for 15 years before deciding to open Chardon BrewWorks to share his creations with as many people as possible. In true nanobrewery form, Nedrow brews only one keg — about half a barrel — at a time. With six year-round beers and 20 seasonals, Nedrow and his crew pump out about 150 barrels a year. The brewery and restaurant, situated in picturesque downtown Chardon, pays homage to its roots by using only Geauga County maple syrup in its always-available, rich-tasting porter. Drink This: Pride of Geauga Maple Porter ($5.50/draft). 205 Main St., Chardon, 440-286-9001,

Little Mountain Brewing Co. est. 2010

Owner Bob Weber and his assistant make 12 batches of beer a week in six 15-gallon kettles at this small strip-mall nanobrewery and brew-on-premise spot. The process allows them to rotate inventory more frequently and produce a selection of 17 brews that ranges from American and India pale ales to a chocolate stout and melon-flavored summer shandy. Ten are on tap in the tasting room to enjoy on site or take home in a growler. Others — particularly higher-alcohol varieties such as the Belgian Tripel and Russian Imperial Stout — are sold by the bottle or four-pack. Drink This: Rampant Lion ($3.75/draft). 9374 Chillicothe Road, Kirtland, 440-256-1645,

Lager HeadS Brewing Co. est. 2010

Any brew to come out of Lager Heads Brewing Co. must meet one criteria — it's got to taste great with the smoked meats served up at Lager Heads Smokehouse. Brewing started as a basement hobby for Matt and Jon Kiene before launching their 1,000-barrel-a-year brewery in 2010. They spitball new beers while drinking other microbrews with hunting buddies, hatching ideas for distinctive flavors such as a smoked black lager and an alcoholic root beer that they are currently testing. Drink This: Barnburner Lager ($9.99/six-pack). 2832 Abbeyville Road, Medina, 330-725-1947,

Market Garden Brewery est. 2011

Brewmaster Andy Tveekrem is not aiming to overwhelm you with hops. He's shooting to impress you with depth. Market Garden typically has no less than a dozen of its own beers on tap. The on-site brewery's 1,600 barrels a year include some high-alcohol, high-hop beers, but also several "session beers" — brews with 5.5 percent ABV or less, so you can have a few in a sitting. The light-bodied St. Emeric's Stout, for instance, is nitrogen-pumped like Guinness. Drink This: Boss Amber Lager ($5/draft). 1947 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-621-4000,

THe BottleHouse Brewing Co. est. 2012

Brian Benchek and Dave Schubert opened their Heights-area location with the original plan of morphing into a brew-on-premise place. But the spot quickly gained popularity for its pints of small-batch beers and community-centric bar vibe. Today, the pair produces about nine barrels a week from among their 27 styles of beer, including a holiday gingerbread porter and the Confusion Ale that combines ale and lager yeasts. Drink This: Red Giant ($6/draft). 2050 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-214-2120,

Nano Brew Cleveland est. 2012

Nano Brew is even smaller than your typical nanobrewery. Every Friday, it makes a firkin of beer, a 10-gallon batch in a traditional English hand-pumped keg. Andy Tveekrem, brewmaster here and at Market Garden Brewery, calls Nano a place to experiment. "It's just a way to play around, have some fun with different ingredients, different processes," he says. Nano typically has four homebrews among its 24 taps and its most popular beers can graduate to Market Garden. Drink This: Nano Midnight Express ($4.50/draft). 1859 W. 25th St., Cleveland, 216-862-6631,

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