Yes, that’s a pint of beer on our cover.
Beautiful, isn’t it? A full head, rising bubbles, colors that drift from cream to amber to yellow-gold. Our “Best of Cleveland” brew is no ordinary beer.
Maybe you missed it at first glance, but our glass has history — not just suds — as its inspiration.
(No, I have not indulged in a few too many draughts while working on this issue. Though, apparently, our city has a bit of a problem with overindulgence; City Life)
Cleveland has always been a beer town. And for a time, P.O.C. was this town’s beer.
Our updated version — B.O.C., the Best of Cleveland — is a loving nod to the Pilsener Brewing Co.’s signature beverage, and its 1950s label.
But our love of beer started well before then. During the city’s growth in the 1870s, Cleveland was home to almost 30 breweries, according to Carl H. Miller’s rich history, “Breweries of Cleveland.”
Maybe it’s our Eastern European roots, our industrial heritage or our great location on the lake, which provided access to cheap grain and plentiful ice during our harsh winters.
“Once there were breweries all over the city, and the pungent smell of malt and hops wafted high on the breeze, putting a dreamy look on the faces of all who had strength to inhale,” wrote Cleveland historian George Condon in a 1971 Plain Dealer article that Miller picks up in his book.
Pilsener Brewing Co. was founded in 1892 and, by 1915, had a three-story facility at Clark Avenue and West 65th Street.
“P.O.C” first appeared in 1907 as a slogan for its Extra Pilsener Beer. The exact meaning of P.O.C. was intentionally fuzzy. Pilsener even ran a “P.O.C. Guessing Contest” to end the debate. It didn’t.
While the company suggested the origin may have been “Pilsener of Cleveland,” many people commonly referred to the beer as “Pride of Cleveland” — which it was.
“That was my father’s beer,” a colleague quipped when he first saw the cover hanging up in my office. “When I was little, I thought that’s how you spelled beer.”
During the 1950s, he wasn’t the only one. P.O.C. became the city’s best-seller in 1953, overtaking local favorites Leisy’s Light and Erin Brew.
Yet its reign was relatively short. Just a decade later, the Pilsener Brewing Co. capped its final bottle, bowing to the popularity of national brands and the shifting interests of its parent company.
Still, the P.O.C. brand endured. It was produced in Pittsburgh for a time, then sold and returned to Cleveland, where it was made in the former Carling brewery on Quincy Avenue.
When C. Schmidt and Sons closed that plant in 1984, leaving the city without a brewery for the first time in more than 150 years, P.O.C. held on — finally succumbing two years later.
The microbrew boom of the ’90s even revived P.O.C. in 1999, but it disappeared again faster than a pint on St. Patrick’s Day.
So why allude to a beer that’s been gone for most of the past 20 years on the cover?
Well, because we like beer. Because Cleveland’s rich brewing history is worthy of the Best of Cleveland. And because the “Pride of Cleveland” slogan says it well: There’s a lot to be proud of here.
So we’ve highlighted 65 of our favorites — everything from a place to brew your own beer to German brats (which probably would go great with a P.O.C.) to a place to pimp your ride (which probably doesn’t).
And this year, our readers have selected winners in 45 other categories, including their favorite sports heroes, news anchors and neighborhood hot spots.
But even at 110 categories, there’s a lot more to drink in. You can be a part of our first-ever Best of Cleveland party, Oct. 12 from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
For ticket information, call (216) 771-2833 ext. 149 or visit www.clevelandsbestof.com.