Monday, September 5, 2011

Brewery Review: Great Lakes Brewing Co. - Cleveland, OH

This was the final stop on our way home from New York. Originally we didn't have much planned after staying in Allegheny National park and Lunch at Barley Creek Brewery. However I had remembered talking to Sam at Fatheads Brewery that Great Lakes wasn't too far away. We literally drove in to Cleveland with no map/GPS/knowledge of where we were going. We stopped at a gas station, asked for directions and found we were on the opposite side of the city. A couple more stops which included one in the Flats eventually took us to where we wanted to be. After parking we decided to sit on at the outdoor patio of the brew-pub. Both James (our Server) and Bob (the supervisor) provided an exceptional experience, one that I wish every customer could experience. Because I've had many of the beers that reside on the tasting flight, I will simply direct you to the post that I've previously done. This is what I tried:

Dortmunder Gold Lager - [Haven't tried this one yet!]
Eliot Ness Amber Lager - See Review
Burning River Pale Ale - See Review
Commodore Perry IPA - See Review
Edmund Fitzgerald Porter - See Review [Pending]
The Cellar Bar
Seasonal/Brew-pub Exclusive:

The Wright Pils - See Review
Oktoberfest - Clear with and Amber color. Relatively still looking within the glass. No head present. Medium boded. Caramel malt bill with an inevitably spicy finish. Very fragrant and floral. Biscuity spiced aftertaste, certainly from the Munich malt. Finish is dry.
Conway's Irish Ale - See Review
Holy Moses White Ale - See Review
Market Street Wheat - Golden Orange with an underlying haze about it. Thin White ring of a head. Some clove at the nose along with a bit of a pungent yeastiness. Wheaty citrus sweetness in the malt bill, but not overpowering. Warming as it goes down.
Truth, Justice and the American Ale - Bright Amber. Big caramel/biscuit bill with an under-appearance of toasted malt. Spiced and crisp finish. Very well balanced. Mouthfeel is a bit heavier.

Production Line
Following our desperate attempts to find the brewery we arrived on Market Ave, a small brick street with an un-assuming traditional appeal. It borders 25th St and a few blocks of artsy/beer loving/vintage shops that somewhat reminded me of The Old Market in Omaha Nebraska. Ironically, just around the corner from the brew-pub another brewery was just recently erected. The whole area seemed to be oriented around beer! Anyway, at the end of Market Ave, resides a parking lot, that I'd assume most people would typically use it for visiting the brewery. It is surrounded by their large xx,000 ft warehouse production facility. Nevertheless, the brew-pub is located right across the street where it also takes up a large chunk of the building. All along the street they seem to have gated a large portion of the sidewalk and made it into a patio/beer garden for people to sit outside and enjoy the outdoor (market-like) environment. Inside, of which I didn't get too experience with was another wonder in and of itself. With a smaller brewhouse englassed and a wooden theme the indoor brewpub/bar was very inviting. The biggest asset this facility had was located in the basement. Beneath the streets of Cleveland, Great Lakes boasts a old cellar-bar, one that you could expect to see out of Europe in the mid 1800's. Barred off fermenters, dusty cobble stone walls (that tend to leak salt during rain and winter months from the street, so I'm told) followed by simply constructed stools and tables. I loved it! Unfortunately the time I was there was during a private party, so sitting at the bar and admiring the scene old environment wasn't an option. Back up top, we ordered the a tasting flight of the beers from above, as well as their "Local & Fresh Plate" Served with a variety of local ingredients. I was amazed at the extent this brewery was going through to cut out energy, provide their customers a sustainable, healthy meal, all while brewing fantastic beer. Their menu was choked full of a variety of local foodstuffs which ranged from Walleye from Lake Erie to seasonally available vegetable even several cows that the Brewery had invested in to be fed the spent grains from the beer only to appear back on ones plate next to the very liquid that fed their patty! I was infatuated by this. The back of the menu has a Declaration of their "Commitment to Freshness & Quality" Where they cite the farms and locations where much of the food originates. Even the No-Flush urinals in the bathroom saved the brewery 40,000 gallons of water a year.
Following the sampler and tasting flight, we split the "Fresh Veggie" Pizza which also was phenomenal!
    Following lunch Jen and I met with Bob, the supervisor. He graciously took us across the street and gave us a tour of their production facility. Starting with the bottling line which has a capacity of producing 175,000 bbls/year (I think they were at 100,000) as well as the convenient new technology they recently acquired - a machine that reduces the weight of a keg to only a couple pounds, for easy lifting.
(Much of what I saw here seemed to be one step up from Two-Brothers Brewery in Warrenville)
Next we were introduced to the Fermentation room, which had an ENORMOUS DH block filter as well as several (maybe 8?) 300 bbl fermenters! We then walked upstairs and got a brief look at the Museum room, yeast lab (my forte) as well as the brewhouse which entailed a Mash Tun, Lauter Tun, Hot Liquer tank, and brew kettle....All onion style. Apparently they have shift brewers which each take 8 hours to brew a batch, yet enough to generate beer on a consistent non-stop basis. Finally we briefly looked through the grain room and then the cold storage room, where Bob introduced me to JaberWaukee...a beer aged 7 years!
Tasted out of a sampler glass back in the Brewpub.
JaberWaukee - Amber colored and relatively clear. Still looking. Aromatic Belgian Dubbel/Tripel? No head. Funky fruity aroma. Dark roasted fruit to taste that parallels an equal, yet undertoned caramel spicing. Brettanomyces for sure! Phenolic. Some cinnamon even. Tangerine and coriander notes. A warming finish rounds it out. Honey sweetness and a drying finish. Complex as all hell. High carbonation! I'd be interested to see how it tastes warm/flat.
At the end of the experience, I thanked Bob and gave him a bunch of business cards to hand out when I eventually got this post done. We then briefly made our way to the gift shop which had a ridiculous amount of Shwag, more than I'd ever seen. I bought a couple of the recycled water bottles and a six pack of The Wright Pils. We headed home that evening.

I just wanted to say that this brewery, along with others aiming for a sustainable position in society, are the breweries that will last, defining our obligation to re-connect back with the natural we all too often exploit. Cutting energy costs, re-using, recycling and re-forging lost ties with both the community and the food that sustains us is the answer, and Great Lakes is doing a hell of a job of doing all of it where they can, Especially for their size.
Check them out:

Brewery Review:

1 comment:

  1. Surprise! hope you like the change for now. The review looks great, makes me want to make a return visit!