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Beer Cellars Opens in Uptown with a Metric Ton of Brew Options— But How Does One Make Sense of it All?

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Walk into the new Beer Cellars at Uptown in University Circle and you can't help but notice a striking similarity to the new World of Beer store that recently opened in Lakewood. An unbounded string of tap handles – in this case 40 – is flanked on either side by glowing coolers crammed full of seemingly every bottled beer known to man. Above it all is a bank of flat-screen TVs and an elevated stage from which bands perform.

The similarities are not lost on owner and Cleveland native Greg Goodrich.

"Design is often dictated by space," he explains. "There are only so many ways to lay out a store when you're trying to get 40 taps and hundreds of beers into a 3,000-square-foot space, especially when you have our characteristic open floor plan."

The Cleveland store is the fourth location for this fast-growing brand in just over two years. This week, a fifth spot opens in Illinois, and construction begins soon on the second Cleveland location, which will be part of Phase Two at Flats East Bank.

Interestingly, all of Goodrich's other locations are called The Beer Market, but here in Cleveland it's called The Beer Cellars, a concession to that other "Bier Markt" in town. "We rebranded it for the Cleveland market," admits Goodrich.

The Beer Cellars occupies a unique bullet-shaped spot in the Uptown development that enjoys near wrap-around window views. What I didn't know, considering that it's practically winter, is that all of those windows fold up and slide away, making the inside bar practically an outside bar.

In addition to the sizable bar with stools, there's a beefy T-shaped communal table in the center of the room, around which numerous high tops are scattered. Apart from the beer taps and coolers, the space is pretty sterile, adorned with the usual assortment of stock black-and-white photos and beer signs that you see at chain bars and restaurants everywhere.

Of course, if you're a craft beer geek, what's on the walls is not nearly as important as what's in the pint glass. Changes occur almost daily when it comes to the draft and bottle selection, say staffers. A seasonal approach to drafts means that pumpkin ales like Jolly Pumpkin's La Parcela sour pumpkin ale and Smuttynose's Pumpkin Ale soon will be replaced by a fresh crop of "winter warmers" and Christmas ales.

There are 10 taps that never change because those beers are used to concoct a mixture of blended beer cocktails. I was surprised to see just six out of the 40 taps reserved for Ohio breweries. There is a very small selection of wines by the glass, but there is no booze.

In the coolers, hundreds of beers are arranged by country of origin. But on the menu, they're listed by style, alphabetically. A massive index in the back that ticks off every beer listed in the previous 28 pages is of little help because none of those entries have page numbers. Odd, right? All entries – be they draft or bottle – have all the pertinent info when it comes to beer and brewery name, location, style, ABV, glassware and price. Most prices hover in the $6 to $7 range, with high-octane brews arriving in smaller glasses like snifters.

Goodrich says that bottled beer is purchased in such small quantities, often one case at a time, that freshness should never be an issue. For beers that are nearing their expiration date, specials will be devised to move them out the door.  

Like World of Beer, Beer Cellars has no kitchen and serves no food. But it has an open-door policy that allows guests to bring in their own grub or order it for delivery from nearby restaurants. That means visitors to the Uptown location have their choice of ABC Tavern, Jimmy John's, Chipotle, Panera, Wrapz and a handful of "restaurants to be announced."

Nearby restaurants stand to make a decent amount of cash, according to owner Goodrich, who reports that restaurants near other locations "ring up as much as a quarter million dollars in sales from Beer Market customers."

Goodrich is more than happy to leave the food sales to neighboring businesses because he's too busy riding a craft beer trend that shows no sign of letting up

"The craft beer market is growing like crazy; it's one of the fastest growing segments out there," he explains. "We just try to carry every local and regional beer we can get our hands on, plus unique and classic beers from around the world."

The Beer Cellars will be hosting a grand opening event on December 8.

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