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The Cleveland Craft Beer Report

Stouts, ales, and a new brewery on E. 4th

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Even if one doesn't hail from the Emerald Isle, most of us want an Irish-inspired beer for Saint Patrick's Day. You already know to steer clear of green-tinted American Adjunct Lager masquerading as a proper holiday beer. But did you know Guinness, Beamish, Murphy's, Porterhouse, Smithwick's and Harp aren't the only legitimate choices for Gaelic themed gatherings? Several Cleveland area breweries offer tasty interpretations of two uniquely Irish styles of beer: and Irish dry stouts boast moderate hoppiness hidden behind roasted malt feature a lighter mouthfeel than most dark beers. Great Lakes brews an excellent brewpub exclusive called Wolfhound Stout. Willoughby's Last Stop Stout steps up the flavor with delicious hints of roast and chocolate while Thirsty Dog Stud Service Stout packs a ton of taste in a 3.1% ABV package. If you go with an Irish red ale, be prepared for a well-rounded, medium-bodied beer with perfect hop, sweet malt and toasted-grain balance. Great Lakes makes the best Irish red in America -- Conway's Irish Ale -- but that hasn't stopped others from getting in on the action. Fat Heads has St. Fatty's Day, a nice introduction to the style, while Willoughby Wild Irish Red, Buckeye Redhead and Thirsty Dog Irish Setter Red all deliver on the promise of flavor and drinkability. We may not all be Irish, but with great beers like these, we are truly lucky!

Great Lakes, Cleveland's oldest craft brewery, might have hit a homerun with its latest bottled seasonal release Alchemy Hour Double IPA. But despite glowing reviews and brisk sales, I've learned that there is only a slim chance that Alchemy Hour will be returning next year. Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon, owns a trademark for use of the word "Alchemy" in relation to beer. Widmer brews a Pale Ale named Alchemy, has a lineup of cellarable beers called the Alchemy Series, and even uses a proprietary hop strain called Alchemy. Thus, my sources report, Great Lakes will need to avoid using the word in future releases. Hopefully, this delicious offering will be subtlety rebranded for a speedy return next year. This beer by any name, in my opinion, is a home run for our hometown heroes.

There are a couple new breweries in the works for Cleveland. Details are slowly emerging about one particularly exciting development. Facebook pages and website splash pages for Butcher & The Brewer restaurant and Cleveland Brewing Company are live. The address for these establishments, it is widely known, is on E. 4th Street, in the spaces previously filled by Dredger's Union clothing store and the adjacent property. While specifics around ownership and operational details are being kept close to the vest for now, the Tremont Tap House did debut a house beer under the Butcher & The Brewer moniker at last fall's Cleveland Beer Week. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if our deductions are accurate.

Finally this week, I want to recognize an individual who has played a crucial role in the growth of Cleveland craft beer. On February 28th, The Brew Kettle's Founder Chris McKim announced a new partnership with outside management to help streamline the pub, improve operations, and expand the brand. Is this change good for Cleveland craft beer? Since the move frees up McKim to focus on the production brewery, his true passion, the answer clearly is 'yes.' The Brew Kettle has played a huge part in the evolution of our beer scene and deserves our continued support. This week, I raise my glass to McKim and the entire Brew Kettle staff. Thank you for many years of great beers, and here's to many more to come! Sláinte!

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