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The Cleveland Craft Beer Report

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Fat Heads recently made national beer news with an unprecedented announcement. The Cleveland-based brewery celebrated four years of business by revealing that a new brewpub is in the works—not in Akron, Toledo or even Cincinnati, but in Portland...Portland, Oregon! Does this mean Fat Heads is on its way to becoming a chain? Not exactly. The owners feel the time is right to establish a West Coast presence and Portland's beer culture is a perfect match for Fat Heads' flavorful and vibrant flagship brews. Head brewer Matt Cole spent the Memorial Day weekend in Stumptown surveying the competitive landscape and overseeing the beginning of renovations. The 10-barrel brewhouse should open next year in the lively Pearl district.  The biggest challenge ahead is sticking out in a market with more than 55 brewpubs, including some heavy hitters like Deschutes, Cascade, Bridgeport, Rogue and Hair of the Dog. While Fat Heads PDX takes shape, Cleveland craft-beer lovers thirsty for fresh-brewed Head Hunter IPA can look forward to the new production brewery tasting room in Middleburgh Heights, which will finally open in the next few weeks. Another brewpub in Columbus still is being considered, but might take a backseat to the Portland outpost.

In other Fat Heads news, two newly formulated "benevolent beers" are finishing fermentation and set to debut this month. Inspiration Ale IPA, brewed with a blend of experimental hops, was created to support research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). One dollar of each pint of Inspiration Ale will be donated to ALS Therapy Development Institute. The second, Trailhead APA, is a hop-forward spin on the classic American Pale Ale style, featuring juicy citrus and dank pine notes from Simcoe and Citra hops. A portion of the proceeds from every pint, growler and keg of Trailhead sold will support the Cleveland Metroparks and projects to improve the all-purpose trails that crisscross the Cuyahoga County parks. While the charitable aspect of this beer is fantastic, perhaps the biggest news is the possibility of a format change for Fat Heads: Cole says he is considering canning next year. Other upcoming beers include Nukeproof Wheat Wine, Peppercorn Tripel and Fuzzy Wuzzy Apricot Wheat. Finally, a collaboration with Colorado's Breckenridge Brewery is planned for late summer, with bottles available during October's Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

Speaking of GABF, Akron's Hoppin' Frog has come up with another spin on the Gold Medal-winning B.O.R.I.S. (Bodacious Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout). Bairille Aois B.O.R.I.S. is aged in Irish whiskey barrels. The name is an ode to barrel aging, and the result should have both Irish and non-Irish eyes smiling. According to the brewery, a "cleaner, crisper whiskey character is imparted from very special Irish whiskey barrels to add a super smooth, buttery, complex character." Look for a release in the next month.

Hoppin' Frog neighbors Thirsty Dog also are getting in on the barrel-aged action. Several highly acclaimed barrel-aged Thirsty Dog offerings have appeared on tap at special events, but the two most sought-after have finally been bottled. After 11 months of aging in premium bourbon barrels, Barrel Aged Siberian Night Stout and Wulver Wee Heavy were packaged in gold-foil 12-ounce bottles, grouped in four packs and sent across Thirsty Dog's distribution area. More than 400 cases of each beer were produced and are selling fast. Barrel Aged Siberian Night showcases the chocolate and roasted malt characteristics of the original but also features great vanilla and oak layers. Head brewer Tim Rastetter is particularly proud of Wulver, which was previously referred to simply as "Barrel Aged Wee Heavy." The 12-percent ABV monster is packed with caramel and smooth bourbon flavors.

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