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The Cleveland Craft Beer Report

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A craft beer invasion is underway and Cleveland is surrounded. Breweries in all directions are bombarding our marketplace with new brews. No store shelf or tap handle is safe, and no beer fridge or beer belly will be the same after this onslaught of amazing ales and lagers.

Michigan's New Holland Brewery is celebrating Hatter Days with an arsenal of amazing adaptations of Mad Hatter IPA. The original started it all, but Imperial Hatter is a double threat with twice the hoppy goodness. White Hatter is a citrus-forward version fermented with Belgian yeast, while Farmhouse Hatter adds subtle spice notes to a hoppy Belgian base. Oak Aged Hatter has vanilla and coconut hints from time spent in barrels and the newest soldier, Michigan Hatter, features Cascade hops sourced from the Upper Peninsula. Rye Hatter's spicy snap and the subtle roast of Black Hatter round out the regiment.

If the threat from Michigan's IPA militia isn't enough, Chicago's Goose Island is approaching from the west, airdropping several specialties on Northeast Ohio. The 25th Anniversary ESB is based on a double version of Honkers Ale and is the only new offering available in bottles. Sofie Paradisi is a seductress of a saison aged in wine barrels with grapefruit—clearly the "Bond villainess" of the group. Naughty Goose is an English brown ale that leans towards malty maneuvers but scores a one-two flavor punch for the Goose flock when paired with its hoppy alter ego the Illinois Double IPA.

Out east, two Pennsylvania breweries have been flexing their fermentation firepower in preparation for entering the Cleveland marketplace for the first time. Pittsburgh's Church Brew Works and Rivertowne (not to be confused with Cincinnati's Rivertown) have begun showing up on our radar. Church Brew Works was named "Large Brewpub of the Year" at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival and plans to sell eight different bottles in Ohio, including Pious Monk Dunkel, Thunderhop IPA and Pipe Organ Pale Ale. Rivertowne's weapon of choice is the can, with fillings such as Hala Kahiki Pineapple Ale, Old Wylie's IPA and Grateful White.

All is not quiet on the southern front. Columbus-based Elevator Brewery's secret weapon, code-named Angry Goat, is about to be unleashed on unsuspecting palates. This 5.6% ABV American nut brown ale is aged for months in Woodford Reserve and Wild Turkey barrels at a 3:1 ratio. The whiskey complements the base beer but never overwhelms. The stealthy approach towards barrel aging keeps the beer appropriate for summer as hazelnut and vanilla notes compliment a crisp body. Four hundred cases were produced and four-packs should touch down in Northeast Ohio soon. Elevator also recently opened a new outpost: a tasting room at their Columbus brewery.

Despite the infiltration by outsiders, the biggest threat to tired taste buds is coming from within Cleveland's own borders. Great Lakes Brewing Company is celebrating a quarter century in business with a brand new beer called Silver & Gold IPL, filling a gap in their production schedule that had many speculating (and salivating) at the possibilities. The moniker is a nod to GLBC's rise to domination since the first batch of Dortmunder Gold and to a promise of triumph yet to come for Ohio's first craft brewery. The beer sounds delicious; the lager-style recipe is fermented with Dortmunder yeast, then generously bittered with American hops. The company store gift shop will begin selling four-packs of Silver & Gold on June 21. Cases will storm supermarket shelves the following week.

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