While many Clevelanders mourn the passing of summer, craft beer connoisseurs look forward to the falling of the leaves. After all, October signifies the imminent arrival of Cleveland Beer Week. Now in its sixth year, this countywide celebration shines a spotlight on the craft beer culture curated by Cleveland area breweries, restaurants, tap rooms and bottle shops. Cleveland Beer Week 2014 spans 10 days (Oct. 10 through 19) and features over 350 events. The seemingly endless list of special beers, unique settings and delectable culinary pairings cements Cleveland Beer Week's reputation as one of the nation's best, and one of the best weeks in Cleveland.
The party begins with collaboration crawls in Lakewood, Ohio City, Tremont and along East Fourth Street on the evening of Oct. 10. This year, event organizers paired selected Cleveland area breweries with regional and national partners. Great Lakes teamed up with Colorado's Oskar Blues to craft Yadig, a tart, hoppy German wheat beer. Buckeye Brewing and Saugatuck of Douglas, Mich., partnered up for an English mild ale called OH-MI! while the Brew Kettle and Pennsylvania's Full Pint formulated and brewed Dead Canary Grisette (a near-extinct Belgian style closely related to the saison). Rounding out the pack of five collaborations are Brooklyn Dog from Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. and Brooklyn Brewery, and Fat Devil, a black India pale lager from Fat Head's and the lager masters at Virginia's Devils Backbone. The collaboration beers will make limited appearances around town, but the crawls are the only way to get the first fills of all five.
National and even international breweries will be showcased all over town with great events featuring special beers. For the third time in four years Southern Tier is sending I-90 to us from Lakewood, N.Y.; 2014's edition is a Scotch ale while previous vintages were riffs on the American pale ale. Lagunitas just opened a Chicago brewery and is showing Cleveland some love with Fusion 24, a sessionable American red ale dry-hopped with experimental hops.
Satellite taprooms and tap takeovers are also a big trend for 2014. The satellite concept is simple: An out-of-state brewery such as Avery, New Holland or Founders sets up a weeklong tap takeover at a local establishment, creating a home away from home for brewery fans and representatives. Bells is hoping to repeat the success of last year's "Bells Ruins Cleveland Beer Week" tap takeover with 40 different beers at the Tremont Tap House on Saturday, Oct. 12, while Great Lakes hopes to "Save Cleveland Beer Week" the same day with 30-plus offerings at the Lakewood Winking Lizard and Lizardville. The Lakewood Lizardville will barely have time to recover from the previous night's rare beer event; flights of Belgium's beloved Cantillon Lambic and Gueuze will satiate beer geeks seeking a sample of the sensational sours.
Picking the right beer is part of the equation, but unique atmospheres transform tasty tipples into memorable experiences. Several new flagship events will ensure Cleveland Beer Week revelers will be drinking in style. First up is the Browns/Steelers tailgate on Oct. 12 at the Huntington lot. Tailgaters can quaff a few pints of Great Lakes Cleveland Brown Ale in anticipation of the season's biggest football rivalry. Later in the week, the party moves from the lot to the lake as the Offshore Pour debuts on Wednesday, Oct. 15. This promising event offers a unique chance to sample craft beers aboard the Nautica Queen during a three-hour cruise on Lake Erie.
Music and beer go hand in hand, and 2014's other new flagships feature percussive pairings begging for ale accompaniment. Chicago's Revolution Brewing presents a Rock and Brew Showcase on Oct. 14 at the Beachland Ballroom while the Can Jam keeps the funk alive with the Alan Evans Trio on Oct. 16 at the Agora. Cleveland Beer Week had to be extended an extra day to fit the Bluegrass Brew Bash on Sunday, Oct. 19, at Whiskey Island. Local pickers like Bluegrass Platter will support the headlining Larry Keel Experience for a day full of songs and suds.
Adventurous and classically inspired beer and food pairings add local flavor to beer week. Culture Yourself, an event centered on pairing beer with cheese, is back for its fourth year at the Westside Market on Oct. 15. East Fourth Street will be feeling the craft beer love all week, including a Victory Brewing Oktoberfest night at the Greenhouse Tavern on Monday, Oct. 13, and a collaboration dinner hosted by Cleveland Brewing Co. and Illinois-based Destihl at Butcher and the Brewer on Wednesday, Oct. 15. Platform Brewing will push the envelope with their Flavor Trippin' experiment; adventurous patrons can taste sour beers before and after ingesting a miracle berry, a small fruit that changes sour flavors to sweet. On Friday, Oct. 17, one of the best events of past years is back: Southside presents Food Truck Beer Dinner 4. This crowd pleaser features beer from Sierra Nevada and Rockmill paired with entrees from some favorite local food trucks.
Brewzilla, the grand tasting of Cleveland Beer Week on Oct. 18, is always a highlight with hundreds of beers from just about every brewery that distributes to Ohio. Cleveland Beer Week 2014 has so many special beers to sample, unique event settings and delicious pairings that there aren't any bad choices. Just remember to bring a jacket; after all, summer is gone, the leaves are falling and one of the nation's best beer weeks is about to begin!
Check out the complete listing of events at ClevelandBeerWeek.org.