Dining » Drink Features

The Cleveland Craft Beer Report



There's nothing more American than drinking beer and blowing stuff up. That's why Independence Day continues to cash in the highest beer sales of all our holidays. Americans will purchase approximately 75 million cases of beer this year to celebrate our freedom. Unfortunately, the vast majority of profits from these sales will benefit overseas corporations that produce tasteless fizzy yellow lager masquerading in red, white and blue packages. This duplicity is compounded by the fact that American craft brewers are the new revolutionaries of the beverage world, relentless in their pursuit of honesty, quality and taste.

This Fourth of July, the true patriotic choice is to drink American-made craft beer instead of tasteless (and likely treasonous) swill. However, many festive outdoor activities—including camping, concerts, picnics and even poolside barbecues—aren't glass-friendly. Fireworks might mask the sound of falling glass, but no one wants to clean up that mess, or worse, risk slicing open their feet on the fallout of your faux pas. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to celebrate America's 237th Birthday with all the class but none of the glass.

Cans are great for just about every imaginable outdoor activity. They pack easily and chill quickly, but the biggest advantage cans hold over glass is that detrimental light can't reach the precious liquid within. Banish any memories of offensive metallic tastes as today's cans feature internal coatings that guarantee that the beer tastes every bit as good as that from bottles.

But which cans contain the tastiest beer? Hopheads have a difficult choice thanks to the overwhelming variety now available. Oskar Blues started canning Dale's Pale Ale in 2002, becoming the first craft brewery to resurrect the metal vessel. While Dale's is always a great choice, Boulder Beer's Hoopla Pale Ale is a refreshing alternative. Oskar also brews Gubna Imperial IPA for those looking for more hop bite, while Flying Dog Snake Dog, Revolution Anti Hero and 21st Amendment Hop Crisis also kick up the bitterness and flavor.

Fans of lager, wheat and fruit beer also have some great options. Unita Summer Ale, Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pills and Two Brothers Dog Days are perfect introductions to craft for the lager drinker. Harpoon UFO and Revolution Bottom Up are eminently drinkable tributes to the Belgian witbier style. Rivertowne Hala Kahiki Pineapple and Abita Purple Haze should fit the bill for any fruit fanatic.

Want to support an Ohio brewery? Athens-based Jackie O's is the only canned Ohio brand available in this part of the state. Currently available are Firefly Amber and Chomolungma Honey Nut Brown, while Mystic Mama IPA will debut in cans later this summer.

Stainless steel growlers also are growing in popularity. These durable alternatives to glass cost more but can survive unexpected falls, and some feature insulation that will keep the beer chilly for hours. The obvious advantage of going growler is the increased selection; any craft draft from a brewery or fill station can slide right past the "No Glass Beyond This Point" sign. There are tons of great local options for growler contents, but Great Lakes' Independence Ale might be the most appropriate for the holiday.

Of course, there's always one beer drinker in every group who wants to arrive with keg in hand. For a few years, imports like Residorf Kolsch and Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier have been available in 5-liter mini-kegs, but the domestic selection was almost nonexistent. Thankfully, Bells summer seasonal Oberon is now available in this fun format. The mini keg will fill 10 pints, so there's plenty to share with friends and family.

Drink craft beer this July Fourth and blow stuff up responsibly. Happy Birthday, America. Cheers!

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