Great Brew in a Strip Mall
Located in the historic Berea Triangle and just minutes from the Cleveland airport is the Cornerstone Brewing Co. (55 Front Street, near the intersection of the Turnpike and I-77). The brewpub, as well as the establishments around it, are part of a downtown revival. Sports fans will be interested to know that Berea is also the hometown of OSU football coach Jim Tressel.
The building retains much of its original character: long and narrow with large windows looking out at a quiet intersection. Blond wood tables are offset by exposed brick and a large fireplace in the rear takes the bite out of a cold winter night. The back bar is decorated with vintage photos of brewing as well as a few autographed pictures of football players, including one of Paul’s all-time favorites, Lou “The Toe” Grozza.
We found the beer line-up adventuresome and the menu varied and hearty. Here, too, there’s a large blackboard listing what’s on tap situated between the bar and open kitchen area. All in all, this is a place we’d like to see in our neighborhood.
The location that looked the least promising at first glance turned out to be our nicest surprise. The BREW Kettle Taproom & Smokehouse in Strongsville (8377 Pearl Road, near the intersection of the Ohio Turnpike and I-71) is located in a strip mall, next to a big box retailer. Hardly a place where you’d expect to find great beer.
We sat in our car just before opening time and, much to our surprise, watched the parking lot fill up and witnessed a race to the door. Crowds of locals rarely steer you wrong so we took our cue and followed—just in time to snag a seat at the bar for lunch.
The first thing you notice is the aroma of barbecue, prepared over a wood-fired oven. No wonder this place is popular. You can bring home pulled pork and homemade barbecue sauce, along with bomber bottles of great brew, and cover most of the major food groups.
The house brew is called Ringneck and it’s accompanied by a constantly changing guest ale collection. There’s another interesting twist, too. The BREW Kettle, which opened in 1995, is one of Ohio’s two brew-on-premises operations. That same year the Ringneck Brewery opened, with a three-barrel system. The taproom and smokehouse opened in 2003, and moved to its current location in 2007.
Don’t forget to check out the large collection of breweriana. We counted over 200 metal serving trays, most for beers that have gone to Brand Heaven, along with a large collection of bottles and growlers on display. There are also bottles of house beer available for sale at reasonable prices at the BOP operation in the back.
Eliot Ness Drank Here?
Finally, no Beer Traveler adventure to Cleveland would be complete without a stop at the Great Lakes Brewing Co. on the city’s near west side. The historic brewery complex is on a quiet street off busy Lorain Avenue. Established in 1988, GLBC became the state’s first microbrewery. Six year-round beers, plus seasonals, are now distributed into eight states beyond Ohio. Their flagship, a crisp lager called Dortmunder Gold, is one of our all time favorites.
Today the brewery (1947 West 28th Street) consists of six buildings, three of which originally served as horse stables and kegging facilities for the Schlather Brewing Co., built in 1878 and one of the 30 breweries that once thrived in the area. Visitors can view the two-story brewhouse behind glass and then visit the adjacent taproom.
The brewpub (2516 Market Avenue) is comprised of two buildings also rich with local history: The Market Tavern and MacClean’s Feed & Seed Company. It’s here where you can see GLBC’s original seven-barrel brewing equipment, not to mention the scale and cash register from the days gone-by supply store. The striking mahogany bar, the centerpiece of the taproom, is Cleveland’s oldest working bar. It’s from the original Market Tavern, which earned fame as a hangout for Eliot Ness and his Prohibition agents. In fact, those bullet holes are believed to have been the work of Ness himself.
All too soon, it was time to head home again. This time our drive north along I-75 was lively as we discussed the beers we sampled and compared the establishments we visited. It won’t be long before we make another “run for the border.”