There’s a lot of talk these days about America’s greatness and whether that quality solely existed in our collective past, or if it persists in the present, or whether it needs to be made so once more. The fact is, we have hallowed halls that are testaments to the people who have achieved greatness. These buildings are living tributes, always inducting more heroes from whatever field they’ve excelled at. Some of those fields are actual fields while others are parks, arenas or stadiums. And lovers of these fields and their respective champions that we are, we have a proclivity for visiting them to gaze upon their super-heroic costumes and tools of their trades. Herein are a few of these galleries of greatness, these pantheons of perfection, these halls of fame.
Interestingly, there were plans to erect a bona fide Craft Beer Hall of Fame in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The inaugural class of inductees would’ve included some of the most vaunted members of the industry: scribe Michael Jackson, pioneering microbrewer Jack McAuliffe, homebrew champion Charlie Papazian and Belgian blending wizard Frank Boon. While plans have stalled and may never come to fruition, we beer lovers have various other interests and find ourselves visiting halls of fame for pastimes such as baseball, hockey, rock ’n’ roll, and even ones you likely didn’t know existed, like bowling.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame (25 Main St.) in Cooperstown, New York, is so famous for its location, people simply call it Cooperstown. Although the founder claimed this was the birthplace of baseball (it wasn’t), the hall was actually built in 1936 to drive the local economy after Prohibition had decimated the area’s hops industry. Some 60 years later, since 1997, this city near New York’s geographic center has also been a draw for beer tourists with the Belgian-style Brewery Ommegang (656 County Highway 33). Visitors can tour the brewery where all that tropical, yeasty Hennepin Farmhouse Saison is made. Or they can head straight for the café to enjoy Belgian delicacies like moules frites. There’s also aged gouda washed in Ommegang’s own Three Philosophers. Said beer makes an obvious pairing, since the rich, fatty cheese holds its own against the quadrupel-style ale exuding roasted malts and blended with kriek lambic. The tart cherry kick provides perfect top notes to this bottom-heavy beer.
Ommegang is six miles south of the hall, and Cooperstown Brewing (110 River St., Milford) is three miles farther south but fits the famous museum’s allure like a mitt. Founded in 1995 as a Peter Austin brew house, it’s been under new ownership since 2014 but still uses Ringwood yeast (that was Austin’s signature) to create British-style ales such as Old Slugger English Pale, Nine Man English Pub Ale and Bench Warmer Porter.
And three miles north of Ommegang is the area’s third and newest brewery, Council Rock (4861 State Highway 28) since 2012. The beers here don’t throw curveballs; they’re true to style courtesy of homebrewer-turned-publican Roger Davidson. The one and only connection, however faint, to the area’s biggest draw is that the IPA is named All American IPA. Brewed with Columbus, Chinook and Citra hops, it’s got grapefruit character straight down the pipe over home plate. Other styles found here include a red ale, a golden and a stout. And if the brewery’s myriad patrons get a say, the burger seems to be equally popular. It’s got bacon, sharp cheddar and more, all piled onto a pretzel bun. It’s a burger and beer combo found in the field of dreams.
Now’s a great time to escape the mania of the U.S. election cycle and visit the Hockey Hall of Fame (30 Yonge St.) in Toronto. Founded in 1943, the HHOF is older than the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts (1959), and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio (1963). After ogling the actual Stanley Cup and more Wayne Gretzky paraphernalia than you can shake a high stick at, skate down to the Amsterdam BrewHouse (245 Queens Quay West) just 1.5 kilometers away. The brewing company was Toronto’s first in 1986, though this spot on Pier 4 opened in 2013. Fracture Imperial IPA body-checks you at 9%.
A block away from Lake Ontario is Steam Whistle Brewing (Roundhouse Park, 255 Bremner Blvd.). Hockey is about mastering the fundamentals, and that’s what Steam Whistle does. Book the tour to blend in with the tourists. Another kilometer farther north is Bar Hop Brew Co. (137 Peter St.), offering a massive beer list spanning from Belgium to French Canada. The 36 taps are dominated by Torontonian drafts. Local beer writer Stephen Beaumont’s pro tip: enjoy top-notch fare on the rooftop patio.
Finally, a couple of kilometers west in the Trinity-Bellwoods neighborhood, Bellwoods Brewery (124 Ossington Ave.) is a don’t-miss brewery for serious beer geeks. Any and all styles emanate from the brew house, ranging from a smoked Berliner-style weisse to what Beaumont calls a “big-boned” double IPA. Whether on tap or in the bottle shop, look for limited-release barrel-aged offerings such as Grandma’s Boy, a funky wild ale with locally grown Shiro plums, or Bring Out Your Dead, a corpulent 13% imperial stout aged in cognac barrels that’s not afraid to go the full Monty.
Not all halls of fame are sports-related, of course. And perhaps the most famous of these is devoted to rock ’n’ roll. Even though cities along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Memphis to St. Louis stake great claims as the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll, Cleveland is where disc jockey Alan Freed coined the term “rock and roll” in 1951. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1100 E. 9th St.) was built in 1995, and it’s where the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, still lives, and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, always demands respect. Fittingly, there’s now a Palace of Fermentation (1849 W. 24th St.) a couple of miles away. It’s an offshoot of Market Garden Brewery (1947 W. 25th St.). Its Citramax IPA is the chart topper in heavy rotation. It’s packed with Citra hops, naturally, and is bold and tropical. The beer-soaked compound also includes Nano Brew (1859 W. 25th St.), a brewpub featuring 24 taps with a few reserved as outlets for the single-barrel brewery. An early hit is Nano Namber with a balanced attack of toasty malts and piney hops. The weekly firkin tapping is also a tiny hit.
Directly around the corner is Great Lakes Brewing Co. (2516 Market Ave.) It predates the Rock Hall by seven years, and if beer sales were albums, Great Lakes’ greatest hits would all be certified multi-platinum: Eliot Ness Amber Lager, Burning River Pale Ale, Commodore Perry IPA and of course Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. To enjoy their deep cuts, visit the Beer Cellar.
Closer to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is Butcher and the Brewer (2043 E. 4th St.) where, since rock is all about spectacle, the 10-barrel brew system takes center stage. Guests even get front-row seats to the glassed-in meat locker, placing the butchers and the brewers in the limelight. Beers such as Farmhouse Rouge, a softly malty and herbal biere de garde and Albino Stout, an oaty golden ale with coffee and chocolate, complement the meaty treats from a house-smoked corndog to more luxurious fare like chicken liver mousse with truffles. If you want to see what’s huge in a Cleveland reimagining of Germany, try the HasselHefe Bavarian-style weizen with braunschweiger, a smoked and spreadable wurst.
Bowling is part sport, part nonaerobic activity. Though there are fewer and fewer alleys, folks still love to roll heavy balls down narrow lanes in between sipping on cans of beer. To honor these, uh, athletes, the wacky International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame (621 Six Flags Drive, Arlington, Texas) was built in St. Louis in 1993 but was kicked to the gutter in 2008. However, its demise was spared when it was relocated to Arlington, Texas, in 2010. Admission includes a few frames so you can see if you’re future hall of fame material. (You’re not.) Arlington has one brewery, the local branch of the Texan chain of Humperdinks (700 Six Flags Drive), once part of the national Big Horn Brewing/Ram chain. This location opened in 1995, and the brewing company’s been garnering Great American Beer Festival awards since 1998. Uber Brau, an amber lager with a pretzel malt bill, has racked up five such medals. And Arlington-only beers like the Oak Aged Black IPA hold up nicely against the house smoked brisket or other Texan specialties.
The bigger beer scene begins 20 miles east in Dallas, where a wellspring of breweries have cropped up. Community Beer Co. (1530 Inspiration Drive) near the Design District is a current favorite. The taproom has nine communal beers on tap, and beer lovers will find classics like an easy-drinking witbier or a North Texas take on a West Coast IPA in Mosaic IPA. But don’t miss experimental batches like when Community made a golden ale called Funnel Cake designed to conjure images of the Texas State Fair, or bodacious boozers such as Barrel Aged Legion, the already dessertlike imperial stout that may find itself dry-hopped with peanut butter cups or anything else these homebrewers-at-heart dream up.