I’m finally there! All of the brewpubs I’ve ever been to are now uploaded and catalogued to 50 States of Brew. I say almost, because I’ve neglected visits within the past couple of months as well as a very select few I’ve been saving. So now it is time for the top ten list.
Great Lakes Brewing Company
2516 Market Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
First visited on October 3, 2007 and several return visits
I may be being a bit of a homer on this one, but I simply adore Great Lakes Brewing Company. As you’ll read below, the location is wonderful, the food is outstanding, and the beers are more than adequately hopped. I’ve been here more than a half-dozen times, and each visit just continues to reaffirm my long-standing belief that Great Lakes can run with any of the famous brewpubs across the country.
I returned to my old stomping grounds this past Thanksgiving and made a point to take my beer-loving wife to Ohio City, which would not be complete without a dinner at Great Lakes. And it’s still fantastic. I love all the different little rooms, each with kind of it’s own feel. I especially love the down-to-earth front bar that feels more like a small-time towny bar than one of the largest breweries in the nation, and the super dank basement that gets all lit up at night.
The beers are still fantastic too, of course. After a full flight of more than a dozen beers, all the old staples are still prime examples of their category, and Edmond Fitzgerald, Elliott Ness and Dortmunder Gold are all still some of my favorite beers. Throw in some Christmas Ale and a few other brewpub experiments, and you can’t go wrong here.
The food remains excellent as well, with the three people in our group trying the pretzel chicken for nostalgia, a pumpkin ravioli and a vegetarian burger. All were fantastic as hoped. And the bourbon bread pudding is still just as ridiculously over the top and wonderful as ever.
Before we get into my old review, let me ask you this. Ever have something so built up in your mind that no matter how great it is, it ends up disappointing? Well, I had Great Lakes built up before my return with friends and family, and it totally lived up to expectations. I had maybe the best smoked ribs I’ve ever had. My Dad says they’re imported from a nearby barbecue joint, which I believe, because GLBC might not have the facilities to smoke ribs for 10 hours. Part of me wants to subtract points for not making it themselves, but most of me congratulates them on using another locally owned business with great food as a wonderful resource. Two of my dining companions had the pretzel chicken I recommended, and they both loved it. I had another bite and was surprised how moist and flavorful I still found it. And everyone loved the bread pudding. Again, it’s the best I’ve ever had. We also indulged in some ice cream made from the porter. You could actually taste the beer in it, and I loved it. Which reminds me about the beer. Out of the 10 beers on the sampler, I currently crave seven of them.
Located next to Cleveland’s historic West Side Market yet off of the most congested streets downtown, the setting of Cleveland’s premier brewpub is ideal. The place was a little hard to find since there isn’t any big signs proclaiming its existence, but when you’re this good, do you really have to advertise? The patio was lighted by strung white Christmas lights which, in the beginning of October, I assume are lit year-round. There are several rooms showcasing a wide variety in seating from a long, deep mahogany bar, to simple tables with views of the brew kettles, to rooms large enough for parties and banquets, all topped off by the basement which features stone walls and a helluva place to see a live band. It’s historical, it’s well decorated, and I love it.
The menu is diverse yet not over-done. There are various brewpub favorites like burgers and sandwiches, but also entrees featuring pretzel-crusted chicken or salmon. The entrees are excellent and fairly priced. I could order the pretzel chicken once a week for the rest of my life. But the pub fare is a bit on the skimpy size. Most beer-loving guys will probably not be satisfied by the typical burger/sandwich and fries combo. But maybe that just leaves room for dessert. The bread pudding is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had outside of my mother’s kitchen. Or maybe it just leaves more room for beer…
I hope you like hops. Every example of high-quality beer is also highly hopped. There were some sweet variations such as the Weizenbock and Oktoberfest on tap when I went. You can also never go wrong with a Dortmunder Gold, which is one of my all-time favorites. The Firehouse 20 is very well balanced between hops and malt with smoky undertones. If you’re wary of hops, simply ask for a taster before making your selection. I promise you can find something to suit your palette.
The pints never went completely dry and everything was served warm and fast. What more can you ask for? But still, nothing exceptional… although no news is good news in this regard.