CLEVELAND, Ohio – Judging by the attendance, the brews being poured and the brewers at the 15th Winter Warmer Fest, craft beer in Ohio is doing just fine.
The fest, a fundraiser for the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, is a magnet for brewers themselves. It’s a chance for them to get out and mingle with each other as well as fans of their beers. After a two-year hiatus, 1,200 beer aficionados turned out, enjoying suds and 60-degree temperatures at Windows on the River in Cleveland’s Flats.
The fest was held in 2020 not long before shutdown orders went into place. Last year, Winter Warmer Cask Day – a smaller, scaled-down version – was staged. But it regained its original form at the Flats venue with multiple rooms inside and traditional cask-ale area outside.
Craft breweries struggled but survived through the pandemic, with openings far exceeding closings. And Saturday was as good a day as any to hoist a beer in their honor.
Here’s what local breweries are up to:
Brick and Barrel: Karl Spiesman remains a busy guy, alternating between stints in the Coast Guard and his Columbus Road brewery in Cleveland. If that weren’t enough, he is working on opening Beach and Barrel in Fairport Harbor, not from his Painesville home. Probable opening date is late this year or 2023. He will have a 3.5-barrel brewing system in place there. Spiesman, also an accomplished winemaker, has been fooling around with Pinot Noir – with Ohio-grown grapes – and a Riesling. He relies on brewer Cara Baker, who also attended the fest. “She’s been killing it,” he said. A Helles Lager is rivaling the brewery’s famous Bitter Chief IPA as its flagship, he said. That beer is still being made with the same name, though he has dropped the Chief Wahoo logo for marketing and legal purposes.
Ohio Brewing Co.: Chris Verich tells us his Columbus brewery is canning beer, and the space will be open to the public within a couple of months, as long as staffing comes together. “That’s the challenge – hiring,” he said. It’s located in the city’s Italian Village, on 2nd Street. It’s already canning Double Irish Red. Brewer Joe Kearns is heading up the brewhouse, which has a 30-barrel system in place. OBC’s space on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls also is moving along well, Verich said.
Terrestrial Brewing Co.: Ralph Sgro and Ryan Bennett attended with their new chef, Michael Lovano. Terrestrial is in the midst of a major expansion with a restaurant and event space. Expect creative gastropub food: “I want it to be a fun place with meals (that diners) have seen before but made in a way that they haven’t seen,” said Lovano, who worked at Summer House and Lola Bistro. He has been testing recipes for brunch at the brewery. They aim to open the restaurant in April with the event space up and running by late spring / early summer. Here’s more on the new spaces.
Boss Dog Brewing Co.: Expect more cans from the Cleveland Heights brewery, said Jason Sweet. Jason and brother Josh brought Jobu, a Hazy India Pale Ale infused with Serrano Peppers, a wonderful homage to Dennis Haysbert’s character, Pedro Cerrano, in “Major League.” The Sweets also brought Dog Pound Brown, with an image of Stella – the brewery’s mascot pooch – on the label.
Paradigm Shift Craft Brewery: Mike Malinowski is brewing what might be one of the more unique beers for St. Patricks’ Day at his Massillon brewery. Nutty Blonde is made with pistachios which, when raw, are green. “People go nuts over it,” he said. “People call the brewery, ‘Is it out yet?’ ” It’s due around Monday March 14. Proof we are a long way from lagers dyed green.
UnHitched Brewing Co.: Brewer Garrett Conley and his wife, Katie, who also works at the Louisville brewery, attended. They plan to install a new canning line this coming week. “We’re just growing into our shoes,” he said. “Life is good; I cannot complain.” Here’s more on the Louisville brewery.
Throughout the space, #BrewStacheStrong signs were posted. The national brain-cancer research initiative partners with breweries for awareness and fundraising; here’s more on the effort and its special Ohio ties. … Maize Valley Brewing Co. of Hartville is adding a canning line, brewer Jake Turner said. … Muskellunge Brewing Co’s Bock Beer Fest that brewer-owner Frank Estremera kicked off Friday will continue. Half a dozen of the Canton brewery’s Bock beers remain on tap. … Mike Piazza of Blue Heron Brewery says the Medina brewery is switching its focus from 16- to 12-ounce cans. … Royal Docks’ Dave Sutula says the Canton-based brewery just had the best January and February it has ever had. And its St. Patrick’s Day event is coming up: Kegs, Eggs and Legs – where the brewers wear kilts. … John Najeway of Thirsty Dog in Akron is rolling out his Imperial Series in part to mark 25 years. He also just installed a canning line from a German company whose U.S. headquarters are in Stow. … Pulpo Beer Co. has a Pina Colada beer out. … Dan Blatt of Ghost Tree Brewing Co. says the Amherst brewery is barrel aging. … Ed Thompkins of Heinen’s, and a Cleveland Beer Week board member, says he is hoping to incorporate a lager fest for CBW this year. Heinen’s also is continuing its monthly collaboration with brewers: Thursday, March 10, a Maibock with Sibling Revelry Brewery of Westlake will be released.
Other notable beer folks in attendance …
• Chris Alltmont – Fat Head’s, Middleburg Heights
• Mathias Hauck – Avon
• Jennifer Hermann – Bell Tower, Kent
• Jon and Ali Hovan – HiHO
• Luke Purcell and Ben Northeim – Collision Bend, Cleveland
• Andrew Revy – Immigrant Son, Lakewood
• Vaughn Stewart – Bookhouse, Cleveland
• Jay Taylor, Outerbelt – Columbus
• Shaun Yasaki – Noble Beast, Cleveland
I am on cleveland.com’s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.
Get a jumpstart on the weekend and sign up for Cleveland.com’s weekly “In the CLE” email newsletter, your essential guide to the top things to do in Greater Cleveland. It will arrive in your inbox on Friday mornings – an exclusive to-do list, focusing on the best of the weekend fun. Restaurants, music, movies, performing arts, family fun and more. Just click here to subscribe. All cleveland.com newsletters are free.
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.