At one point, Cleveland was a major manufacturing center. Its industrial base turned out steel, autos, and beer, including Carling (a Canadian company that moved into a former auto manufacturing plant after Prohibition) and Pilsener Brewing (its product, P.O.C., was informally called “Pride of Cleveland”).
Both heavy industry and brewing waned, but the city – like the state of Ohio – has seen a renaissance of craft brewing, with a multitude of places where you can sample the beer of your choosing, from light cream ales to sours to heavy stouts. (Destination Cleveland even offers a beer passport with prizes for visiting local breweries – not that you really need an incentive, though, right?) Here are some of your best options in the Cleveland area.
Great Lakes Brewing
Before pretty much anyone else in the Cleveland area was making beer, there was Great Lakes. The brewery opened in 1988 and has been turning out palate-pleasing brews since. It’s probably the most widely distributed Cleveland-made beer, available in a dozen states. There are eight main brews available year-round, and a host of seasonal beers (the annual tapping of Christmas Ale is very popular, and a sure sign the holidays are near). There are also exclusives available on tap at the brewpub in Ohio City on Cleveland’s near West Side – including stronger, barrel-aged versions of their beer – and a full menu so you can eat while you drink.
Market Garden Brewery
Around the corner from Great Lakes (and next to Cleveland’s famous West Side Market) is Market Garden Brewery. Opened in 2011, Market Garden is also widely distributed in bottles throughout Ohio. The restaurant features a full menu, and behind it is a 35,000-square-foot production facility (tours are available). The owners of Market Garden also own nearby Nanobrew, which serves as an incubator to test beers before committing to major production.
Forest City Brewery
Not too long ago, it was a nondescript building on Columbus Avenue in the city’s Duck Island neighborhood. Today, it’s Forest City Brewery, a microbrewery that pays homage to Cleveland’s brewing (and baseball) history. Cleveland was known as the Forest City in the days after the Civil War, and a brewery and baseball team took that name as well. The modern Forest City Brewery opened in 2014, with beers like Black Betsy (named for Shoeless Joe Jackson’s bat) and the Grey Eagle, named in honor of former Indians player/manager Tris Speaker. The outdoor patio is located on the former site of Silberg Brothers Beer Garden.
When Fat Head’s Saloon on the south side of Pittsburgh wanted to start making its own beer, it looked to its neighbor to the west. The brewpub opened in 2009 in the west side suburb of North Olmsted, offering a menu of wings, burgers, and enormous sandwiches (“headwiches,” they call them). Three years later, the brewery opened in an industrial park in Middleburg Heights. Fat Head’s outgrew that space, and sold it, moving into a new 75,000-square-foot space in 2018, featuring a souvenir shop, an enormous beer hall with a full menu, meeting space and of course, equipment to brew and barrel-age beers.
Butcher and the Brewer
East Fourth Street downtown has become a hotspot for bars and restaurants, and that includes this unique pairing, which opened in 2014. The industrial chic bar (it might have the coolest bathrooms in Cleveland) features meals, shareables, and befitting its name, charcuterie, while next door is a butcher shop offering sandwiches as well as cuts of meat to take home.
Opened in 2018, one of the newest entries to the Cleveland beer scene is this outpost of a brewery based in Lakewood, N.Y. Their taproom downtown features a dining room on the main floor and a more casual bar and lounge environment downstairs amid the barrels where beer is aged. Their seasonal brews include dark dessert-themed offerings like crème brulee and s’mores stouts and an imperial cinnamon roll ale.
Cleveland’s sizeable Slovenian population gave rise to this east side brewery, which opened in 2016 and is named for the mountain goat in the nation’s folklore. The airy, high-ceilinged tavern with a copper-topped bar features drinks with names taken from Cleveland history, like Dead Man’s Curve ale (Interstate 90 through the city features a 90-degree right turn), and Polka City Pilsner, as well as meeting spaces, games, and even a kids' menu.
Contrary to what you might think because of its name, this downtown brewery is housed in a building that was formerly a car dealership (with open floors and high ceilings perfect for a social environment). Its name comes from the legend that Moses Cleaveland’s name was shortened in the masthead of a local newspaper. The brewery features pizza and other shareables to complement its beer menu (the coffee stout is particularly tasty).
One of the fastest-growing breweries in Ohio, Platform has facilities in Columbus and Cincinnati, and one in the works in Pittsburgh. But the mothership in Ohio City is far from stale, with an experimental vibe that has led to hard seltzers, beers in partnership with a local doughnut shop and a fall offering, Yammy Yammy, that eschews pumpkin for sweet potatoes!
Rocky River Brewing Co.
Between Great Lakes and the explosion of craft breweries in the past decade is the Rocky River Brewing Co. The brewpub founded in 1998 blends into its suburban surroundings, but inside is an upscale casual wood-paneled bar and restaurant with a variety of drafts and a wide-ranging menu. And if you can’t get there, they’ll come to you. Their “MicroWoodie” beer truck can be rented for events with up to three taps of their wares.
Avon Brewing Co.
Avon Brewing Company, which opened in 2016, is known locally not just for its quality brews, but its award-winning burgers. Its namesake community was once rural but now a booming suburb, but the brewery is in a 200-year-old building that’s part of the town’s French Creek area, once known as the main commercial district.