Cleveland Beer Week 2018: Changes in the works

June 21, 2018

Cleveland Beer Week 2018: Changes in the works

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The 10th annual Cleveland Beer Week is scheduled for Friday-Sunday, Oct. 12-21, with some events changing, some left the same, and some tweaks along the way.

Cleveland Beer Week is a celebration of craft beer with about a dozen ticketed flagship events being held throughout Greater Cleveland. In addition, hundreds of smaller tastings, events, dinners and promotions will take place at bars, restaurants and other venues throughout Northeast Ohio. The Cleveland Beer Week site will list the tertiary events closer to October.

The big change is that Brewzilla, the traditional flagship finale that was replaced the last two years by Rare, is returning to the lineup and will be held at the Wolstein Center. Elements of Rare, which featured limited-edition beers of all kinds, will be incorporated into Brewzilla, a grand tasting with scores of breweries pouring hundreds of beers.

“There’s been so many people asking about it,” said Rick Seibt of Willoughby Brewing Co. and a liaison for brewers involved in beer week. “It seems there was a huge affinity for it.”

“It’s a good venue, with the floor and concourse and plenty of room,” said Ed Thompkins of Heinen’s, one of three members on the beer-week board along with John Lane of the Winking Lizard and Sean Hice of Heidelberg Distributing.

Also, the collaboration kickoffs – the opening-night event that launches the annual festivities – will be back but in slightly different form.

“As we’re planning it, we’ve been reflecting on 10 years,” Thompkins said. “It’s amazing what craft beer has become. When we started it, the craft-beer-week phenomenon was just starting. Philadelphia kicked things off. When John Lane and I met we said ‘If we don’t get out in front of this someone else will do it.’ ”

The craft-beer industry’s shift to a super-local focus is not lost on Cleveland Beer Week organizers.

“With the collaborative crawls last year, we decided to embrace the hyper locality,” Thompkins said. “For eight years beer week was a bit of a Cleveland vs. the world. Now it’s Cleveland for Cleveland.

Now the collaboration beers are divided to neighborhoods.”

The collaboration kickoffs recently took on the theme of “Turf Wars,” with local breweries joining forces to brew a version of India Pale Ale last year. In previous years, out-of-region breweries joined the assorted brewing teams.

This year, it will be entirely local. The 31 breweries in the collaborations come from four Northeast Ohio counties.

Seibt, who is helping shepherd the brewers for the collaboration kickoffs, queried his fellow brewers about style and production and took in feedback from people on the crawl last year.

“We decided to go away from neighborhood collaborations chiefly because we wanted guys to brew with different teams,” he said. “The real change was on style. Last year we said one style, a variety of IPA. This year we went to the open (format).”


(The first brewery named is the location of where the team will brew.)

Who’s brewing? Double Wing Brewing Co., Jolly Scholar, Rocky River Brewing Co.

What is it? India Pale Lager

Team captain: Jim Lieb, Rocky River

Who’s brewing? Great Lakes Brewing Co., Bad Tom Smith Brewing, Sibling Revelry, The Cleveland Brewery

What is it? Brut IPA

Team captain: Steve Forman, Great Lakes

Who’s brewing? Saucy Brew Works, The Brew Kettle, Goldhorn Brewery, Noble Beast Brewing Co., Railroad Brewing Co.

What is it? Double Chocolate Milkshake Stout

Team captain: Eric Anderson, Saucy

Who’s brewing? Platform Beer Co., Market Garden Brewery, Bookhouse Brewing, Cornerstone, Hansa Brewery.

What is it? Wet hopped American wheat

Team captain: Paul Benner, Platform

Who’s brewing? Masthead Brewing Co., Boss Dog Brewing Co., Avon Brewing Co., Forest City Brewery, Working Class Brewery

What is it? Imperial Mexican Porter

Team captain: Mike Pelechaty, Masthead

Who’s brewing? Butcher and the Brewer, Brick and Barrel, Hofbrauhaus, Terrestrial Brewing Co., Brim Kitchen + Brewery

What is it? Dry-hopped Saison 

Team captain: John McGroarty, Butcher and the Brewer

Who’s brewing? Collision Bend Brewing Co., Thirsty Dog Brewing Co., Willoughby Brewing Co., Fat Heads Brewery.

What is it? Keller Pils

Team captain: Rick Seibt, Willoughby Brewing

Seibt likes the way Cleveland Beer Week doesn’t shy from adapting to changes. Organizers aren’t tied to keeping something just because it’s been done year after year, he said. There’s a willingness to try new things. And that fits a brewer’s mentality.

“I think that’s what I like about Cleveland Beer Week,” he said. “They keep changing things and getting feedback. They keep doing surveys, trying to find ways to improve it. They are not beholden to events.”

In the end, it remains a celebration of beer in Cleveland.

“Beers that celebrate Cleveland are a unique thing,” Thompkins said. “We’re extraordinary proud of that.”

Other news regarding Cleveland Beer Week:

• The Culture Yourself flagship event, which featured cheese and beer, is out. Instead, cheese will be incorporated into a beer and chocolate event at Heinen’s.

• The Jimmy Malone Scholarship Fund remains the event’s beneficiary. “This is really one of the only beer events that has a charity partner,” Thompkins said. “It’s for a great cause. It’s about sending kids to school. The kids who get school money each year hand-write a note to us.” Thompkins added when the brewers gather to discuss logistics he reads one of the notes aloud “so brewers and distributors understand the importance. That can never get lost in the mission.”

• Bash on the Banks - Beer, Bacon and Bourbon – will not return. The event debuted in 2017 to drum up support for beer week. But the board has hired Mean Joe Advertising to increase visibility. “We’re not naïve enough to think every beer drinker in Cleveland knows about beer week,” Thompkins said.

• Major League Baseball post-season games will be under way during Cleveland Beer Week. This can be “a blessing and a curse,” Thompkins said, meaning some fans will want to stay in and watch games and avoid going out. The World Series begins two days after beer week ends.

• Heinen’s will be the only place to get the collaborative beers on draft in one place. They sell quickly, Thompkins said.