Cleveland Beer Week capsule reviews

Cleveland Beer Week is over.  We have now entered Cleveland Water Week.  Seriously, that was like running a gauntlet.  In chronological order:

My wife attended the opening ceremonies, "Grains Versus Grapes", though I did not.  (The link to the main Beer Week page above has the official descriptions of all the events.)  It's a simultaneous pairing of food with both beers and wines.  Alice reports that there were some flaws with the execution of the event:  it wasn't clear that there was both a beer and a Cava served at different stations to start, and nothing was said about the wine and beer for each course until after the course was over.  She'd have preferred to know why they were chosen to go with the food.

The next day, Buckeye Beer Engine trucked in a mess of oysters and served them with Rogue beers.  The oysters were pretty good and we got flights of Rogue beers on tap, which is a special treat.  My wife stayed to watch the Illini play football while I went on the Magic Hat Liquid Hunt.  It was a bar crawl with a scavenger-hunt theme.  We walked three miles west on Detroit Avenue through the city of Lakewood, stopping at ...um... four bars along the way.  It was a little blustery but a good time and I'd never been to any of the bars.  The organization at the start of the event left something to be desired - trying to process hundreds of people through an already crowded bar was not the brightest idea.  (Why take tickets in the *back room*?  Why not the foyer?)

On Tuesday, I had the great privilege of meeting Larry Bell of Bell's Brewery, whose beers I've been drinking since probably before I could do so legally.  The occasion was Bell's Eccentric Cafe On Tour, a six course beer and food pairing at the Beer Engine.  The food was made by the chef who mans the Touch Suppertruck, and the courses ranged in quality from quite good to sublime.  Several of the pairings were very good, and made me see some of Larry's beers in a new way.  (I never liked the Oarsman Ale much, but now I appreciate it.) The only hiccup was timing:  during one of the intermissions between courses, the Q&A went on too long, and it upset the kitchen's ability to get courses out.  The event started at 7 and we didn't get out until after 10:30.

Friday came, and with it an event Alice had missed in previous years:  Ales On Rails.  Beer is served on a train traveling south to Akron along the Cuyahoga; there's a new beer every half hour and a boxed meal.  Our group had a good time, but I'm glad we bought tickets for the cheap car, because we had space to move around.  The more "luxurious" cars were prettier but more crowded.  In the end, I was disappointed that we couldn't see out:  when the train got underway at 6:30, it was almost dark outside.

Finally, on Saturday, we went to Brewzilla.  I was on the fence about going because I had heard that in previous years the crowds were intense.  I needn't have worried - or perhaps the warning served to reduce my expectations.  We had a great time.  There were 60 or so tables, each serving samples of four beers; a ticket system for servings kept rampant consumption in check.  I discovered some beers I'll definitely be looking for in the future:  Liefmanns Cuvee Brut and Goudenband were outstanding.  The food was just OK, but I had taken the preemptive step of eating a heap of french fries at happy hour beforehand.  Oh, did I mention that before the event I had Bell's Batch 10000 on tap at a local bar?  I did.

It was a great week - but not the sort of thing I could do all the time.  A friend of mine takes beer week off as vacation every year, and I can see why.  Between the main events and all the little side celebrations at local bars, it's a great opportunity to broaden your beer horizons and taste some special offerings.