Ann Arbor

This one pains me to write. I hate the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor to me is representative of that. Ann Arbor is the city of Arrogant Assholes. Their Walmart Wolverine fan base is insufferable. I have a strong rule when rooting for college sports teams at a school you didn’t attend, if you ACT score was not within 2 points of the school average you can’t cheer for them. It’s my rule and you must obey. Yet, spending all day Saturday in Ann Arbor was a good time. There, I said it. I had a good time in that city. Like a drug addict admitting their short comings, that was good to get off my chest.

During our day visit to Ann Arbor, we tried three different breweries, Arbor Brewing, Jolly Pumpkin and Grizzly Peak. Each had some good beers and good food. We went heavy on the carbs going with soft pretzels, truffle fries and mac & cheese at each respectively. I like to justify this as carb loading. Regardless, the food was good. Arbor Brewing was probably my favorite of the three with the large selection of beer variety. The Pollination Sensation Honey Lavender Ale was the best one of the day. Top notch beer. Though, if sours are your thing then head to the Jolly Pumpkin. They specialize in sours and have quite a large number of them. The state of Michigan continues to be near the top in beer quality and Ann Arbor did not disappoint despite their reputation as Arrogant Assholes. I may even go back.

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First Four, Dayton, and a Gas Leak

There are certain sporting events that every guy should go to. Things that don’t require being a fan of either team to enjoy. The NCAA First Four in Dayton is one.

My buddy and I drove down for Day two of the First Four and took in the city of Dayton. We managed to stuff our faces in food ranging from poutine to pizza. We visited five breweries. Lock 27, Dayton Beer Company, Warped Wing, Carillon and Toxic City are all doing really good things with beer. Dayton Beer Company had a great stout. I really enjoyed Lock 27 as the best of the bunch though. Really nice location next to the Dayton minor league baseball team. I imagine that makes for a great summer night.

Then, there is the First Four. We saw two games with the second one being a great one. Syracuse vs Arizona State came down to the end. The crowd was dyed orange as this was clearly a Cuse home game. Really not a bad seat in that arena. I can see why they play those games there in this small midwestern city. Just pure hoops fans in Dayton as we saw people wearing shirts ranging from Ohio State to South Dakota State. First Four does not disappoint.

Now, I have to say I’ve never had and issue with AirBnB and credit to the company and our hosts for refunding our money. See we couldn’t stay in the house because not only was the furnace broken, which they told us as we arrived but we walked into the place and it clearly smelled of a gas leak. If you lit up a cig, I’d imagine that placing blowing up like a fireworks display. So after a day of drinking and right as the hangover hit due to no alcohol in the First Four, we drove home at midnight. Three hours back to Cleveland made for a late night but it was a hell of a day. Dayton didn’t disappoint.

Filled to the BRIM

East side vs west side. Each part of Cleveland has a very distinct feel and culture. Sometimes, it is hard to believe they are the same metropolitan area. While I am a West sider, I do venture on over to the East side often where my girlfriend lives.

Saturday night, we went out with friends to BRIM Kitchen & Brewery in Willoughby. While I had quickly stopped in once before for a drink while killing a few minutes, this was my first time really sitting down to enjoy the place.

BRIM is located just passed the main portion of Downtown Willoughby. The inside is very modern and has that clean, slick feel to it. The brewery process is visible behind the bar as well.

I tried a couple of the beers BRIM had on tap that night as we grabbed dinner. They had a real interesting Christmas Fruit beer called Mr. Kringle and a pretty decent light blonde ale called the Brim Less. Both were solid, though nothing blew me away from a beer standpoint.

For dinner, I had the Sunday Gravy and a side of mac and cheese. The Sunday Gravy red sauce was definitely the best part of my meal. I cleaned the plate for your reference.

Overall, the place is solid. It was busy throughout and has a good ambiance. Nothing blew me away but no complaints either. Solid experience sums it up perfectly.

Country Music and Beer: An American Tradition

Friday morning I caught a plane out to Nashville, Tennessee for work and after taking care of some business, I had the rest of the day, and Saturday, to take in the area. I have been to Nashville before, (Check that trip out Here) but had not been to the breweries in town. So this time, I made sure I got to some of them.

I was able to visit three breweries. I had a couple beers Friday at Cool Springs Brewery in Franklin and then Saturday I visited Yazoo and Jackalope. Before I get into the Breweries, take note of Franklin, Tennessee. It’s a small little suburb of Nashville and the town is pretty much a southern picturesque city. Definitely a cool spot a little away from Downtown Nashville.

Now, onto beer. The one brewery that really stood out for me was Yazoo. I took the tour of Yazoo, relaxed in their tap room and had some of their beers in the city as well. The Hop Perfect IPA was exactly like it’s name, pretty much perfect.

Yazoo was a top notch experience and it’s away from the tourist village known as Broadway. A little less honky-tonk and a little more quality (though who doesn’t love some live country music?).

The tour at Yazoo included three generous samples and while I felt like $8 was a pricey tour, you did get the samples, and a small tasting glass to take home. The tour was a good insight into their history and provided some interesting stories about their beers. Overall, it was easily my favorite of the three breweries I visited. Nashville is known for its music and food but they are doing a pretty good job with the beer over at Yazoo. Yahoo for Yazoo.

New Dog in The Flats

Thirsty Dog is by no means a new brewery. They have been around awhile, brewing many different styles and making some of the best Christmas ale beer around. Recently they just opened up a new spot in The Flats Eastbank in Cleveland.

This location takes over for one of the vacant crop locations that was down there. This is a fairly large space with tables and an indoor and out door bar area. Now, the beer here is true to Thirsty Dog form. With about thirty different taps, there is really something for everyone. Plenty of barrel aged varieties and the traditional Thirsty Dog beers as well. The new taproom has great service, we quickly got seated and our waiter was great throughout the night. I will say the food could still use some work but it was overall pretty good. I had the Mac and cheese and we started with the beer cheese chips. Little more cheese on the chips please. The barrel aged Christmas ale is great one. Stick to one though, it will put you on your ass.

Thirsty dog is a welcomed addition to Cleveland as most people here are already familiar with the beer and their new location should do well in the well talked about revitalized east bank. Cleveland can’t seem to get enough beer.

It’s Hoppin’

I know it’s a terrible pun for a title playing off the brewery’s name. Just ignore it.

Last week, my buddy and I visited Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron, Ohio. This place has been brewing for a decade and has had their taproom open for a few years now. I just had not made my way down yet.

The amount of different beers this place makes is impressive, especially for a place this size. My friend and I tried a variety of their different fall type beers on tap and their famous B.O.R.I.S. Pretty pleased with everything we tried. Quite the variety at this place. I think that is by far the most impressive quality of the place. Just how many different beers they brew and brew well, along with the different barrel aged varieties. The place is a little hard to see from the side of the road but make the trip down, or up, to Akron and check it out. They have something for everyone.

On the Tracks

There are kind of two strategies when it comes to picking the location of your brewery, restaurant or other entertainment spot. You can either try to tap an area with few challengers or you can go to where the foot traffic is. In Cleveland, we saw Portside close at least partly due to their location. Railroad Brewing Company decided to open up in the ever growing suburb of Avon, Ohio. Avon is by no means a brewery hotbed like Ohio City but with a couple of wineries, another brewery and plenty of suburb dwellers that may be looking for a spot not too far from home, it could be a great location for them. It can provide the traffic needed without being lost in the shuffle.

Railroad is a taproom only but you’re welcome to bring your own food in. It is a big open space with a bar and picnic tables that opens up to the outside. They have a large outdoor space surrounding their building which I think could lead to some exciting events in the future. Plus they are dog friendly.

The beer was pretty interesting and provided very unique flavors. The B.O.B., a blood orange Blonde Ale, was very flavorful but not overpowering. It was easy to drink and would be great on a summer day. I also tried the collaboration beer for Cleveland Beer Week and enjoyed that one as well. This tap room is a nice addition to the West Side and to the ever growing Cleveland beer scene. A growing beer scene that never seems to stop.

Beer and Academics

Beer and college go hand in hand. Usually it’s cheap beer and large quantities. I have to admit I didn’t have much of a care for anything that wasn’t sold in a 30 pack in college.

At Case Western Reserve University, there is actually a brewery on campus. While I didn’t know this when I was picking grad schools, I’m glad the one I decided on is Case Western. The Jolly Scholar has been a campus bar there for awhile but they added brewing to their arsenal and sell craft drafts for 3.99. An unbelievable price point and I tried multiple there and was not disappointed, especially considering that price.

This little pub is literally smack in the middle of the campus inside one of the buildings. I know I’ll be making plenty of stops here over the next three years. Definitely a place worth stopping at in University Circle for a good beer no matter if you’re a student or just hoping being amongst a bunch of college kids will make you feel 21 again. Three years of grad school should give me plenty of time to work through their beer list.

The Beast Within

Cleveland keeps producing more and more breweries. While Portside did close a few weeks ago, the breweries that produce quality beer I believe will stick around. Saturday night we went out to another.

Noble Beast Brewery is a relatively new brewery having opened up in the late spring of this year. The brewery has that industrial feel as it sits on Cleveland’s Lakeside Avenue not far from the heart of downtown. The location does not get a ton of night foot traffic but is close enough to other areas that it should do fairly well.

They have a good selection of their own beers on tap as well as several guest beers. I’m always a fan of a brewery willing to put guest beers on tap. My favorite beer of theirs that I tried was the Widowmaker. That beer could kill you if you have a few of them or unleash your inner beast. I truly appreciate the name Widowmaker there. I also tried Kolsch and IPA which were both tasty beers as well but the Widowmaker was my favorite by far.

The food was perfect for the place. Simple but with flavor. We had the pretzel and the zesty fries. The kick on those fries was perfect. I was a little worried they may be spicy, or too hot, but they were just right. Well done on those Noble Beast. Overall, everything was really solid. It’s a well run brewery with a very friendly staff that remembered my name quickly. That personal touch is what will enable them to succeed.

Getting Saucy

Cleveland just keeps them coming. Saucy brew works is just a couple streets over from the main west 25th strip of Ohio city. This large space, including an outdoor patio, is a nice addition to the Hingetown neighborhood. This brewery opened up a little over two months. While the ordering setup was a little confusing, the staff quickly noticed my awkward standing around while I tried to figure it all out and they came over to direct me to the right place. Good customer service is always appreciated.

The beers were pretty good. While the TPS IPA was ok, but nothing extraordinary, the Save Room for Pie vanilla pumpkin porter was a sweet porter that drinks really easily. The Punchline fruit beer was delicious as well and I think I could easily pound 10 of those back like they were a glass of Welch’s fruit punch.

The pizza was very good as well. The large comes out on this huge serving tray. A large pizza indeed. We had the margherita and was very pleased with it. Overall, it is a great new spot with a pretty extensive tap list for a new brewery with quite a few seasonal brews that I will have to try out next time.