Monday, July 14, 2014

World of Beer's Best of Ohio Tap Takeover

Every Bar in Lakewood promotes three major points, adventure, community and supporting your local businesses.   Today’s blog is about the latter, buying local.  A part of supporting our local businesses, that we sometimes forget, is that it’s not just about our local retailers but also about our local producers.  The manufacturers, the growers and in this case the brewers make great things.  Getting to buy a product that you know was create in your home state, or even town, gives us that extra bit of pride.  Getting to drink something that was made by my "neighbors" makes me happy and makes me feel like I have a closer relationship with my beer.  On Friday, I was invited to World of Beer’s (bar #42) for their Best of Ohio Tap Takeover.
The World of Beer put 48 Ohio brewed beers into their taps.  These covered over two dozen breweries from all over the state.  They ranged our hometown Lakewood’s own Buckeye Brewing to one of my favorite’s Jackie O’s from Athens’ Ohio.  Breweries of all ages attended, from the established, Great Lakes Brewing Company, to plucky new comers like Franklin Brewing Company.  What these breweries have in common is creating products that aren’t just beer.  If you have enough money, know how, and cleanliness abilities you make a good enough beer.  Hell, you can make good beer in your basement.  These breweries do something beyond just making beer.  They are crafting beer.  This may just sound like a play of semantics but to the people that work at these breweries it’s everything.  They spend countless hours tweaking recipes to be the exact beer that they want to exist.  This Friday they got to show themselves off.  It was impressive that there are enough great types of beer in Ohio to fill forty-eight taps  and that we could have used at least another couple dozen beers.  I tried out five of them and still wished there was another half dozen I would have drank as well.  Well, my liver disagrees but what are you gonna do.

The event itself was odd.  There weren't any of the breweries present there like I was told, or at least they weren't obviously present.  There was also a weird smell coming from the sinks or garbage that made us move to a different location in the bar.  It basically felt like a normal day at World of Beer (minus the smell) but with a ton of Ohio beer on tap.  But they had soooo much local beer that they made up for it.

My first beer was Crafted Artisan Meadery, Meadjito.  Artisan is one of four quality meaderies in Ohio.  For those with a good palate, you’ll pick up hints of mint, lime juice, and of course, honey.  If you aren’t a mead connoisseur, it’s going to taste like a mildly sweet and sour white wine.
Next was Actual Brewing’s Photon.  I couldn’t detect much smell to it and it didn’t have a head.  This was a good beer for those trying to bridge the gap from light beers.  It’s very fizzy with little taste.  There’s a slight after taste to it as well.  It’s a nice choice for the light beer drinkers but not too interesting to your average craft beer aficionado.
I haven’t had anything from Fathead’s Brewery in a while and tonight it was time to make amends.  I didn’t even have a choice.  How do you not drink something called Fat Head’s Bonehead Red Rye Cask w/ Pineapple and Habanero.  It had a nice head to it and a soft foam.  They used the rye well, where many breweries have failed.  There should have been a piney and pineapple taste but it had trouble competing with the habanero's heat.  The spiciness took over more and more of the taste as you drank, including sticking around for a long after taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and would get it again.  I want to try it with something to eat.  I believe that its complex taste will enhance a variety of foods.
My favorite beer of the night was Elevator’s Horny Goat.  I am always impressed with what Elevator produces and tonight was no different.  Horny Goat is a dark beer that even Kelly, who doesn’t like dark beer, liked a lot.  Its taste combination of whiskey, vanilla, and coconut creates a taste that’s more than its parts.  Horny Goat just got better as you went.  You must drink this, it will raise your expectations for beer and yourself.  Perhaps this was simply because it was my fourth beer in.
My last beer of the evening was Brother Drake's Apple Pie Mead.  This is not a shy mead.  It has a strong sweet aroma of apple, alcohol and cough syrup.  It’s a sweet mead, whose taste is heavy with apple and honey.  The combination can come up almost fake due to its potency.  This strong apple pie taste hides its 13% alcohol content.  This is a beer whose goal is to blast you in the face with apple pie, then knock you on your ass.
These are experiences that can’t get with a domestic beer.  Our Ohio craft beers, instead of being part of the background of getting drunk, are part of our experience.  I enjoyed getting to know some new Ohio beers.  Thank you to the people that crafted them for us.
These are the other beers included for the World of Beer's Best of Tap Takeover:
Crafted Artisin Meadery Meadjito 
Brothers Drake Apple Pie Mead 
Brothers Drake Sour Paw Paw Mead 
Black Box Abbey Ale
Black Box Cloud 9
Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. Barrel Aged Cerberus
Thirsty Dog Whippet Wheat 
Rockmill Petit Saison
JAFB-Wooster Brewery Harvest Saison
JAFB New Stunt IPA
Actual Brewing Ingenuity
Actual Brewing Photon
Great Lakes Brewing Company Space Walker
Great Lakes The Wright Pilsner
Great Lakes Mango Perry Firkin
4 String Backstage Blonde
4 String Big Star White IPA
Hoppin' Frog Brewery Turbo Shandy
Hoppin' Frog BORIS the Crusher
Buckeye Sunstream
Buckeye Hippie IPA
Jackie O's Pub & Brewery Paw Paw Wheat
Jackie O's Galaxy Mandala DIPA
Jackie O's Dark Apparition
Catawba Island Whitecap Wit
Catawba Island Double Couple
Franklin Brewing Company Ltd. Company Ltd. Americas Gold
Franklin Brewing Milk Street Stout
Willoughby Brewing Company Peanut Butter Cup Porter
Fat Head's Brewery Jack Straw
Fat Heads Bonehead
Fat Heads Bonehead Firkin w/ Habanero and Pineaplle
Fat Heads Bumbleberry
Portside Distillery Pop Smoke Rauchbeer
Portside Brewing Ironclad
Lagerheads Smokey Robinson
Seventh Son Brewing Golden Ratio IPA
Seventh Son American Strong
Brew Kettle White Rajah
Brew Kettle Black Rajah
Columbus Brewing Restaurant Bodhi
Columbus Brewing Dalton
Mt. Carmel Deeper Roots Coffee Brown
Elevator Brewing Company Horny Goat
Griffin Cider Lemon Blues
Griffin Cider Honey Oak Nitro
Rivertown Roebling Porter Nitro

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bar #60 Melt

There are few bars in Lakewood, or even Cleveland, that have gotten even a fraction of the hype that this week's bar has received. It has been featured everywhere from the Plain Dealer's A List Restaurants to the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. It has expanded its space and expanded into new spaces. It's fitting that for the last bar in Lakewood that I would have a beer at would be a meeting between Cleveland Scene's 2014 best blog and best sandwich. Obviously, the 60th and final bar is Melt Bar and Grilled.

For the most part we had all already been to Melt Bar and Grilled at one point or another. I haven't been there since the blog began. For a while, it was simply because everyone wanted to go on the Melt blog day; but we couldn't match everyone's schedules at a time when the wait wasn't too long. When you've got one of the most famous grilled cheese sandwiches in America, there will probably be a line. I remember how excited everyone was about a grilled cheese sandwich at a bar back when Melt first opened. There's a certain nostalgic excitement when you get foods that you mainly ate when you were a kid. Mac & cheese, pizza, and grill cheese are always exciting to eat. They were as much a treat as as a meal as a child. When we eat them now, it's always a bit more fun than other foods.  Since, none of us were new to Melt, we tried a new experience:  Melt's new bruch menu!

On a rainy Sunday morning, ten of us arrived at Melt Bar and Grilled fifteen minutes before the bar even opened. Already a couple people were waiting for the doors to unlock. We all huddled under the entrance overhang looking forward to our culinary adventure. When you enter through the back entrance, you find yourself in a waiting area with benches and a souvenir/hostess stand. This waiting area was an important part of the remodel. Originally, the waiting patrons would simply wander around the tables trying to keep out of everyone's ways. Your eyes quickly accelerate from randomly wandering to quickly darting about at all the amazingness around. This eye candy ranges from old ads and photographs on the walls to holiday themed blown plastic figures up above the bar. After looking at the snowman army above, your eyes will be drawn to a slew of beer taps showing off their fantastic draft selection. The front entrance of Melt is an amazing combination of caricatures of people and local places around Cleveland.

Our waiter had already made it to our table by the time I had stopped wandering around taking pictures. He was friendly and did his best to keep us happy during our time at Melt. Unfortunately, there was a breakdown of communication during our stay, leading to two incorrect food orders and three incorrect drink orders. On a plus side, this lead to one of us getting a free meal.

We had a minor amount of confusion when we couldn't figure out who was missing. We knew the number but couldn't figure out how it added up. Suddenly, we realized that our missing person was already here.  We somehow overlooked her, even though she was blowing bubbles with her drool at the time. Yes, we forgot that Katie and Johnny's baby Nora was a person. I was then carded by our waiter.

As stated before, Melt has a superior beer list. It gives you the ability to get exactly what your in the mood for and possibly, something you didn't even know you wanted. I decided that North Coast PranQster, a Belgian style ale, was a proper breakfast beer. It's got a good bit of fizz with mildly sour, citricy flavor, with a bit of spice and apricot to boot. It stood great on its own and added to my eating experience. Oddly, the beer prices on the menu didn't match our bill at the end.

Now for the important part, the food. Melt now offers a Sunday brunch from 11am till 4pm on Sundays. You'll still be able to get all your favorites, you've simply got another half dozen sandwiches to try out. I went with the Breakfast Club Melt. It's basically your breakfast morphed into a sandwich. You take your normal egg, bacon and cheese sandwich coat it in pancake batter and deep fry it till awesomeness maximization is reached. I also got a side of bacon. They were out of the side portions of french toast. I'm not complaining because there is no way I could have touched the side of toast after eating the massive sandwich. This is also a good place to lose your chicken and waffle (sandwich) virginity, but watch out it is a mouth full. The agreed upon best sandwich on the brunch menu was the Stuffed French Toast. It's a combination of blueberry compote, lemon curd and cream cheese on cinnamon french toast. It'll force you to go mmmm and your friends to go “Awwwe, why didn't I order that.” Downsides? We had two people that can't handle all the deep friedness and had to get the salad. It was still good.

The regular menu has been shrunken and changes on a monthly to seasonal basis to allow different options throughout the year. They still keep some favorites year round. Smaller menus usually lead to more imagination and quality. Melt is another success story of this logic.

When we were leaving we saw that you get name tags so that the host can find you when your table is ready.

Do you want discounts?  Here are two options.  One, try the Melt Challenge.  All you have to do is eat their monster grilled cheese sandwich which includes three slices of bread and 13 types of cheese and a pile of fries and slaw without any help or trips to the bathroom.  If you survive, you'll get a t-shirt, $10 gift card, and a place on their wall of fame.  If your stomach can't handle it, then maybe your arm can.  if you brand yourself with a Melt tattoo, you get 25% off for LIFE.  These next two pictures are from Melt's website.

Melt  has one of the coolest atmosphere's in town and with five locations the wait's not too bad anymore. Their beer list is top notch, everyone will find something they love to drink. The food is greasy, gastropub priced and makes me droll just thinking about it. Their fried sandwiches are capable of competing against most any restaurant in the country. The service was knowledgeable and friendly, though this morning it was also easily confused. It is a requirement, as a Lakewoodite/Clevelander to eat at Melt. If you're reading this it's probably just to see if I agree with you and see some pictures. If you're the one person in Cleveland that hasn't gone or you aren't from around here and I'm your tipping point; then go to bar #60, Melt Bar and Grilled, and be full, intoxicated, and happy.

As the bar that is always near the top of everyone's list, it was fitting that the blog ended here. A proper celebration needs its grande finale, and no bar can do it better. It has been a privilege to see, explore and enjoy every bar in Lakewood. Each one has had something that made it unique and fantastic. I've made great friends and memories throughout my travels. Thank you for reading my blog and coming with me on my journey. Now it's your turn to go to Every Bar in Lakewood.

Oh wait. You didn't think I was actually done, did you? The quest may have been completed but there are still side quests to be had.  I've got some new ideas for blogs and for Every Bar in Lakewood itself, that will arise over the next couple months.  Plus, it's looking like four more bars will be opening by the end of summer.  I'm ready for new adventures.

14718 detroit Ave