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It's the week that people in Cleveland wait for all year long. No, it's not the Indians Home Opener. Not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Sure, those are amazing, but we're talking about beer here.
And not just any beer: Cleveland Beer Week celebrates the phenomenal lineup of 33 local craft breweries that call Cuyahoga County home. Beer-laden events throughout the week show off some of Cleveland's best attractions while benefiting the Malone Scholarship Fund, which helps deserving area students earn college scholarship money.
It all started in 2009, with a conversation--one that we'd like to imagine took place over a pint--between Sean Hice, president of Heidelberg Distributing, and John Lane, co-owner of the Winking Lizard Tavern, about how there wasn't a big focus on the craft brew industry at that time. They added Ed Thompkins, Heinen's wine and beer merchandiser, into the mix, creating the trifecta of a distributor, a restaurant permit holder, and a retail permit holder, and Cleveland Beer Week was born.
"There was no competition between them, so they could come up with these ideas to meet all the needs of the craft beer industry without any favoritism toward any one arm of the industry," said Kim Bihler, event coordinator of Cleveland Beer Week.
It started small with a handful of events the first year and has grown to 13 Flagship Events and a total of 300 keg tapping, beer-sipping happenings throughout Greater Cleveland for 2017. In the past eight years, the event has raised more than $130,000 for the Malone Scholarship Fund.
"The focus is on all of Cuyahoga County and includes bars, brewers, distributors--everyone in the craft beer industry," Bihler said. "Beer Week combines a lot of local sightseeing destinations and Cleveland neighborhoods that visitors want to go to anyway: East 4th Street, Tremont, Greater Cleveland Aquarium, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Nautica Queen, etc. It's often a hugely discounted way to see these attractions, since event tickets cost less than regular admission for some of these venues, and food and beer are included.
So what's on tap for 2017? Fill your glasses at the following Flagship Events:
Oct. 13: Collaboration Turf Wars
Cleveland Beer Week's official opening ceremony will determine who has the right to brag. Dividing the region into teams by turf, 33 local breweries created seven small-batch collaboration IPAs just for the occasion. This event runs simultaneously in several different locations: Flats East Bank, Lakewood, Ohio City, Tremont, and Willoughby. Pick up your passport and walk to neighborhood bars to taste all seven beers.
Oct. 14: Where's Dale--Liquid Scavenger Hunt, Tremont
Find the tastes of Oskar Blues on the Liquid Scavenger Hunt. Check in at Bourbon Street Barrel Room to have your first taste of Oskar Blues, receive a special limited edition t-shirt and your passport to find your next tastes. You'll move through the trendy neighborhoods collecting gear and sipping brews as you go.
Oct. 14: Belgian Social, Butcher and the Brewer
Held at the always-happening eatery/brewery on East 4th Street, the event celebrates all things Belgian. The evening includes Belgian-inspired beer and food pairings, as well as live music.
Oct. 16: Adult Swim and Sips, Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Enjoy sipping among the fish (and sharks!) with more than 10 beer stations and food pairings. Tickets include special event t-shirt, tasting cup, souvenir photo, entertainment, and a raffle ticket.
Oct. 17: Culture Yourself, Great Lakes Brewing Co. Tasting Room
Join 17 top breweries and sample beers that have been carefully paired with artisan cheeses. Meet the brewers and food specialists and enjoy this interactive, walk-around event while discovering your favorite pairings.
Oct. 19: Beer Week Barn Bash, Mapleside Farms
Enjoy autumn scenery, a corn maze, a burlap sack slide, a hayride and beer trucks. Sip fall-inspired brews and find a couple of special ones as you explore the farm, located south of Cleveland in Brunswick.
Oct. 20: Ales on Rails, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Heidelberg Distributing/Rampant Brands hosts this delightful ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad that includes a boxed supper and seven craft brews.
Oct. 20: Beer & Chocolate Extravaganza, Heinen's Downtown
The beautiful Heinen's Downtown Rotunda hosts this fabulous showcase of craft beers from top breweries and artisanal chocolates. Meet brewery and chocolatier reps and enjoy this interactive, walk-around event while discovering your favorite pairings.
Oct. 21: Rare, Cleveland State University Wolstein Arena
Rare presents beers that the audience may only read, hear or dream about. Beers will represent the pinnacle of the brewmasters' artistry while providing guests with a literally once-in-a-lifetime beer experience.
There are many, many more events; find complete listings on the Cleveland Beer Week website. Event tickets also are available online beginning Sept. 11, but don't wait too long, as many events sell out faster than a case of Great Lakes Christmas Ale in July.
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