Mention names like Eliot Ness, Commodore Perry and Edmund Fitzgerald and people might believe you’re headed to a museum. At the Great Lakes Brewing Company, they wouldn’t be far off.
Established in 1988 by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway, Great Lakes Brewing Company cherishes the long history of brewing in Cleveland along with many historical events of the area.
The brewery is housed in a several historic buildings, including three that were home to the Schlather Brewing Company in 1878 which brewed as many as 90,000 barrels of beer a year as well as a Victorian building that began as a tavern in 1865 and was known for visits from the Untouchable Elliot Ness himself who even left a few bullet holes in the walls of the brewpub.
Their beers honor the past as well by keeping with traditional methods. “From the beginning, we incorporated the techniques of brewing used by European brewers in our own craft brewing process,” says Patrick Conway. “We were determined to use only the freshest ingredients with no preservatives or chemicals.”
And it’s not just the process of brewing the beer that rings of history. It’s the names too. The Eliot Ness Amber Lager, the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and the Commodore Perry IPA all celebrate individuals who impacted history. Even the famous 1969 Cuyahoga river fire is remembered with the Burning River Pale Ale and an annual festival that is the largest environmental themed event of it’s kind in the U.S.
The flagship beer is the Dortmunder Gold, originally called The Heisman after Johhny Heisman, the famous football player, who lived near the brewery. The name was changed to honor the style and its propensity for winning gold medals, 14 in all. The other brews have garnered their share of accolades as well with over 80 medals total.
The brothers also celebrate their own history with Conway’s Irish Ale, a seasonal available from January to April and a five-time gold medal winner that honors their grandfather, a Cleveland policeman for 25 years.
The brewery prides itself on a commitment to their community and the environment with initiatives such as recycling, reusing spent grains and using alternative sources of energy. This includes “The Fatty Wagon”, a beer delivery truck and shuttle bus that runs on straight restaurant vegetable oil.
As much as Great Lakes Brewing celebrates the history around them, they have become a large part of Cleveland’s history. They were the first microbrewery in Ohio and are celebrated as a city landmark.
Their distribution area includes states in the northeast, from Wisconsin to New York so if you’re not in one of those states, make plans to visit the brewery. And when you do, enjoy the brews, some good food and tip your hat to history.