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The Cleveland Craft Beer Report 

Get ready for session day

One of the most common craft beer misconceptions is the assumption that the term "craft" applies only to beers with exotic ingredients, intense flavors and high alcohol. People who operate under this impression seek out only the most extreme beers they can find while ignoring the more subtle styles at the low end of the intensity spectrum. Thankfully, the rising trend of "session beer" is shining a spotlight on lower alcohol craft styles that feature just as much flavor as their heavyweight counterparts. The exact definition of a session beer varies by country; Englishmen will tell you proper session beer needs to be less than 4% ABV while Americans agree 4.5% and under is session strength.

Drinkers on this side of the pond can mark Sunday, April 7th as the 2nd Annual Session Beer Day. Tap handles across Cleveland and indeed the country will be pouring delicious sessionable selections. Why is Session Beer day on a Sunday? April 7th marks the 80th Anniversary of Little Repeal Day, the predecessor of the repeal of the 18th Amendment, and the day when 4% and under beer was made legal after years of prohibition. What locally available beers should you snag for your session? Fans of farmhouse ales should reach for Victory Swing Session Saison while Belgian beer lovers likely will enjoy the bright citrus and wheat in Revolution Bottom Up Wit. Hopheads can track down North Peak Wanderer or Stone Levitation Ale to get their lupulin lift. Lagunitas Daytime and Founders All Day IPA both technically have too much alcohol to make the cut, but we can round down and sneak a pint in. Love sour and wild ales? Look no further than The Bruery's Hottenroth Berliner Weisse and the Jolly Pumpkin Bam series.

Many homebrewers dream of working with a local brewery to get their beer in the glasses of Cleveland drinkers. Mike Yingling is living that dream through a series he created for Buckeye Brewing. After establishing a solid reputation in homebrew circles, he was tapped to help Head Brewer Garin Wright last March. After several brews on the "big system," Yingling got the opportunity to brew Mad Molly, an Imperial Red IPA he describes as "very bitter with sweet caramel to balance." He also created a few pilot batches for the Beer Engine, including a Dark Saison and Robust Porter. If he gets the chance to brew another one-off, the styles at the top of his list are Tripel, Belgian IPA and Coffee Stout. When asked about going from brewing five-gallon to 434-gallon batches, Yingling had some advice for those still dreaming: "The biggest thing is getting over the fear you're going to screw up 14 barrels of beer," he says. "Anyone that has a good homebrewing process and repeatedly makes good beers can make the jump up fairly easily."

Hoppin' Frog will officially be joining the list of Ohio breweries with a taproom. However, owner Fred Karm and his fellow "Frogs" are going to bound past setting up a simple warehouse-style "fill station" and soar straight to opening a 24-tap craft beer wonderland. Before long, visitors will be able to enjoy their favorite Hoppin' Frog beers on tap alongside some of the best guest beers in the world. The 60-seat space will feature live music and food, plus merchandise and retail sales of bottles of the entire Hoppin' Frog lineup. Renovations are underway and the new pad is set to open this summer. After being named one of 2012's top-20 breweries on the planet by rarebeer.com, 2013 is already shaping up to be an ambitious year for Akron's airborne amphibians. Here's to another great Northeast Ohio craft beer spot! 'Ribbit' - I mean 'Cheers'!

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