Western Reserve Meadery and Duck-Rabbit Coffee Make a Home at Forest City Brewery 

Everything old is new again at the ambitious Forest City Brewery project (2135 Columbus Rd., forestcitybrewery.com) in Duck Island. Embedded within the historic 1915 building on the site of the former Atlantic Beer Garden, the forthcoming Duck-Rabbit Coffee and Western Reserve Meadery add to the anticipation of Forest City as a craft beverage destination.

Both Columbus Road storefronts plan to wrap up construction in February. Duck-Rabbit expects to be open by the end of the month and a spring opening is planned for the Meadery.

In the midst of mead's recent explosion, Douglas Shaw and Jason Andro of Western Reserve Meadery (westernreservemeadery.com) are primed to continue the renaissance of their fermented honey-based imbuement.

"I remember reading about mead in Beowulf," recalls Shaw. "Now you've got Game of Thrones and Skyrim putting it front and center of popular culture."

Shaw and Andro, who started as home brewers, already have garnered accolades from WineMaker magazine. In 2014, they earned a bronze award in the fruit mead category for their fig mead made with blueberry honey.

Specialty small-batch varieties will include oak-aged buckwheat and cherry, which is on the dry side, and an upcoming date mead. A summery mead will include apricot, clover and hops as a sort of cross between cider and beer with a distinct floral flavor.

"I think we're both intrigued with the fruits that aren't tart, but more savory," says Shaw.

Because bees pollinate more than one type of plant, creating mixed flavor notes in the honey, no two varieties will be the same. That's all the incentive folks need to visit the shop often, where the small bar will offer tastings.

"That's part of the mystery and romance of it," says Andro. "Once you have the honey from that year, there is nothing in the universe that will make that exact combination again."

Meads will be available to take home in 375 mL and 750 mL bottles.

Only footsteps away, Duck-Rabbit (duckrabbitcoffee.com) will serve up coffee. Keeping pace with the coffee world's recent obsession with light roasting techniques, proprietor Cal Verga uses a vintage early-'80s Probat G-12 that was manufactured and refurbished in Emmerich, Germany.

The shop will sell its beans retail, and there will be seating for about a dozen. A small selection of local pastries will be offered.

Verga, a Lakewood native, spent the last handful of years learning the coffee-roasting ropes in the Bay Area, a West Coast coffee mecca.

"I feel like I got my start in the perfect place," says Verga. "The Bay Area was super collaborative."

In that tradition, he recently teamed up with Forest City Brew to create a stout using a Rwandan roast with dark berry notes. Restore Cold Press uses his cold brew in its nut mylk. On deck is a project with Brick and Barrel.

The final element will be home-brewed coffee workshops.

"Encouraging and empowering people to brew at home is a big focus of what we're doing," says Verga. "We want people to be excited about coffee."


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