Apparently, those late-night marathons of "B" monster flicks were life-defining moments for the Stanford graduate and brewmaster of the Western Reserve Brewery: He and fellow Western Reserve founder Gavin Smith are releasing a batch of Bockzilla, the brewery's popular springtime beer, in honor of Craze's passion for "crummy horror movies." This year's bock will debut at a most appropriate venue: the Dinosaur Hall at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, during the museum's third annual A Night Under the Stars party this Saturday. Admission -- 30 bones at the door -- includes two Bockzillas per guest.
"The monster culture was sort of ingrained in me, and it's sort of a part of this beer," says Craze, who drives a yellow 1971 Karmann Ghia with a vanity plate that reads "Ghidra." He and Smith began home-brewing together while hanging out in Seattle during the mid-'90s. What was a favorite pastime soon turned into a budding business, prompting them to ditch their cerebral computer jobs in pursuit of their favorite beverage. Upon returning to Cleveland, the two set up shop at a former armored-car warehouse on Commerce Avenue in the Midtown Corridor.
Although Bockzilla first hit the shelves last spring, this year's batch sports an outrageous new label (featuring the King of the Monsters slamming a mug of his namesake brew), designed by local Aquaman cartoonist Marty Egeland, and a slightly different taste due to a lengthy "double decoction" brewing technique. "The decoction gives it a richer, caramel flavor," says Craze. "The first batch took 19 hours. It was a very long day."
Smith and Craze will also be in for a long night at the party, personally serving up $2 pints of their handcrafted brews, once the complimentary Bockzillas go the way of the dinosaurs. Western Reserve is donating all the event's beer sales to the museum's Nature League, a nonprofit social group for the outdoorsy, 21-and-over granola crowd.
"The party usually goes late, and it's a huge beer-drinking crowd," says Mary Hromyko, the museum's membership coordinator. "You get a chance to meet fun people, and you always leave the museum a little brighter."
Not to mention a little light-headed.