A happy hour special on domestic lager is so ubiquitous as to not even qualify as special. Call it a dollar off, call it $1.50 a pop, the end result is so universally discounted one imagines some mysterious Chief Beer Accountant setting the price in line 7A of a big master happy hour spreadsheet.
Which, of course, isn't to smear its good name.
Despite the sterile bottom-lining of your buzz, the commonality of a cheap happy hour domestic brew of your choice is comforting. Toss a bottle cap in any direction and you'll probably hit a corner joint slinging a Bud or Miller for a buck and some change, and if your aim is off and you happen to hit a swankier establishment instead, one with a real kitchen, real silverware, and doors on the bathroom stalls, you're still bound to find something cold for $2 or so.
That knowledge is refreshing on a deep level embedded in our genetics by generations of butts on barstools and untold perspiring mugs of amber waves of grains.
It might cost slightly more than your grandfather slapped on the well-worn bar back in the day, but beer costs what it costs and times have changed. Plus, your friendly local establishment is humping out label-thin profit margins. Who's to begrudge them?
Well, you. You're scrimping and saving. You're eyeing creeping costs of living and wondering if that corner-store six pack might be a better bet for the slim pickings left from last week's paycheck.
After all, gas in Ohio is up 55 cents a gallon over last year. Rent in Cleveland might pale in comparison to coastal locales, but it's clicking up while wages remain stagnant in a state where real personal income growth trails the national average. Almost 50 percent of Northeast Ohioans are rent burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and an increasing portion of what's left of those wages are being siphoned off by rising transportation, healthcare and childcare costs.
So, yeah, when talking dollars and cents, it's not only the first half of that combo that matters. It's the difference, however small, between a dollar beer and one coming in at a buck and a quarter or $1.75.
And while the $1 brew is an endangered species around these parts, it's hasn't been driven to extinction, yet, as it has been in tonier cities. The search for that greatest deal of them all — one beer, one George Washington (or assorted change), neat and even — yields few options in Cleveland, but yields options nonetheless. Before it becomes a romantic Rust Belt relic, do yourself a favor and pony up for the most principled of happy hour specials.
These deals are to be treasured, cataloged and shared, so if we missed any during our semi-diligent research (which we surely did), do let us know.
Flat Iron Cafe (1114 Center St.)
It shouldn't be a surprise that one of the oldest bars in Cleveland is one of the last bastions of old-timey pricing. This Flats legend welcomes visitors in search of bargain-basement sudsy relief with $1 "dads' beers" (Genny Cream Ale, Rolling Rock, Stroh's, Busch Light, Miller High Life) on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to close.
Sloane Pub (18196 Sloane Ave., Lakewood)
A no-frills Lakewood dive boasting a crowd of young regulars, old timers and service industry folks would be a neighborhood favorite even without the $1 draft specials from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the deal certainly doesn't hurt.
Crust (2258 Professor Ave.)
The land of one-pound pizza slices is also the land of $1 beer (it was High Life last time we stopped by) during happy hour on Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.
Time Warp (26261 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake)
Out in the western 'burbs, the Time Warp is a divey oasis in an otherwise chain-choked desert where the budget-minded drinker can find $1 Miller Lite pints every day until 8 p.m.