The Cleveland Craft Beer Report

Southern Tier Brewing Company has recreated I-90 American Pale Ale for Cleveland Beer Week 2013. This special beer first hit local taps for the 2011 edition of Cleveland's official craft beer celebration and was so well received that it's been brought back for an encore. The name is a tribute to the highway that connects Cleveland to Southern Tier's brewery, located just two hours east in Lakewood, New York. I-90 pairs citrus hops with a slightly toasted pale malt backbone to create an accessible but hoppy delight. Look for the draft-only offering on tap at better beer bars starting October 18.

In addition to interstate recognition, Cleveland Beer Week also will receive its first international homage. Belgium's De Proefbrouwerij (De Proef) has produced an exclusive offering for thirsty Clevelanders who live 4,000 miles from that brewery. De Proef was founded in 1996 in the village of Lochristi near Ghent in the East Flanders province. In addition to producing Reinaert, the brewery's own line of Belgian ales, De Proef has become home base for several European contract-brewed brands like Greens, Omnipollo, The Musketiers and To Øl. In addition, gypsy brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, creator of the Mikkeller label, has brewed thousands of batches at the massive Flemish facility. The special beer is called Cleveland Belgian Rye Citra IPA and it will arrive in bottles in mid-October. The combination of rye and American Citra hops in a Belgian IPA sounds similar to Nice Lacing, a beer DeProef produced last year for Palo Alto Brewing Company that garnered favorable reviews.

Along with commemorative beers, a surge of breweries have begun distributing to Northeast Ohio for the first time. The latest high profile breweries are Prairie Artisan Ales of Tulsa, Okla., and Clown Shoes from Ipswich, Mass.. Both brands will make their Cleveland debut during Beer Week.

Prairie was started just over a year ago by brothers Chase and Colin Healey and already has grown to national fame thanks to exceptional Belgian-inspired ales. The pair started by contract brewing, but recently built their own facility and barrel room with help from fans; a Kickstarter fundraising campaign yielded almost $25,000 in a month to help with equipment and expenses. Prairie focuses on putting unique spins on the classic saison, including using American and New Zealand hops and aging in wine, rum and bourbon barrels. Prairie's hoppy American saison, dubbed 'Merica, will be one of two offerings that will hit local shelves in October, with the promise of more to come.

Clown Shoes evolved from Berman's, a beer store in Lexington, Mass.,. Beer manager Jesse Dooley and owner Gregg Berman have years of experience on the front lines of the craft beer revolution. While watching the demand for better beer and the number of products on their shelves grow, Berman had an epiphany; The store had a distributor's license and could start its own label if it only had a beer to call its own. They contracted with Mercury Brewing Company and created Clown Shoes. Their philosophy is to make unique, fun and unpretentious beers, and their flagship Hoppy Feet Black IPA embodies this approach. Look for year-round brews Hoppy Feet, Genghis Pecan Porter and Muffin Top Imperial Belgian IPA to hit Ohio shelves soon. Specialty offerings like Galactica, an American IPA brewed with Galaxy hops, and Chocolate Sombrero, which combines chocolate malt with chilies, cinnamon and vanilla, will also begin to make appearances. Tramp Stamp Belgian IPA will also be available on draft.

An ever-growing selection and international recognition can only mean one thing: There's never been a better time to be a craft beer drinker in Cleveland!

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