Throughout its 32-year lifespan, Great Lakes Brewing Co.
(2516 Market Ave., 216 -771-4404) in Ohio City has grown, expanded and changed with the times. Along the way, the front-facing facility, which is comprised of the taproom, brewpub, cellar pub and beer garden (along with the sidewalk patio), has been on the receiving end of various tweaks and improvements designed to keep the things current.
On January 26, the doors closed to the public so that management could undertake the latest “refresh” of the space, which is designed to improve all aspects of the guest experience, while simultaneously offering those guests more ways to enjoy the facility.
“We’re trying with this renovation to really honor our roots, but also to embrace change,” explains Allison Pryce, general manager of brewpub operations. “I like to think of it as opening the doors to a brand new generation of our beer drinkers. When you look at our core product, which is our beer, people like to drink that in a lot of different ways, and who are we to say that it should be one or the other.”
When the brewery reopens its doors at 11:30 a.m. on Friday 14, it will do so with a new “split-concept model” that offers guests a different experience depending on whether they choose to visit the brewpub or the beer garden, notes Pryce.
“Essentially, we are going to reopen as two concepts,” she says.
The brewpub and taproom will be called Brewhouse No. 1, which takes its name from the brewery’s original brewing equipment that lives onsite and still is used to brew all pub-exclusive beers. Folks seated in the restaurant will enjoy a new “gastropub” menu with items like roasted bone marrow and Dortmunder Gold bratwurst cassoulet. (View the Brewhouse menu here
Executive chef Shorty Coleman, who has been with the company for 15 years, is overseeing the changes. He will be doing so from a completely renovated kitchen with new floors, ceiling and cooking equipment.
“We’re just taking the food items up a little notch, so someone could feel comfortable coming here for a fun date night or a nice dinner,” reports Pryce, adding that many classics will survive the change.
“We’re still keeping favorites like pretzel chicken and fish and chips, but even with those we will be incorporating more exciting and modern plating to bring them into the new decade,” she says. “Everything has to be Instagram-worthy in 2020!”
Concept number two is the Beer Garden, a casual first-come, first-served environment with new communal seating, large-screen TVs and a projector broadcasting every major sports game. A separate menu will be filled with more snack-style foods, but diners also can elect to order from the Brewhouse No. 1 menu. Guests in the Brewhouse, however, will not be able to order off the Beer Garden menu. (View the Beer Garden menu here
“With this concept we are really going for more of that traditional sports bar meets German beer hall feel,” Bryce explains.
That leaves the lower-level Cellar Pub, which will remain an informal space with open seating, while utilizing the Brewhouse menu.
“The reason we decided to split is ultimately because what we saw was people like to interact with our product in a number of ways,” Pryce states. “They might want to just swing by and watch the game and crush some bar food. They might want to come in and have a nice dinner. Or they might want to throw back a pint sitting on the patio. And the way we were set up before was somewhat limited. If you wanted to sit down, you had to order from the menu, you had to be having dinner, and as result we were turning a lot people away that we wanted to come in and drink beer and have a great time.”
Another significant change is the relocation of the main entrance from the Taproom side to the Brewhouse.
“When I asked [owner] Dan Conway what he was most excited about with this new relaunch, he said, ‘I’m excited to not have that bottleneck at the front door of the tavern anymore.’”
In the future, every new guest will enter into the main restaurant space. When they arrive, they will be able to take advantage of a convenient coat check and storage area, outfitted behind the old Feed & Seed counter.
“We are one of the major tourist destinations in the city, and so many times people are rolling up with suitcases, strollers… and we just had no place to put them,” reports Bryce.
The last remaining piece of this puzzle is the patio, which will be split into two different zones belonging either to the Brewhouse or the Beer Garden.
Pryce assures diners that the goal is to improve the overall experience, while taking pains to preserve those physical elements that we all have come to appreciate, not the least of which is the taproom’s gorgeous tiger mahogany bar that date back to the late-1800s.
“For so long, because it is a historical space, and because over the years we have expanded into this room and that room, the space felt a little disjointed,” she says. “What we’re trying to address with this renovation is to give a cohesive feel to the whole restaurant. Obviously, we would never touch some of the really important historical pieces.”
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