Schnitz Ale Brewery Offers a Free-Spirited Interpretation of Eastern European Fare

click to enlarge And plenty of beer - Photo by Doug Trattner
Photo by Doug Trattner
And plenty of beer

You might expect a chilly late-February Monday night to be Deadsville at the local brewpub, but the opposite was true during a recent visit to Schnitz Ale in Parma. Not only was every seat at the bar spoken for, as were most of the seats in the main dining room, but there also happened to be a party of 50 people seated above our heads on the second floor. Far from an aberration, however, this scene has been replayed pretty much every night since the brewery opened last November.

The parallel storylines of Immigrant Son and Schnitz Ale breweries are almost too numerous to list and remarkable to ignore. Both projects had their genesis way back in 2019, when the buildings that would eventually house them were acquired. Both breweries endured numerous and protracted construction delays thanks in large part to the pandemic. The two businesses opened their doors just days apart at the tail end of 2021 – and when they did, each was the first ever to start brewing in its city, Lakewood and Parma, respectively. I’d say, “and that’s where the similarities end,” but that’s not the case because both new breweries also are the product of immigrant families with strong ties to the Old Country.

If you’ve eaten at Das Schnitzel Haus since it opened in 2005, then you have some idea of the types of foods on the menu at the cleverly named Schnitz Ale. But while the bill of fare is decidedly German and Eastern European at heart, the brewpub offers a more free-spirited interpretation of those foods. Many dishes ignore borders altogether. The one thing that items like pulled pork egg rolls and schnitzel sliders have in common is that they both go great with beer.

If you’re like me, you like to toss in a snack order along with that first round of beer. Here, that quick-fire dish should be the Schnitz Ale pretzel ($11). The dinner plate-size hand-knotted treat has an appropriately shiny, crisp exterior that gives way to a light and fluffy interior. The hot, soft pretzel is drizzled with molten beer cheese and showered with bacon bits and chives.

I’m a sucker for fried smelts ($12) so when I spied a beer-battered version served here I bit. We were rewarded with a large platter of golden-brown fish and fries. A squeeze of fresh lemon was all these headless, well-trimmed fishes needed to be enjoyed, crispy tails and all. The kitchen smokes several items that make their way to the menu, whole chicken wings included. Available in orders of three ($11), six, or nine, the wings are large, meaty and pleasantly smoky. They’re served with fries and a smokey-sweet barbecue sauce for dipping.

That flair for smokehouse goods extends to the sausages, which owner Goran Djurin stuffs and smokes himself. The selection changes, but we enjoyed a platter ($17) containing chubby, juicy links of Italian, bratwurst and spicy German, all served with (yet more) fries and brown mustard. There’s also a sausage and sauerkraut (or peppers and onions) sandwich on the menu.

With a name like Schnitz Ale, one would expect to find a few schnitzel options and the brewpub delivers. The Jäger schnitzel ($17) features a thin breaded pork cutlet sauced with mushroom gravy and paired with a buttery rice pilaf. Another fun route to go is with the schnitzel sliders, a trio of mini chicken cutlets served on soft brioche buns.

First-time visitors are bound to be bowled over by the interior, a 10,000-square-foot, two-level space with eye candy at every turn. The brewpub seats approximately 200 guests on two floors, the second of which is a mezzanine connected to the main hall via a grand central staircase. The elaborate Old-World touches are nicely offset by industrial fixtures like steel beams and exposed ceilings and HVAC.

A cozy 15-seat, red-tiled bar is tucked into one corner of the room. Nearby, a window peers into the 7-barrel brewhouse, where brewmaster Jerome Moore concocts a wide range of ales, available in pints and flights. Flagships include a Kolsch, pilsner, stout and saison, but there also are a few IPAs and guest sours. A serviceable wine by the glass and bottle list is also on hand.

For now, parking is a bit of a hassle. The large adjacent lot still is an unpaved mess, a small lot directly behind the brewery is always full and street parking is not allowed nearby. That situation may or may not improve when a beer garden-style patio comes to life on that unpaved lot, but the idea of enjoying an ice-cold pilsner and warm Bavarian pretzel outdoors should more than compensate.

Schnitz Ale Brewery
5729 Pearl Rd., Parma
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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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