Culture meets beer at Hansa Import Haus

Mike Suglio, Staff Reporter

In the past 40 years, Cleveland has changed dramatically.  “The Forest City” has hit some all-time lows but, currently, is economically at an all-time high.  Many businesses have come and gone in the past 40 years, but Hansa Import Haus has done something quite unique. After 40 years of operation, present-day owner Boris Music chose to expand his business by adding a 15-barrel brewery.

Hansa Import Haus has been around in the Ohio City neighborhood longer than Great Lakes Brewery. Forty years ago it became a specialty food shop where Clevelanders could purchase imported cheese, meats, breads and beers.

Hansa is an experience. After entering through the large, wooden door visitors are welcomed by a beautiful Slovenian mural and Eastern European architecture.  As I soaked in the Slovenian music playing the background, I was impressed by the large wooden bar and liquor and beer selection. Hansa has several in-house brews, but also a huge selection of imported beers and liquors.  The original import haus still operates on the other side of the wall from the brewery and is a great way to bring new beers to the bar.

Corey Miller, head brew master, greeted me at the bar still wearing his giant work boots, a necessary accessory when brewing beer.  While studying music at Cleveland State University, Miller’s friend began to home brew beer and asked Miller if he’d like to brew with him.  From there, Miller began to brew on his own and eventually got his first brewing gig as assistant brewer at Indigo Imp Brewery.

Miller explained that Music had the opportunity to buy his brewing system from a closing brewery in Slovenia at a fair cost with the goal of being one of the few breweries in Cleveland that specializes in Eastern European and German beer.

I was very excited to try several of these authentic German brews.  The first was the Wild Card, a German India Pale Ale (IPA), which is brewed with five different German hops, making this beer a modern take on an IPA. This golden-colored beer had tastes of tangerine, melon and strawberry.  It did not have too strong of a hop smell or taste and abided by the infamous Purity Law of 1516.

Next was the Black Flag, a Schwartzbier, which is a black lager.  Lagers are aged in cold temperature and are rather refreshing. The Black Flag had the light and refreshing resemblance of a lager, but looked and tasted like a porter.  This is a great beer all year round; it tastes like a dark beer that someone would have in the winter, but it is not as heavy and thick as most dark beers. If you are someone who prefers dark beers, like me, but don’t want something too thick and heavy in the summer, this is a great brew for you.

The Hansanator was an excellent Doppelbock, a signature German-style beer.  Though it is still a lager, it is a lot heavier and robust in taste and alcohol by volume (ABV) at 8.2 percent yet low in International Bittering Units (IBU) at 26, like a lager would be. This beer had a beautiful caramel glow to it and was quite malty in taste.  Miller uses an open fire system to boil the wort when brewing, which brings out the color and taste of a sweeter, caramel beer.

My favorite beer at Hansa was the Stomping Grounds Coffee Stout on Nitro.  This collaboration beer was made with the help from Passengers Café at the Cleveland Hostel and Phoenix Coffee. This world brew has hops from New Zealand, coffee from El Salvador, roasted barley from Chile and house malts from Cleveland. Miller hopes to distribute this beer to nearby bars in his “stomping grounds” soon.

As I listened to the cuckoo clock tweet, I enjoy their $10 lunch combo special.  I devoured a tender, hearty, slab of meatloaf, which tasted like the best burger patty I have ever had. I enjoyed seasoned carrots and spatzel, which is a fluffy noodle dish, all soaked in rich gravy from the meatloaf.  Easily one of the best lunch deals in Cleveland.
The best way to describe Hansa Import Haus to someone who hasn’t been there: It is a more local and less noisy, Hofbrauhaus. It does not have that “chain” feel and does not get as crazy as a Friday night at the Hofbrauhaus does.  Even though that is fun at times, it is great to have the same culture but a different vibe.