With a batch of new breweries opening in Cleveland this year, it is only fitting the first one I review is a brewery with strong roots to Cleveland’s breweries of the past.
Jay Demagall, owner of the Forest City Brewery, initially wanted to grow hop in the Cuyahoga National Valley Park. However, after a change of heart, he opened up Forest City, choosing to name his business after his city. When famous French diplomat, Alexis de Tocqueville, first ventured through the city, he described what is now Cleveland as a “highly sophisticated society amid a heavily forested environment in Democracy in America.”
Fast forward to late 2016 when the 3-barrel brewery known as Forest City Brewery opened its doors to thirsty patrons.
Walking into the Forest City Brewery is like walking through a time machine. Old brewery signs and artifacts adorn the walls. The bar is large, wooden and looks like it’s been there for a century. Behind it sits a 1905 McCray commercial ice box, still happily keeping drinks chilled. On the other side of the bar sits a 1905 general store walk-in cooler, which was acquired by Demagall at a flea market in Middlefield, Ohio.
I was able to sample four beers during my visit. The first was their pale ale, Piper, at 4.8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) and 40 International Bittering Units (IBU). It’s a very drinkable light beer brewed by the veteran brewmaster, Jim Waltz, who has been brewing professionally for 15 years.
My second sample was Waldorf, a Roggenbier, a type of beer I have never had. A Roggenbier is a German rye beer, which is a dark, caramel color. This beer at 5.5 percent ABV and 18 IBU had a sweet rye taste and reminded me of a doppelbock and other German style beers. Waldorf vaguely translates to “forest village” in German, so it is a rather perfect name for this beer, which ended up being my favorite.
Next I tried the Opening Day India Pale Ale (IPA) in celebration of Cleveland’s unofficial first day of spring when the Cleveland baseball season begins. This IPA at 7.1 percent ABV and 62 IBU was not too hoppy and tasted more like a pale ale than an IPA. It had a darker color than most IPAs and did not have that clear smell of hops that I usually dislike with IPAs.
I finished my sampling with the Black Betsy, named after Cleveland Indians hall-of-famer Shoeless Joe Jackson’s bat. This Cascadian Dark ale stands at 5.5 percent ABV and a whopping 72 IBU. The Black Betsy is dark in color and flavor but not as dark as a stout or a porter. The easiest way to describe it is it tastes like a dark ale, a type of beer I wish we saw more of.
More and more breweries have now started focusing on English-style beers like IPAs, it was incredibly unique and fun to try so many craft German beers at a local, Cleveland brewery. I personally prefer German style beers, but that is probably because I am half-German.
The brewery also houses a large entertainment hall, which can be rented out. Demagall explains that he does not charge for artists to use it, so it is a great spot for any Case Western Reserve University student group looking for a performance space. A beautifully restored 1927 Chevrolet also lives in the hall, which Demagall plans to one day use as a delivery truck.
The brewery also sells some food, mainly specialized sausages with your choice of a wide variety of house made mustards. Forest City also has many limited edition beers, served in proper glassware, and a huge whiskey selection.
If you are looking for a unique Cleveland experience, especially if you are graduating in the spring semester, Forest City Brewery is the perfect destination.