Pass the suds… From Brick and Barrel


Mike Suglio/Observer

New brewery Brick and Barrel offers a laid-back environment in the historic Flats district.

My parents always spoke fondly of the Flats. When they were roughly my age, they met at the flagship restaurant and bar, Fagan’s, which had a large blue neon above its entrance and gently reflected on the Cuyahoga River. Mom and Dad would proudly take me there as a child and show me the exact spot where my father stirred up the courage to say “hi” to my mother and her friends.

By the late 1990s, the Flats were abandoned. Cleveland was a different city than it had been in the 1980s, and the new hot spots had mainly shifted away from downtown.

But now in 2015, a few businesses have mustered up the courage to take a risk on the Flats—no different than the risk a short Italian immigrant took when asking out a girl from Kirtland, Ohio. One of those risk-takers is the brand-new brewery, Brick and Barrel.

Before I even entered the brewery, I realized how befitting its name is. Brick and Barrel is surrounded by old and gritty factories, which reflect the workingman’s history in Cleveland.

The tasting room is simple, with some seats and a large bar. The bar top is made out of old chalkboards from Lakewood High School, and many patrons, including myself, artistically left their mark as they sipped some suds. Old church pews were repurposed to comprise of the rest of the bar, and the tabletops were made from Lakewood High School’s old basketball court.

Brick and Barrel employee Darell Mikols explained, “All of our repurposed materials are from the neighboring Old School Architectural Salvage Project.” He continued by stating that the new patio tables will be made from the wire spools that were used for the adjacent bridge.

Karl Spiesman, Jason Henkel and Mike Dagiasis founded the brewery roughly three years ago and opened in December of 2014. Spiesman has brewed at various breweries across the country after originally starting in Ohio’s wine country at Debonne Vineyards. Dagiasis runs the daily operations, and Henkel is an investor and overall beer enthusiast.

Henkel proudly showed me his 3.5-barrel system brewery before we decided to watch large ships pass under the colossal bridge behind the brewery.

“Cleveland needed a true ‘come as you are’ place where old-schoolers to hipsters could enjoy a beer together,” Henkel shared. “We are the opposite of corporate and are a simple place to hang out, which was a missing puzzle piece to Cleveland.”

Despite being one of the most bare-bones bars I have visited in Cleveland, it had one of the most warm and fun vibes to it, proving it is all about the people—and of course, the beer.

Spiesman’s beer was unique, smooth and simply delicious with every sip. The most popular beer at Brick and Barrel is the “Bitter Chief IPA.” A clear, bitter and grassy taste, this copper-colored beer was incredibly enjoyable. I was surprised at how balanced this brew was despite the bitterness. It may be due to the fact that I am a Clevelander and hence an inherent bitter myself.

The “Me So Corny Cream Ale” was unlike any cream ale I have ever had. This light-colored beer had tastes of honey coupled with a powerful corn taste. I was a bit turned off at first, but soon found myself requesting a full pint of this beer brewed with generous amounts of flaked corn.

The dark, ruby brown Scotch ale, McTavish Wee Heavy, is certainly a beer for the heavy hitters, clocking in at nine percent alcohol by volume. The brew is named after Scottish folk character, Sandy McTavish. Spiesman’s grandfather lovingly referred to Spiesman as “McTavish” throughout his childhood. The name “Wee Heavy” is the Scottish term for a Scotch ale.

The Cleveland Dark Ale was a robust porter, which had the flavors and colors of a brown ale, yet a hoppy taste from the Cascade hops. The Chenin Blonde was the perfect summer beer with its sweet and tart tastes. This brew is made with Chenin Blanc wine, which adds to the wonderful tropical and malty flavors and aroma.

Brick and Barrel likes to “pay it forward,” as other breweries had done for them by allowing future neighboring brewery, Forest City, to brew at the facility. Brewmaster Corey Miller was incredibly excited for this opportunity and the success of his brews, which were sold out at the time of this article.

If you are looking for an affordable, fun, easygoing bar in the historic Flats, then Brick and Barrel is the place for you. Maybe you’ll meet your perfect match, or at least a fellow beer lover.