Our gameplan for the day was to go to HGR and pick up any brewing possible brewing equipment. So per usual, we did some quick googling (is that even a word) for about 15 mins and then we were off.
We stared our adventure at HGR Industrial Surplus looking for brewing supplies. We had a rough idea of what we needed. The 15mins was not enough research time, but we were smart enough to make a printout. HGR is a huge industrial warehouse on the Eastside of Cleveland and they have almost anything you could imagine. I (Craig) have been there a handful of times for work. Working at a machine shop had led me to this interesting place.
HGR is about 12 acres under roof. For the most part it is where machines go to die. Right now its about 12 degrees outside, so inside its roughly 45. As you can see from the picture, this place is just rows and rows of stuff, we went up and down the 15+ aisles scouring for stuff. You can find anything from electronics to hydraulics in this place. We ran across some industrial kitchen appliances, a box filled with hard-hats and event a hot dog chili warmer.
As you can tell from Patrick’s excitement, we got 2 hoses. Though we weren’t looking for anything specific, it felt good to make our first purchase. For right now I think the hoses will be used to pump cold water through the wort chiller.
One other note on HGR, don’t go into the visit with any expectations. They have what they have and you got to work with it. Sat. Hours 8-Noon. Also, they are all about making a deal, so negotiate.
After our trip to HGR Patrick suggested that we checkout a legit brewery supply store. Our aimless walking around was fun, but we had no real idea of what we needed.
So following Patrick’s lead, we went to Warehouse Beverage on Mayfield Road. Its only about a 10 minute ride from HGR. The place may be small and somewhat unassuming, but they had an amazing selection of beer. There were hundreds of different types on hand with a select few in the cooler. If you want to get started on trying craft beers this might just be the place to go on the Eastside.
Along with all the 4 and 6 packs you could handle, they had a wall of brewing supplies. Since this was our first time out looking for legitimate supplies, we were amazed at the selection. Us being newbies, this seemed like an overload. Though I have been reading up on different brewing recipes, I had not realized the selection out there for brewing. Not only did they have your Hops, Malts, Yeast, but they also had bottle capers, bottles, carboys and anything else you might need.
We didnt pick up any equipment today (except a couple beers). Since it was about lunchtime, the only logical place I could think of for food would be Willoughby Brewing Company.
I have never been there personally. Patrick said he went there once before but didn’t try the food. What the hell, we went for it. Willoughby Brewing Company tucked behind the middle of downtown Willoughby, is a good 20+ min. drive from Warehouse Beverage. It is located in what I assume is an old warehouse or factory.
The place was 1000x nicer than I thought it would be. I am sure we will go back there again the four of us on a scouting trip so I’m sure we will give its review a little more justice at that time. The picture below speaks volumes about how nice the place is and how serious they are about making some great craft beers.
We sat right up at the bar like two kids at a candy store. They had over 8 house beers on tap. You could go for a typical light “bud light” type or get a bit more adventurous further down the drink menu. Obviously we chose the latter. We both took one look at the board and said “Hop Jam” Without a doubt, my preference toward beer is: the more hops the better. I mean you can get to a point where it feels like you just chewed on a hop, but 9/10 times I’m good with it.
As I mentioned before we are nowhere near connoisseurs of beer. I like beer, I’m interested in brewing beer, and that’s the extent of it. I have had my fair share of cold beers, but never have I started to analyze beer. It was always something where I just accepted what was offered and picked what I already knew. From this day on I’m starting to change.
Once the Hop Jam arrived I was slightly confused. First, my knowledge of beer basically consist of “Make sure its cold”, that’s about it. The terminology of beer and brewing come from what I have read. I would say I have developed a taste for certain types of beers over the past couple of years, by no means am I an expert. So, with my humble knowledge, I sat perplexed staring at the dark hop beer. Obviously I hadn’t read the “black rye” portion, just the IPA. And with typical hoppy beers I have had, they were a light golden color. Wow was I amazed on the first taste. This is an hoppy beer, fills your tongue, and slightly confusing. It tastes great, but when I see the dark and taste the hops, my mind is just confused. At this point I am pretty pissed at myself for forgetting the Growler at home. While we were enjoying the IPA we turned our attention to the menu.
The food looked great and was the equivalent of fancy bar food. They had all the right items from hot pretzels to pulled pork. Basically if I see Pulled Pork on the menu, you might as well call it a day, that’s what I’m getting.
From what we could tell the two best looking appetizers were the Buffalo Chicken Eggroll and the Bavarian Pretzels. The eggroll was moderately priced at 9 bucks. They were out of this world. The hot sauce and honey were perfect for the dish. Down the road, when we start making some beer food, I hope I remember to create this. Just perfect in every way. I might be going over the top since we were starving at this point but really I would say if you do end up going to Willoughby Brewing you better get this. The were good. I think a hot salty pretzel goes perfect with a cold beer. The two sauces were just ok.
I think they might have used a plain mustard with a little bit of honey. That was fine but what happened to Stadium Mustard. I mean come on, we are in Cleveland and that has to be an option. To our dismay it wasnt, but what the hell lets enjoy our beers. Like I mentioned before, I did decide to get the Pulled Pork.
The Pulled Pork sandwich was great. It was sloppy and filling. The Soy Chipotle sauce was interesting and quite good. For anyone going here, I would get this dish, except if you are on a date. But if you are married, Get It.
” What sets good burger places apart is the option for a Pretzel Bun & Tater Tots ” – Patrick
For “research” purposes we felt that we could not leave trying the Hop Jam only, so what he hell we ordered the rest of the menu (as samplers)
List: Hop Jam – Black Lager – Amber – Razz – Pale – Blonde
For right now I think the list rundown of the beers is good enough instead of all the tastes. We will be back in the future, and at that point I think I’ll do a two-part of past tastes and current tastes. Overall the best beers were the IPA and the Railway Razz. I can’t remember the last time I had a fruit beer, hell I can’t remember the first time I had one.
The people at Willoughby Brewing Company definitely made the place. The food was great, the beers were great, the service was great, and the information we learned was amazing. While we were finishing up the tasting, the bartender told us we could go back in the brewing room and talk to the Brewmaster Thomas. We met Thomas, Rick, and Dennis while back there. It was awesome to be in that room, the aroma of fresh brewing beer took over your senses. We got to stick our head over the Mash and watch as they were transporting the beer over to the fermentation containers. All three gave is great advice on home brewing, what to do starting out, and what to avoid. They basically said just go for it, start creating and dont be afraid to fail. The advice was helpful, it would have been more so in about 3 months since we were lacking on the terminology. We got to go into the back of the brewery and check out were the grains are stored and where the other storage tanks are held. Just as we were getting to leave we met Brian one of the Co-Owners of The Brew Mentor, a brewing supply shop in Mentor Ohio. He talked us though some equipment, told us about their upcoming clinic(next week), and told us he would get us a deal when buying supplies. Nice guy, extremely knowledgeable and with the equipment we need, it seems like a win-win-win situation.
Our adventures today were more than I expected. The stop at Willoughby Brewing Company was eye-opening. They were so nice and helpful, they really motivated us to get thing started. Meeting Thomas, Rick, and Dennis helped us solidify our decision into starting to brew and showed us what the Cleveland Brewing Community is all about.