Cleveland, Ohio: if you’re anything like me, chances are you just started singing “Cleveland Rocks” in your head (anyone else grow up watching the Drew Carey show after school and not understanding most of it?)
Although I grew up just a few hours away from Cleveland (in Louisville, Kentucky) and have driven through the city many times – each of which made me say “holy crap, Cleveland is gorgeous! We really need to spend some time here,” – I still have yet to actually spend time in Cleveland.
I was even more filled with FOMO after watching this season of The Bachelor, which made Cleveland look like heaven on earth. By the time I read this fantastic guest post submission about the best breweries in Cleveland, Ohio’s booming beer scene, I was looking into whether I could fit in a trip to Cleveland on my next trip home.
That said, since I’m not a Cleveland expert, I’m going to hand the reigns over to someone who is! This guest post was written by Kat from World Wide Honeymoon, a Cleveland local and fellow beer snob.
Take it away, Kat!
Psst: Planning a trip to the Midwest? Here are some other posts that you might find helpful:
- 14 Charming Things to Do in Traverse City, Michigan
- 8 Marvelous Places To Visit In Minnesota: A Local’s Guide
- The Ideal Indianapolis Weekend Getaway Itinerary
- The Ultimate Local’s Guide To Places To Visit in Louisville, Kentucky
About the Self-Guided Cleveland Brewery Tour
Cleveland, Ohio is a place full of hidden surprises. With a thriving food scene (celebrity chef Michael Symon, anyone?), a ton of fabulous metro parks, including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the amazing craft breweries all over the city (our favorite!), there is truly something for everyone.
When we travel, we love trying out the local flavors, whether it is eating all the food in Portland, Maine or drinking wine in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. So if you feel the same way and are visiting Cleveland for a long weekend, you’ll definitely want to sip its finest beers.
After living in Cleveland for over 3 years, my husband, Chris, and I have made it our mission to visit every single craft brewery in the Cleveland area. All in the name of research, right?
The best part is that many of them are within walking distance of each other (or a short ride downtown)! So get ready, because I’m here to show you the best self-guided Cleveland brewery tour that you never knew you needed.
Tips for Visiting Cleveland Breweries
Want to drink like a local in Cleveland? Check out these fantastic tips!
Where to stay in Cleveland?
While most of the awesome things to do in Cleveland are just outside of downtown in Cleveland’s fun and happening neighborhoods, most hotels are downtown. But with that location come higher prices, so for an affordable stay at an adorable bed and breakfast, check out Clifford House Private Home Bed & Breakfast that is tucked away in the quiet part of Ohio City.
For those on a budget and want to be close to the action, I love the Cleveland Hostel in Ohio City, right off of West 25th St and within walking distance to the bars and restaurants in the area.
If you prefer to stay at a VRBO in Cleveland there are some really great options. The Grey Barn Suite 2 is a cute apartment near Edgewater Park that has a gorgeous midcentury modern-inspired kitchen and living room. There’s also plenty of lovely plants and succulents inside and out! If you prefer to be right in the center of Ohio City this black and white downtown apartment is at once bright and airy, but also warm and cozy. The accents are modern and appealing, and the deck which overlooks Lake Erie is a real showstopper!
Best time to visit Cleveland breweries?
While the breweries are open year-round, the best time to come in is for great seasonal beers. When it comes to holiday ales, Cleveland does it better than anyone. Every brewery has its take on Christmas Ale, and they make a huge deal out of the first pour.
Outside of the holidays, the fall is a great time to visit for Oktoberfest beers and Pumpkin Ales. And, of course, there are few things better than sitting outside in the summer with a nice, refreshing beer.
Get a Cleveland Brewery Passport!
The Brewery Passport makes drinking fun. Er, more fun. The point is, the more you drink, the more prizes you get to show off your drinking prowess.
Pick up a passport at the Cleveland Visitors Center downtown or at any of the participating breweries. At each brewery, you’ll get a stamp after making a purchase. You can turn in your passport for a prize after receiving 8, 20, and 34 stamps. Prizes include things like coasters, a pint glass, and a t-shirt.
You probably already know this, but please drink responsibly. As much as we all love taking those rental scooters around town, definitely don’t do that while intoxicated! Cleveland has plenty of affordable Ubers and Lyfts available. Plus, all of the breweries have food to snack on so you aren’t just drinking all day.
Pace yourself y’all: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’d rather not worry about transportation logistics and just enjoy yourself, we recommend booking a guided tour. To cover as much ground as possible, book a group tour like this one which takes 5 hours and includes a whopping 16 beer tastings – plus a paired meal. Or book this shorter one which includes 12 tastings at 3 stops, so you can continue at your own leisure afterward!
That said: the majority of the stops on our self-guided Cleveland brewery tour are walkable. Which brings us to …
The Self-Guided Cleveland Brewery Tour
Start in Ohio City
To kick off your self-guided tour of Cleveland’s best brews, you’ll want to be in the best neighborhood and our home neighborhood of Ohio City. (Coincidence? Probably not.)
Ohio City is booming with craft breweries, bars, and eateries. You could easily spend a whole day just exploring here, but you’ve got beer to drink and the place to do that is to start at Great Lakes Brewing Company.
Cleveland Brewery #1: Great Lakes Brewing Company
First and foremost, a brewery crawl in Cleveland is not complete without a stop at this institution. Created in 1986 before craft beer was cool in an old building that was a pub long ago, Great Lakes Brewing Company is one of our favorite breweries in Cleveland!
When it comes to what to try at Great Lakes Brewing Company, check out some classics, like Dortmunder Gold.
Or try the Eliot Ness Amber Lager, named for the famous detective – who ironically was a Prohibition agent – best known for helping take down Al Capone by shutting down breweries ran by the Chicago gangster. Shady! He also did a lot of work cleaning up the streets in Cleveland, and there are even bullet holes in the pub itself rumored to be from one of Ness’s encounters.
Lastly, check out the Burning River IPA, named for the Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1969. The blazing debris on the river erupted into flames reaching as tall as 5 stories high. When a photo of the firey river showed up in the same issue of Time Magazine as the moon landing, it created a bad reputation that Cleveland still tries to shake off.
The good news is that this event spurred such concern over rampant river pollution that it resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency! Today, Great Lakes Brewing Company embraces the incident in one of its most popular beers.
Aside from trying these classics, I also recommend going on the brewery tour!
The tour is super cheap at only $6 per person and includes 4, 5oz beer tastings. Trust me, it is a LOT of beer, especially because the beer is strong. The tour starts at their Beer Symposium on 1951 West 26th St, Suite 100, and tours are on Fridays and Saturdays usually from 12-8 pm lasting about an hour.
After having gone on quite a few tours when family and friends were in town, it is beyond worth it. You learn all about the brewery’s history, like their founders being inspired to start this brewery after enjoying the beer from their travels in Europe and how the popularity of this brewery transformed a once crumbling neighborhood into a thriving place.
Then, discover the history of the old brewpub that is rumored to be where John D. Rockefeller worked, as well as their process to create the perfect beer including using hops grown at local farms and their emphasis on sustainability. Then, you get to try 4 beers (hint: go during the Christmas season for a taste of their Christmas Ale) while cracking up at the friendly and hilarious tour guides!
Great Lakes also has a fantastic food menu, making it a perfect lunch stop to get some food before continuing your brewery crawl around Cleveland. I suggest starting with the AMAZING potato kegs (essentially giant tater tots filled with cheese and served with fry sauce), and the fish and chips or brat and pierogi!
Just beware: you may not want to drink too much post-brewery tour, as a friend of ours learned one fateful evening while drinking two pints after having the tasters during the tour (whoops!)
Cleveland Brewery #2: Market Garden
Located right next door to the best place in Cleveland, West Side Market, you could make a quick stop to check out this historic market and food stalls before enjoying more beer.
My favorites at the market include Maha’s Falafil for the best falafel in the city, Christopher’s Bakery for fresh-baked bread (and plenty of free samples), and Steve’s Gyros for gyros that are so juicy and delicious, they have been featured on the Food Network!
April 2020 Update: We have been told by one of our readers that Maha’s Falafil in the market is closing but they still have a location at Dave’s Supermarket across W. 25th St from the market.
Regardless of what you get at the market, head upstairs to take in the lovely bird’s eye view of the food stalls as well as the architecture of this building.
Once you’re at Market Garden Brewery, you’ll love the outdoor seating with overhead heat lamps, keeping you warm on chilly fall afternoons when you can’t decide between sitting inside or in the sun. Regardless of where you sit, definitely grab some favorite beers like the Citramax IPA or Prosperity Wheat, which are year-round classics.
Depending on when you visit, you’re likely to find some tantalizing seasonal beers. We absolutely love their Festivus Holiday Ale, filled with the spices of winter and holiday cheer.
- Insider Tip: Cleveland is the place to drink beer during the holiday season- they have FANTASTIC Christmas ales.
I also love the Franklin Castle Pumpkin Ale – named for the spookily haunted castle in Ohio City – as well as the Easy Breezy Hazy Session NEIPA for its tropical, citrusy taste.
To taste as many of Market Garden’s eclectic beers, definitely get a flight before continuing on your brewery tour of Cleveland.
Cleveland Brewery #3: Hansa Brewery
Prost! German Hansa Brewery is complete with a small beer garden and German specialty food store next to it, for maximum German-ness.
To find the brewery, continue on West 25th Street and take a right on Lorain Ave, where it’ll be a couple of blocks down on your left.
This place serves up German beers like Freedom Kolsch, a hoppy but light beer; J.U.G. Weiss Bier, a hefeweizen with tasty flavors of banana and cloves; or the Black Flag Schwarzbier, a dark, German lager with caramel and toffee undertones.
And if drinking all of that German beer makes you hungry, definitely try some of their famous German-meets-Eastern-European food like potato pancakes, a sausage and sauerkraut platter, Wiener schnitzel, or an apple strudel.
But no matter what you do, definitely check out the food store next door! I love finding German products you can’t normally get at grocery stores like Kinder bars or rare, German beers you’ll love. Find a gem to take home before continuing on your tour.
Cleveland Brewery #4: Platform Brewing Company
Platform Brewing Company is a short walk down Lorain Ave from Hansa, with a fantastic tasting room and both indoor and outdoor seating.
This place is constantly churning out new flavors and experimenting and there is truly something for everyone. Try their delicious alcoholic seltzers like strawberry lemonade, black cherry, and tangerine-grapefruit or quirky beers like Do You Even DDH, Bro, a pale ale with attitude.
I always love getting a flight here to taste their latest beers while sitting out on their patio. And being a dog-friendly place, it is perfect for spotting so many good boys and becoming their best friend. Seriously, dogs and their own version of White Claw (#noclaws)? I call that a win-win.
But now it is time to leave Ohio City and venture over toward Tremont, another fun neighborhood just outside of downtown, and enjoy the next brewery, truly a local treasure!
Cleveland Brewery #5: Forest City Brewery
This smaller-scale brewery is in a “blink and miss it” spot, located in a tiny area between Ohio City and Tremont called Duck Island, named from the Prohibition where bootleggers would “duck in” to avoid the law.
From Platform, you’ll walk back up Lorain, take a right to cross over on Abbey Ave, and another right onto Columbus Ave. If you think you only see a large warehouse, then you’re in the right place.
This warehouse, with just a side door, is where you’ll enter in and pass by Duck-Rabbit Coffee and Western Reserve Meadery, which I highly recommend stopping in if they’re open, and finally, the brewery itself.
Forest City Brewery is so tucked away that you likely will only see locals. The owners are frequently bartending and more than willing to give you suggestions on which beers to try, and the place is quaint with antiques showing the building’s past all over the place.
And if you love darker beers, this is the place for you. They frequently have collaborations with the coffee shop and meadery, so expect a great beer like the Duck-Rabbit Coffee Porter, laden with South American cold-pressed beans for a great coffee flavor. We also love the wee heavy Maide Leisg Scotch Ale!
Grab a pint and venture outside to their lovely beer garden, the recently restored Atlantic Beer Garden, known as the oldest beer garden in Cleveland (and perhaps the oldest in the whole state of Ohio – and the USA)! Nestle up around a table and either bring your own treats to enjoy or grab some bites from their small snack menu.
After your time enjoying Forest City, it is time to catch a short Uber ride downtown for the last stop!
Cleveland Brewery #6: Masthead Brewing Company
Last but certainly not least on your DIY Cleveland brewery tour is Masthead Brewing Company. While the others were easy to walk to, this one may be further away (only a 5-10 minute Uber ride), but it is well worth the stop!
This may be our favorite brewery in Cleveland. I mean when a brewery can get a crowd of people to wait over an hour outside during a polar vortex for one of their famous can releases, you know it has to be good.
And yes, Valentine’s Day this year was spent shivering in the cold waiting to get tickets to buy one of my all-time favorite beers, Colony Collapse.
Was it worth it? 100%!
First of all, the beer is incredible. The Colony Collapse is a fantastic honey-fueled triple New England IPA that is way too smooth and drinkable for a strong beer (so watch out)!
From their everyday beers like the Tire Swing Pale Ale to their always-inventive seasonal flavors like their Pumpkin Spice Latte IPA milkshake beer, you’ll absolutely love whatever experiment they come up with next!
And I haven’t even started on the food! This place has some of the best pizza in Cleveland. With a wood-fired stove, they make fresh to order pies that are chewy, cheesy, and delicious. Whether you’re a meat-lover or want to try one of their several vegan or vegetarian pies, it is amazing.
If you are not hungry for a pizza (how is that possible?!) they have a killer Everything Pretzel featuring everyone’s favorite bagel seasoning, and they also have super tasty salads that pretty much make you forget that you’re eating a salad.
Trust me, we’ve definitely eaten (and drank) our way through the lengthy beer and food menu and I can honestly say that we haven’t had something we disliked yet. It’s all so good. Which is why this has to be included in the Cleveland brewery tour.
With a full stomach and a strong buzz, that concludes this fantastic self-guided Cleveland brewery tour that you’re absolutely going to love.
Even More Cleveland Breweries
Did you know that the area around Ohio City and Tremont is home to over 10 breweries?! That’s not even including downtown and the suburbs of Cleveland!
While you’re in the area and have extra time, definitely check out Bookhouse Brewing, a fun spot in Ohio City filled with books to read, board games, and great beers. We also love Brick and Barrel, a small brewery tucked away over the bridge.
Here are some more options for breweries in Cleveland to check out during your trip:
- Noble Beast Brewing Co.: A traditional brewpub with unusually good beer! Try the Imperial Cookies and Milk Stout or the Kilbane’s Irish Nitro Stout, but don’t skip out on their German varieties like the Lichtenhainer, an ale brewed with beechwood smoked barley malt and malted wheat.
- Terrestrial Brewing: Located in Battery Park, this pet-friendly brewery features adventurous small-batch beer. Try Old Bay Space Chimp Wit, which actually has Old Bay brewed into the beer. We recommend visiting after spending the day at Edgewater Beach – it’s the perfect place the catch the sun setting over Lake Erie!
- Saucy Brew Works: Voted Cleveland’s Best Brewery, you’ll find plenty of unique brews here! Try Red Gummy Bear, a blonde ale brewed with cherry, apple, peach, pineapple, and guanabana. Or try Saucy’s version of classic favorites, like Get That Weak Stout Outta Here, a 9.2% strong AF oatmeal stout aged in Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey oak barrels and brewed with vanilla beans. Take a brewery tour, eat some pizza, or just sip some amazing beer!
- Butcher and the Brewer: Located on East 4th Street downtown, this brewery offers fantastic beer plus incredible food – you know, because they’re a butcher AND a brewer! Try their house-smoked corn dogs, bacon-wrapped dates, or smoked whole wings paired with Strap Hop Kaboom IPA.
- Collision Bend Brewing Company: This brewery is located right along the river and offers a great view and fascinating beers, like Legend of the Guava American Wheat with Guava or the Red Moon Rising Smoked Red Ale. If you’re visiting around sunset, be sure to try the Lake Erie Sunset Blood Orange American Wheat beer. It’s only appropriate!
- The Jolly Scholar: Four words: Salted Caramel Coffee Porter. Although this brewery is located literally on a college campus, you’ll find more than just college-friendly cheap beer here! As a bonus, it’s close to the Cleveland Museum of Art, making the perfect place to discuss your takeaways in an appropriately collegiate setting.
Looking for even more Cleveland breweries? This post on Cleveland Traveler has a huge list!
Map of Cleveland Breweries & the Self-Guided Cleveland Brewery Tour
This Google map of the best Cleveland breweries includes the 6 stops on our self-guided Cleveland brewery tour plus a whole bunch of other breweries. Download it, save it to your phone, and take it with you on your trip! And be sure to bookmark this page – just in case.
Cleveland is the best place to eat and drink local. From IPAs to seasonal ales, you’ll definitely find a beer to love in The Land!
About Our Guest Poster: Kat Weiss lives in Cleveland with her husband, Chris, and kitty, Professor. Kat and Chris are a newlywed couple traveling the world as often as they can on exciting, adventurous, and romantic honeymoon-inspired trips around the globe. They write all about couples travel on their blog, World Wide Honeymoon, and also have a podcast called the World Wide Honeymoon Travel Podcast where you can get more tips, advice, and awkward stories.
Interested in writing us a post for us? Take a look at our guest post guidelines and pitch us your idea!
Are you ready to test your tastebuds (and your drinking stamina!) and take this tour? Which brewery tickles your fancy this most? Drop us a comment below!
Psst: Looking for more boozy destinations to drink your way through? Take a look at some of our other posts.
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