The heartland of the U.S. has brought us world-famous beers like Budweiser and Miller High Life and in recent years, it’s become home to an increasing number of outstanding microbreweries. These shrines to foamy goodness in a glass are bringing back the art of hand-crafted lagers and ales that was the norm for so long. Many of them are housed in cool, historic buildings and offer behind-the-scenes brewery tours as well as tap rooms where you can get a great meal and taste some of their finest, small-batch creations not available anywhere else. Here’s my “Great Eight” Midwest microbreweries.
Cleveland, like other cities, has seen the craft beer craze catch on in a big way recently. The one that got it all started is Great Lakes Brewing, Ohio’s first and most celebrated microbrewery. Many of Great Lakes’ brews like Burning River Pale Ale are among Ohio’s most popular craft beers, while others are only available at its brewpub. The brewpub and brewery are located in Ohio City, one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods located across the Cuyahoga River from downtown. The brewpub, housed in an historic brick complex, serves excellent pub-style food in several quaint spaces including a tree-lined beer garden along a cobblestone street. Its beautiful tiger mahogany bar once hosted Eliot Ness, the leader of the ‘Untouchables’ law enforcement team that battled infamous gangster Al Capone. Brewery tours cost $5, last an hour and include four five-ounce samples. A gift shop sells Great Lakes and Cleveland memorabilia.
Bell’s Brewery was the first brewery in Michigan to open an onsite brewpub (1993) and since then, the downtown Kalamazoo landmark has become as an entertainment center with an expansive outdoor beer garden and indoor events center that holds up to 375 people. The two-story brick complex was expanded in 2011. Large and airy with lots of wood tables and an impressive collection of art and memorabilia, the centerpiece of the complex is the Eccentric Café and its creative menu featuring everything from deviled eggs and falafel to beef brisket and green curried tofu. Up to 20 Bell’s brews are poured at any given time at the brewpub including small batch, pub-exclusive options. The events center hosts popular bands on national tours and even square dancing and trivia nights. Free brewery tours are offered on weekends and take 30-45 minutes.
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