Normally people don’t thank goodness for Mondays. But when Great Lakes Brewing Company’s (GLBC’s) Market Manager Pete Gerome had an idea for a progressive beer tasting dinner, prolific restaurateur Zack Bruell and GLBC Co-owner Dan Conway knew a good day to host it – on a Monday when Bruell’s fine dining restaurants are closed and when many worker bees see little amusement on the horizon. The inaugural event on June 8 sold out within a matter of hours. The organizers added a second bus to keep up with brisk demand. “We’ve done progressive wine dinners for the Tour de Bruell [a passport program for Bruell’s five restaurants]” Zack noted, and he’s long enjoyed a marketing partnership with GLBC. So it seemed a natural pairing: Zack Bruell’s gourmet food with GLBC craft beer selections – or at least the epitome of North Coast fun.
The evening started at Table 45, then proceeded to Parallax, Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard and L’Albatros before returning to Table 45 to end the evening. Chartered buses took approximately 100 beer enthusiasts on this foamy roam. Staff from GLBC and Bruell’s restaurants explained the pairings, the interesting history of their companies and of some of the buildings that have been adapted to become some of the city’s hottest dining venues.
The pairings kicked off with sushi and Sharpshooter – a seasonal wheat IPA that’s a “session ale” (low ABV), refreshing and clean. It doesn’t have the typical banana flavors of a German wheat beer and paired beautifully with Table 45’s fresh tuna rolls. Parallax served seared scallops with GLBC’s first-ever product – Dortmunder Gold. Dortmunder’s named for its style and the gold medal it garnered at the Great American Beer Festival. Conway explained this beer used to be called The Heisman because the famed football player and coach grew up around the corner from their brewpub. The New York Athletic Club got wind of it and sent a cease and desist letter. But that didn’t stop the love affair with GLBC’s flagship selection.
The most exotic pairing might have been at Cowell & Hubbard: veal meatballs stuffed with foie gras and whipped potatoes with GLBC’s hearty Edmund Fitzgerald porter. This robust porter with roasted barley, dark chocolate and coffee flavors had the backbone to stand up to the rich meat and velvety potatoes. The evening’s most poignant stories also unfolded there: Cowell & Hubbard used to be a jewelry store. There was a massive safe the construction crew needed to get out of the building for structural reasons and somehow Bruell ended up in the safe as it was being disposed of. He missed being thrown out with it (and possibly crushed by it) by inches.
Conway claimed equal billing with his account of why GLBC named their porter after the legendary ship that sank on Lake Superior and became famous as the subject of singer Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad. Conway was friends with the son of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald’s First Mate John H. McCarthy. That voyage was supposed to be McCarthy’s last before retiring. Tragically, all 29 men on board went down with the ship in a freak storm. From now on, every time I sample an Edmund Fitzgerald, I’ll think about the people who risk their lives to get precious cargo through one of the planet’s most unforgiving weather systems.
The tour ended with a selection of “nutty, cave-aged” cheeses at L’Albatros – Cleveland’s East Side gem that arguably introduced locals to the European concept of concluding dinner with an assortment of cheeses. The cheese plate included French selections, a sheep’s milk cheddar and a sweet New Zealand gouda. Happy and sated Brew de Bruell travelers noshed on these while sipping Lawn Seat, GLBC’s Kölsch-style ale that’s sold in their spring variety packs.
Zack says Brew de Bruell will take place annually. So keep your eyes peeled for 2016. Thank goodness for Mondays – and for creative employees like Pete Gerome.