Drinking in Cleveland History, by CLEgal

by Renee on November 21, 2011

As a part of today’s Ohio Blogging Association’s Cleveland November Blog Swap, I’d like to introduce you to CLEgal from Why CLE? –the blog that answers this question happily and wholeheartedly. Today bloggers from around the Northeast Ohio area are guest posting on each other’s blogs as a way to spread the word about our blogging community, and introduce our readers to other bloggers they may enjoy. For a full listing of blog swap participants, please visit Poise in Parma today.


We Clevelanders love our craft beer, which is no doubt why you’re here on The Brewers Daughter’s awesome site. In September 1988, the first microbrewery in Ohio opened right here in Cleveland: Great Lakes Brewing Co.

 Since that time, Great Lakes Brewing has expanded into a booming brewery, which produces 100,000 barrels annually and is sold in 12 states (plus Washington, D.C.). Most locals have a favorite GLBC beer. When I tweeted the question of “What’s your favorite GLBC beer,” I got responses ranging from Christmas Ale (which I think pulled ahead in voting seasonally) to Lake Erie Monster, to Oktoberfest, to Dortmunder.

It’s not so much the history of the brewery that I find amazing though, it’s the history behind the names of the beers. From Cleveland and across the country, GLBC is spreading the city’s unique and complex history with every bottle and draft poured.

 So, let me take you on a little tour of the Cleveland history behind some of GLBC’s beers:

Burning River Pale Ale: As most of you probably know, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire on June 22, 1969, due to massive pollution. This was actually the second time the river caught on fire, but the first time the fire drew national attention. To this day, many Clevelanders hear of this incident from non-Clevelanders. It has become a part of our history and a marker of how far we’ve come. For more information on the fire, see http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=CRF1

Lake Erie Monster: It’s more than just our Cleveland hockey team’s namesake! Some people genuinely believe a sea monster lurks in Lake Erie. Apparently, her name is Bessie and she is a sea serpent. There is a $100,000 reward for capturing Bessie, but your reward for capturing one of these beers is tastiness. For more information on Bessie, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bessie_(lake_monster)

Holy Moses White Ale: Moses Cleaveland (yes, I spelled that right) is the founder of our city. Through “negotiations” with the Iroquois tribe, Moses Cleaveland gained control of the land surrounding the Cuyahoga River. Finding an area that provided both protection and access to shipping, Moses Cleaveland established the capital of what was then known as the Connecticut Western Reserve. Cleaveland designed our New-England style Public Square, which is where a statue in his honor stands today. For more information on Moses Cleaveland, see http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=CM10

Blackout Stout: On Thursday, August 14, 2003, the lights went out throughout the Northeast and MidWest U.S. The massive power outage was caused by an overtaxed grid, which caused a domino effect throughout First Energy’s system. The grid’s location? Cleveland, of course. This beer – which puts your lights out in a different way – shows our city’s unique ability to laugh at the quirky role we sometimes play in history. For more information on the 2003 blackout, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_blackout_of_2003

Eliot Ness Amber Lager: In the 1930’s, Eliot Ness led a team of law enforcement known as The Untouchables. Ness is perhaps most known for capturing gangster Al Capone by (ironically to our subject) tracking the illegal breweries and supply routes Capone used. In Cleveland, Ness served as Safety Director, and his Untouchables worked the infamous Torso Murders, a still unsolved mystery from our past. He is buried in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery. For more information on Eliot Ness, see http://www.biography.com/people/eliot-ness-9542066?page=1 and for more information on the Torso Murders, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Torso_Murderer

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter: In 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald – the largest boat on the Great Lakes, which often sailed to Cleveland – sunk on Lake Superior while heading for Detroit. In 1976, Gordon Lightfoot immortalized the tragedy in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Firtzgerald.” For more information on the Edmund Fitzgerald, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Edmund_Fitzgerald

Commodore Perry IPA: Oliver Hazard Perry fought in the War of 1812 and was known as the “Hero of Lake Erie” for winning a decisive victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, which was the first time in history that a British naval squadron surrendered. For more information on Oliver Hazard Perry, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Hazard_Perry

So the next time you sip a GLBC beer, just remember that you’re sharing a piece of Cleveland history…and history never tasted so good!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia from Poise in Parma November 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

Whenever my husband drinks the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, he sings the song – until the beer is done. Let’s just say I steer him towards other options whenever possible!!

Thanks for participating in the OBA Blog Swap!


Becca @ Peace, Love & Bagels November 21, 2011 at 11:00 am

awesome post! Did you know GLBC has events dedicated to teaching GLBC drinkers what their beer’s names are all about? I definitely need to check one of those events out sometime. It’s so neat to know what the beers are named after.

And, for the record, Christmas Ale takes the cake on my favorite GLBC beer list. I am going to save up so I have some for our wedding next July!


MissWineOH November 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

Love the history! (as I’m as much a history geek as I am a wine geek) The Eliot Ness is one of my favorite beers. A very cool post, indeed.


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