In the 1870s Cleveland was a hotbed of breweries. By the early 1980s, the last of them shuttered its doors. It wasn’t until September 6, 1988 when brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway opened Great Lakes Brewing Company® in Cleveland’s historic Ohio City neighborhood, that a new era of Cleveland brewing began. As Ohio’s first craft brewery, Great Lakes Brewing Company attracted curious locals seeking high-quality flavorful brews drawn from the taps of our beautiful Victorian-era bar. Our commitment to sustainable business practices greatly contributed to our early popularity and success. Before long, Great Lakes Brewing Company became one of Cleveland’s most popular destinations for dining and celebration.
Master Brewer Thaine Johnson and engineer Charlie Price contributed their talents in the early days. Their three decades of brewing and managing at various U.S. breweries including Christian Schmidt, Cleveland’s last brewery, played a key role in developing our first beer recipes. Raw materials used by European brewers (malted barley instead of corn and rice) were incorporated into our craft brewing process, which includes only the freshest ingredients. Great Lakes Brewing Company avoids preservatives, synthetic chemicals, and pasteurization, which ultimately compromise flavor. In our first year, we produced approximately 1,000 barrels of hand-bottled and kegged beer.
Our first beers included The Heisman, a Dortmunder-style beer named for the famed football player (and future trophy), who lived around the corner from our Ohio City Brewery. The Heisman was immediately followed by Eliot Ness® Amber Lager. Both were overnight successes; the Heisman was later renamed Dortmunder Gold® for both its golden color and the Gold Medal it won at the 1990 Great American Beer Festival. Dortmunder Gold and Eliot Ness were soon joined by an exceptional family of award-winning Year-Round, Seasonal, and Pub Exclusive beers including Burning River® Pale Ale, Edmund Fitzgerald® Porter, Commodore Perry® India Pale Ale, Conway’s Irish Ale®, The Wright Pils®, Oktoberfest, Nosferatu®, Christmas Ale™, and Blackout Stout®.
In 1992, to meet growing demand, the Brewery expanded to the adjacent Fries & Scheule Building—and as the popularity of our beer continued to grow, so did our Brewery. In 1998 we moved into what now consists of six buildings—three that originally served as horse stables, keg facilities, and bottle storage for the 1879 Schlather Brewing Company. In 2010/2011 we invested $7M in capital improvements that included a new centrifuge, brewhouse additions for increased production speed and quality, filler, rinser, conveyor and packaging efficiency upgrades, a new grain silo, spent grain tank, flooring and piping, and lastly, the installation of four additional storage and fermentation tanks. In 2012 the installation of three new 3000 barrel fermentation tanks brought our Tank Farm to capacity.
As we approach our 25th anniversary in 2013, we now produce over 125,000 barrels annually and serve 13 states and Washington D.C. As Ohio’s most celebrated and award-winning brewer of lagers and ales, we continue to possess an unwavering commitment to brewing only the freshest exceptional family of beers.
Dortmunder Gold Lager
Eliot Ness Amber Lager
Burning River Pale Ale
Commodore Perry IPA
Edmund Fitzgerald Porter