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Issue Date: December 2008


Cleveland’s Best Beer Joints

Barking Spider Tavern
It’s really two bars, a summer beer garden and a winter tavern. On warm nights, this folk club opens its patio doors, and the sound of acoustic guitars drifts out to the picnic tables. On snowy nights, it’s as cozy as a log cabin up north. Order: Newcastle on draft.11310 Juniper Road, Cleveland, (216) 421-2863, barkingspidertavern.com
 
Chef Fritz’s Roadhouse
A ghost tour wanders by as you’re sitting in this 1890s house. Ask the owner, Mike, about it. He’ll bring out photos and point to the light that exploded. He goes down to the basement to summon ghost “Steve.” The hairs on his arms are standing up. You need that beer. Order: Pabst Blue Ribbon. 543 High St., Fairport Harbor, (440) 354-4617

Chuck’s Place
We never noticed Chuck’s, next door to Mitzi Jerman’s Tavern. Now, Jerman’s is quieter with Mitzi gone, and Chuck’s renovated storefront invites us in. Mitzi’s niece runs the bar, calls you honey and says you can call her Mom. The bar is Art Deco-sleek, the ceiling is tin, and the vintage mini-bowling game lets two players bowl if you press the button right. Order: Stroh’s. 3830 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, (216) 361-9031

Close Quarters Pub
“Beware of Attack Bartender,” warns the sign, but this gruff guy will warm up if you stick around. This tiny roadside dive seats 34, max. Yacht club logos on the wall and nautical maps across the low ceiling remind you you’re a block from the lake. Order: Magic Hat #9 on draft. 31953 Lake Road, Avon Lake, (440) 933-5217, cuatcq.com

Der Braumeister
There’s Weihenstephan Hefeweizen and Cologne’s Reisdorf Kölsch on its 11 taps, a 130-bottle list and a knowledgeable German-American staff. We dare you not to order sausages and cheese with your beer. Order: Baltika draft. 13046 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, (216) 671-6220
 
Greenville Inn
This roadhouse’s woodsy ambiance has provided common ground for blue-and white-collar patrons for a century. Order a bucket of beer (five for $8 before 9 p.m.), kick back on an old bar stool, and soak in live music played loud and late into the night Thursday through Saturday. Order: Labatt Blue. 16362 Arch St., Chagrin Falls, (440) 247-8068, thegreenvilleinn.com

Grovewood Tavern & Wine Bar
Of all the Grovewood’s contradictions — tiny kitchen, ambitious menu; rec-room décor, sophisticated wine list — we love it most for its corner-joint, craft-brew contrast. Let the bartender surprise you with a carefully chosen microbrew. Order: Lindemans Framboise on draft. 17105 Grovewood Ave., Cleveland, (216) 531-4900, grovewoodtavern.com

Harbor Inn
This dusty sailor’s haunt, established in 1895 on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River, is a classic dive where featured beers Bigfoot, Loose Cannon and Arrogant Bastard aptly describe the clientele. Mingle with merchant sailors and Abercrombie & Fitch types while choosing among 160 beers from ports around the world. Order: Anchor Steam. 1219 Main Ave.,  Cleveland, (216) 241-3232

Hotz Café
Everyone here — hipsters, steelworkers and longtime Tremont residents — seems to know one another. Say hello to the family that has owned the place since 1919. Stick around long enough, and they’ll know you, too. Order: Miller High Life. 2529 W. 10th St., Cleveland, (216) 771-7004, hotzcafe.com

Jigsaw Saloon
It’s named after the puzzles adorning its walls.. Hundreds of pewter mugs hang above the bar, some of the 5,000 tankards belonging to mug club members who get discounted drafts. Anyone can enjoy the 15 draft beers and more than 30 bottles in stock. Order: Killian’s. 5324 State Road, Parma, (216) 351-3869, jigsawsaloonandstage.com

Lagerheads Smokehouse

Great beer goes well with great barbecue — duh! — and you can find both at this comfortable roadhouse, where mounted boar’s heads and a portrait of Clint Eastwood watch over the cornhole-playing masses. More than 70 beers complement the hickory-smoked ribs, pulled pork and wings. Order: Budweiser. 2832 Abbeyville Road, Medina, (330) 725-1947, lagerheads.us

Mardi Gras
From across the bar, two groups of friends recognize each other. That spurs a third group to realize they’re among friends at this cosmopolitan yet casual jazz club where everyone at the bar has a bottle and a shot in front of them. Order: Heineken. 1417 E. 21st St., Cleveland, (216) 771-4760

McNulty’s Bier Markt

If only every beer joint valued presentation, pale lagers and lambics as much as McNulty’s. A rotating list high on hops features 99 Belgian brews and many craft-styles. Order: Lindemans Kriek. 1948 W. 25th St., Cleveland, (216) 344-9944, bier-markt.com

Melt Bar & Grilled
A tall glass of great beer with bread and cheese completes the comfort food trifecta. One of Melt’s 20 beers on tap will match your sandwich, or choose from 130 in the bottle. Order: Abita Purple Haze. 14718 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, (216) 226-3699, meltbarandgrilled.com

Nemeth’s Lounge

It’s hard not to fit in here, among suits and ratty T-shirts; $6.50 Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale and $2 Blatz; Hank Williams and the Black Keys on the jukebox; walls adorned with a Bettie Page pinup, skateboards and pithy pins (“It’s hard to be humble when you’re from Painesville”). Order: Carling Black Label in a can. 40 N. State St., Painesville, (440) 352-1429, nemethslounge.tripod.com

Parnell’s Pub
There’s no shortage of Irish favorites at Parnell’s Pub: Guinness, Harp, Strongbow. A classic pub with a wood interior, the petite Parnell’s feels no need to prove its Emerald Isle heritage with cheap gimmicks. Order: Smithwick’s. 2167 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, (216) 321-3469

The Pub Rocky River
If any Stateside pub inspires you to toast the Queen, it’s The Pub Rocky River, where the décor isn’t the only import. The Pub was the first U.S. bar to carry Belhaven Scottish Ale — the proprietors traveled to Scotland to petition the brewer to export it. Order: Fuller’s London Pride. 19304 Detroit Road, Rocky River, (440) 356-6933, tavernrestaurantgroup.com

Stevenson’s Bar & Grille
The place is a shack. A popcorn sign from Euclid Beach hangs over the door. Stickers from a dozen unions are slapped on the grill’s hood. Stevenson’s is anti-frills. But the juicy burgers are only $3.25 and the beer selection will please the brew-snob as well as the workingman.  Order: Thirsty Dog Twisted Kilt Scottish Ale on draft. 23749 Lake Shore Blvd., Euclid, (216) 731-7671

Water Street Tavern

This hole-in-the-wall has an amazing jukebox, three full bars, 14 taps, a rooftop patio, a basement for busy nights and a Cheers-style wooden Indian statue. The bartenders are gorgeous. Even if you’re far past college, you feel like part of the crowd. Order: Miller Lite. 132 S. Water St., Kent, (330) 677-0700, waterstreettavern.com

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