All posts by John Fortunato


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Open for business since the Fourth of July, 2014, PLATFORM BEER CO. is arguably Cleveland’s best brewpub (with a second site now operating in Columbus). Utilizing a large, raw space just west of downtown Cleveland at  the Gordon Square Arts District in the Ohio City district, Platform delivers a plethora of wide-ranging brews and allows dedicated brewing apprentices to sharpen their craft through their Incubator pilot batch program sponsored by owner Paul Benner’s Cleveland Beer Shop across the street.

Inside a defunct meat packing warehouse, Platform’s red brick-walled interior, Edison bulb lighting, black ceiling and exposed ducts provide an Industrial setting while the dog-friendly rear patio offers further seating. The 25-seat central bar contains 2 cornered TV’s, 24 tap handles and several brew tanks. Two community tables, an electronic bowling game and a satellite kitchen at the front complete the score as my wife and I settle mid-bar to sample some of the best suds this town’s got to offer in spades during a March ’17 sojourn.

For a soft-toned starter, City Boy Sour retained a pinkish champagne hue and flavoring as raspberry-pureed souring reigned upon sugary Sweet-Tart spicing and spritzy lemon salting to its straw wheat base.

Dedicated to Cleveland’s hard-working blue collar souls, New Cleveland Palesner Pilsner engaged its dried barleycorn musk with earthen Noble hop herbage, cracker-like pale malts and floral snips.

Hopped-up Vienna-lagered Taube Brau brought caramelized barley malting to floral-dusted hops and desiccated orange-fig illusions in a spritzy manner.

The Project -Eldorado Pale Ale, a light-bodied sweetener, loaded tangy strawberry, melon, lemon, canteloupe and pineapple brightener upon its honey-spiced Graham Cracker base.

‘Complex’ Winter Wit layered polite Christmas spicing atop mild lemon-soured orange peel bittering, herbal lemongrass perfuming, distant banana-clove sugaring and neutral white wheat graining.

Brisk tropical fruiting picked up sharp hop spicing for excellent flagship offering, Speed Merchant White IPA, where floral orange-peeled grapefruit, peach, pineapple, mango and lemon illusions brightened the soft white wheat base as its dry piney bitterness increased tension.

A veritable citrus hop bouquet wafts its way thru medium-full-bodied Warrah Imperial IPA, framing its bittersweet orange-peeled grapefruit, pineapple and tangerine tang as well as its dried-fruited black cherry, fig and date nuances with caramel malt sweetness.

Smoky meat-cured beechwood subtleties affected Noble Dragon Porter, a black chocolate-based dark ale with maple, caramel and vanilla sweetness contrasting earthen pepper spicing.

Possibly today’s best choice, High Brow Barista Pale Ale let rye-spiced malts propel dry-beaned medium roast coffee bittering above its zesty lemon rind tartness and wispy grapefruit tingle in a crisply clean-watered setting.





Just across the Cuyahoga River from downtown Cleveland in the newly gentrified West Side Market section of Ohio City, capacious sports-barred brewpub MARKET GARDEN BREWERY features a front patio and community-tabled beergarden to sidle its Prohibition Era-styled interior. Opened November ’15 and initially visited March ’17, this multifarious pub was transformed from its dilapidated state to become the centerpiece of a proudly reconstituted market district.

Occupying a cavernous warehouse facility and a few doors down from the owners’ still-thriving sister brewery (the smaller-sized Nano), Market Garden’s custom-built walk-thru brew system, manned by experienced former Dogfish Head and Great Lakes brewer, Andy Tveekrem, allows patrons full access to witness the brewing operations.

Meanwhile, olden chandeliers, decorative railroad-tied walls, marbled slate table tops and cornered leather booths provide sterling antiquity for the centralized 30-seat curved bar. Downstairs, the low-ceilinged Ohio City Room adds a separate bar and plenty of seating while a backroom dining space keeps kids happy.

The worthy pub menu included 30 items such as the delicious Brisket Burger and equally fine Truffle Mac & Cheese. Four chalkboards list 20-plus homemade brews.

Market Garden’s most popular beer, perfectly streamlined Prosperity Wheat, brought mild banana-clove-bubblegum sweetness to lemony orange zest and wheat-sugared pale malts above sourdough breading.   

Fine strong lager, Illuminator Doppelbock, stayed sweet as caramel-spiced toffee malting picked up mild dried fruiting.

Dewy peat malts soaked Wee Heavy Wallace Tavern Scotch Ale, leaving toffee-spiced caramel sweetness upon brown-sugared molasses wisps.    

“Intense tropical fruiting” deluged brilliant Citra Max IPA, a zesty Citra hop-spiced medium body gathering grapefruit and orange rind bittering alongside tangy pineapple, mango, papaya and tangerine illusions. Dank piney hop resin increases its bold bitterness.

Sharp IPA-derived fruit spicing glazed Retro Hippo Barleywine (2017), a floral-wafted middleweight with tangy yellow grapefruit, navel orange, pineapple, peach, mango and tangerine tropicalia picking up fig-sugared sweetness and delicate butternut-pecan-praline undertones.

Then came the terrific dark ale selections.

Splendid Midnight Vorlauf Coffee Porter raised its cold-brew coffee roast above black-brown chocolate malts and mildly charred hops for a fine morning wake up call.

Nitro Saint Emeric’s Stout retained a mildly creamed black chocolate moderation and dry nutty swipe above musky earthen wood tones.

Blending bittersweet chocolate-malted cocoa nibs with mild chipotle and cayenne-peppered habanero heat, Barrio Mole Stout lingered on with a smoky mocha resonance. Quite inspiring.

Even better and richer, oak-barreled Irishman’s Enforcer Imperial Stout layered Tom’s Foolery bourbon vanilla subtleties atop black-malted cocoa nibs and dark chocolate for comforting warmth.

Due to heavy drinking, I missed out on Chinook Strike Pale Ale and Progress Pilsner, two lighter mainstays.



A few doors down from its bigger business partner, Market Garden Brewery, in Cleveland’s historic Ohio City Market Square, friendly neighborhood joint, NANO BREW, features award-winning burgers and a few promising homemade elixirs by experienced brewer Andy Tveekrem.

Utilizing a two-sided bar broken up by a red brick wall, Nano’s signature bike handles, old wood floors, stage lighting, exposed pipes and rear open kitchen give it a rustic aura. A dog-friendly patio, oaken community tables and front cornered booths provide ample seating. The 24 draughts include three original Nano brews plus a fine assortment of Ohio microbrews.

On this sunny Saturday afternoon, March 2017, the place is packed to the hilt. So I grab my samplers and stand along the central corridor. Someone here must have a druggy sense of humor since the Wake ‘N Bake and Acid Trip burgers provide a happy snicker.

First up, sharply sugar-spiced Namber Amber Ale brought red and orange fruiting to minor hop astringency for a decent moderate-bodied opener.

Next, Fireside Wheat Winter Hefeweizen enlivened sweet Christmastime spicing (cinnamon-clove-ginger) with fig-sugared dried fruiting.

Before heading off to Market Garden, Nano Porter contrasted coffee-stained walnut bittering against hazelnut-glazed sugaring and black chocolate malts.




Any true beer lover cruising down Route 80 in Central Pennsylvania a few miles north of Penn State must make the journey to ROBIN HOOD BREWING COMPANY. Situated inside Home D Pizzeria in a well-designed freestanding building in the Victorian-housed borough of Bellefonte, the friendly sportsbar-related beer and wood-fired pizza joint take their homemade craft brewing and popular pub fare seriously.

Open since 2014 and already on their 500th beer batch by my March ’17 visit, Robin Hood Brewing dominates its bucolic rural region since the closest competition lies twelve miles south and many more miles further in any other direction. A small enclosed wood deck sidles its stone-walled entrance side and a separate left side dining section serves families well. The 10-seat L-shaped bar area includes several booths and tables as well as 12 big-screen TV’s and a host of blackboard beer menus.

Brewmaster Chris Schell concocts a well-rounded selection from light lagers to bourbon-barreled Imperial Stouts and I try thirteen during dinnertime. Wine lovers should be informed of the 700 bottle selection.

Smooth Munich-malted L.J. Lager let dank grain pungency affect mild hop toasting for simple blue collar fare. Another easygoing moderation, English-styled Peasant Ale, brought light citrus souring to musky grains, sweet toffee and biscuity malts. Conventional King Richard Red spread toasted caramel malts across rye-spiced apple and fig sweetness.

Enjoyable moderation, Blueboary Wheat, spiked its prominent blueberry lacquering with subtle floral-perfumed hops and sweet wheat malts. Easy drinkin’ moderation, Pomegranate Wheat, draped pomegranate-soured blueberry and rhubarb tartness atop wispy white wheat breading.

Subtle grapefruit and orange rind bittering graced Blooming Spring IPA, an approachable moderate body with piney-hopped honeysuckle herbage. Dryer and bitterer Bulls IPA presses sweet ‘n sour grapefruit, pineapple and mango tropicalia against bark-dried wood tones and musky grains.

Soft-toned Long Bow Imperial IPA hid its hefty 10% ABV behind sugar-spiced fruit juicing, caramelized pale malt sweetness, resinous earthen pine bittering and evergreen freshness.

Dry-malted and suggestively named F-Tuck Porter brought dark-roast black chocolate malting to caramel-burnt coffee tones and earthen musk.

Next, three rich stouts helped bring a climactic height. Nitro Maiden Milk Stout contrasted milky bourbon chocolate and vanilla sweetness against dry cocoa tones. Unorthodox Axehole Russian Imperial Stout brought Baltic Porter-like dewy cellar musk and dried prune acridity to black-malted dark chocolate, cocoa and coffee tones.

Perfect mocha-bound digestif, Black Barrel Bourbon Stout, caressed beautiful Elijah Craig bourbon warmth with lovely chocolate-vanilla-coconut sweetness.  

Another luscious dessert treat, Major Oak Wee Heavy, saturates caramel-malted vanilla, coconut, molasses and fudge tones with bourbon-barreled Jack Daniels whiskey sweetness for a wholly involving Scotch ale.



Smashing Canadian IPA puts forth a dominant flavor profile as massively tangy fruit juicing receives booming piney hop bittering and responsive sugar-glassed crystal malting above toasted biscuit base. Resonating tropical-citrus fruiting gathers passionfruit, grapefruit, pineapple, navel orange, tangerine, mango, nectarine, papaya, lychee, pear and melon bouquet to power its atomic blissfulness.

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