There comes a time in every boyfriend’s life when he must meet the parent(s) of his girlfriend. Luckily for me, that occasion was interspersed with breweries, a wedding, and one of the best theme parks in the world.
Before I departed for Cleveland, I had the requisite pre-flight Bloody Mary and Andygator.
I then proceeded with the customary Fat Tire aboard the plane while I did some BrittskiBeers writing.
Since my girlfriend has a name and will be moving to New Orleans to join me in a couple months, she deserves the formality of me calling her Danielle. Because that’s her real name. Danielle arrived in Cleveland before me and came back to the airport with her mom to pick me up. Introductions were made, and no disapproving glances were thrown my way: off to a good start. The provided donut holes were also enhancing the initial meeting. A tour of Danielle’s hometown of Elyria, OH followed, and we even visited her grandfather in the hospital. At the age of 98 and with recently broken ribs, he was amazingly friendly and lively. Next up was dinner at Sorrento, the restaurant Danielle’s family had been frequenting since 1989. I had the excellent salmon accompanied by a Tender Blonde from Railroad Brewing. Before heading home for the night, Danielle had to show me the local neighborhood watering hole, Stubby’s (or Rockers as Danielle insisted on calling the bar by its old name). They boasted a nice draft list, and we found ourselves there on craft beer night meaning some extra savings. I had 2 different IPAs from Columbus Brewing Company. Columbus IPA was a very solid offering, leaning towards a piney West Coast style. Bodhi was a phenomenal slightly hazy DIPA, and I see why it had won Bronze at the 2014 GABF. After finishing our brews, a nice stroll through Danielle’s childhood neighborhood brought us home for the night.
Saturday morning we went for a run at the nearby Black River Reservation. It was a relief to run in cooler and drier conditions than I’d had in New Orleans. After freshening up, we were off to Danielle’s high school friend’s wedding in Sandusky. I suggested that we make a stop on the way at Fat Head’s Brewery and Saloon. I said it was conveniently on the way when in reality it was a ~40 minute round trip drive out of the way. It’s nice to bend reality to fit my brewery visiting desires. At Fat Head’s we shared a predetermined 8 beer flight. Highlights for me included Head Hunter (their popular IPA), Bumbleberry Honey Blueberry Ale (tastes just like it sounds and in a good way), the German style Alpenglow (weizenbock) and Wornerwiess Dampfbier, and Chocolate Nibula Stout (a chocolate milk stout). Danielle really enjoyed the weizenbock and Hopgaarden Belgian Session IPA. I finished things off with a tasty pint of Benjamin Danklin which takes the honor of being the best hop related pun I’ve heard in awhile. Because I (typically) can’t survive on beer alone (unfortunately), I had a Figetaboutit pizza. If you couldn’t yet tell, Fat Head’s is quite into puns. With a happy stomach full of pizza and beer, we set off for Sandusky.
Our HomeAway for Friday night was a charming and very tiny room above a boat slip. Because of Cedar Point’s proximity and prime summer vacation season, it was the most reasonably priced place to be found in the city. The wedding was nearby at a venue on Lake Erie, and we took the picturesque opportunity to take a couple’s photo in our fancy clothes. Sometimes I clean up nicely.
The wedding did not have a great beer selection, but I couldn’t pass up a free Yuengling (or 4-5). The free flowing whiskey also managed to find its way into several cups of mine. Funny how that happens. As is tradition during weddings, I was a dancing fool and sweated through my clothing in a probably unattractive manner. Post-wedding shenanigans went down at Thirsty Pony, a combination hotel, water park, bowling alley, restaurant, and bar with horse betting thrown in for good measure. Their slogan “A Fun Place To Eat And Drink” certainly proved true. I had an All For One by The Brew Kettle before calling it a night and heading back to our palace above the boat.
Despite all the other activities occurring during our trip, Saturday was the big day (for me at least). We woke up at a decent time to make it to Cedar Point shortly after they opened. We had both been to Cedar Point before and rode all the rides, so we wanted to first check out their latest ride, Valravn. The lines were pleasantly short in the morning, and we had our first thrill of the day on “the tallest, fastest, longest dive coaster in the world.” Cedar Point has a plethora of awesome coasters, but I always go back to the fastest ones as my favorites. Top Thrill Dragster is designed to emulate the feeling of a top fuel dragster at the drag strip. While it doesn’t nearly reach 300+ MPH, it does rocket from 0-120 in 3.8 seconds and shoot skyward to a height of 420 feet. Both the speed and height were world records at the time of its opening in 2003. Of course I had to capture a photo of Columbia IPA with the roller coaster as the background.
My favorite coaster at Cedar Point is undoubtedly Millennium Force. When it opened in 2000, it was the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world. I enjoy coasters with unique sitting positions and loops and twists; however, a traditional seating arrangement with insane heights and speed is what I enjoy the most, and Millennium Force undoubtedly filled those needs of mine. I screamed like an ecstatic child on Christmas morning throughout the entire ride, greatly contributing to my sore throat by the end of the day.
Regarding beer at Cedar Point, there were actually some decent options. As you saw earlier, I found the Columbus IPA at Trail Tavern, and there were also a couple different ride themed craft beers that could be found throughout the park. I tried the Valravn and expected something gimmicky, but it proved to be a pretty solid Black IPA. I also had the misfortune of tasting Danielle’s Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, and it was as godawful as you might imagine it to be. Yuengling was found throughout the park, and I got to listen to a pretty awesome bluegrass cover band while enjoying the classic easy drinking brew.
After a day of satisfying my adrenaline junkie needs, we drove back to Elyria where Danielle’s sister and niece had arrived. It was great to meet her sister and play with the super cute 1 year old affectionately nicknamed Squirrel. With kids I get to let my natural silliness fully shine, and the niece was loving the extra attention and play time. Playing with kids is also a great opportunity to get creative, so a garden cart naturally became a riding truck to push around the little one.
Thankfully family time and beer time are not mutually exclusive. Danielle brought me back some beer from her recent trip to Lebanon, and she even managed to find some craft beer. Defying all odds, 961 Beer was begun in 2006 during the siege on Lebanon. It became and is currently still the only craft brewery in the Middle East. I got to try 3 of their offerings: Red Ale, Lebanese Pale Ale, and Porter. The Middle Eastern spices pervasive in the pale made it the most interesting of the brews. I’ve definitely never had another non-stout beer with such a complex combination of spices.
Sunday morning brought with it a pleasant surprise of Thanksgiving in July. Danielle’s mom had prepared a traditional Thanksgiving feast complete with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, corn, and unhealthy amounts of gravy. Who said gravy doesn’t go well with corn? Unfortunately I was too busy eating to take any pictures. This summer meal is a tradition I wouldn’t mind continuing in the future. Why limit a delicious Thanksgiving meal to just one (perhaps two with Christmas) day per year? I submit that turkey, dressing, and gravy should be had at least a couple times every year.
Before my early evening departure, I wanted to get in one more brewery. I was saddened to see that Great Lakes was closed on Sundays, but Market Garden Brewery was right around the corner in Ohio City. My college friend whom I had not seen in awhile joined us, and we caught up over some tasty brews. I chose to go big in my beer choices. First up was Particle Accelerator, an 8.5% DIPA with a smooth and balanced character to complement its rye bite. B1000 Terminator, as its name would imply, was a big beer not for the weak of heart or palate. A 12.5% bourbon barrel aged bruiser, there were huge amounts of chocolate and a nice caramel vanilla flavor. The heat was minimal, probably owing to the fact that half of the batch was non-barrel aged. I also had tastes of Danielle’s Citramax and Hellamango IPAs, and both were enjoyable. Market Garden and the entire Ohio City area are must sees for anyone visiting Cleveland.
The sad time when a trip must end had arrived, and we were off to the airport. I had a great time visiting my girlfriend’s hometown and meeting her family. I’ll be back and will visit more breweries and check out the scene a little more. A weekend trip is not complete without some airplane beer, so I made sure to indulge in a Fat Tire at altitude.