Mar 8, 2017

Good times flowing at Rocky River Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio

As I continue to catch up with posting my blog ideas from past work trips, I figured I might as well continue the brewpub theme with my only visit to Cleveland’s east side -- specifically the Rocky River neighborhood -- where, appropriately, we found the Rocky River Brewing Company.

Founded in 1998 and located just minutes south of I-90, the Rocky River Brewing Company appears to have become somewhat of a fixture in its namesake neighborhood.  Although I found its actual location and the building’s appearance to be somewhat of a letdown (think typical suburbia commercialization), once I got inside I was relieved to see Rocky River had just about everything you’d want and expect in your friendly neighborhood gastropub.

The first thing you may notice upon entering are the shiny beer kettles on display enticing you to try one of Rocky River’s craft brews.  The second thing you’ll probably notice is the huge bar where they’re serving them.

Sure, there’s plenty of table and bench seating in this classically designed bar and restaurant.  The dark wood and exposed brick provides a nice clubby atmosphere, wherever you decide to hang out.  But let’s be honest; you’re at a brewpub.  Sit at the bar if you can.

Luckily, good fortune followed me and my co-workers once again on this visit as we found the last three open seats at the bar and settled in to study the menu.  Compared to other brewpubs we had visited, I was pleased to see Rocky River didn’t place too much of an emphasis on dark beers or IPAs.  The selections were varied.  The choice was difficult -- at least until I realized I could sample them all for one reasonable price.     

Now, these are serious samples.  I also like the carrier they come in.  And although it may sound like a cop-out, I thoroughly enjoyed them all.  But if I had to pick a favorite (or two), on this day at least the Cooper’s Gold was as lightly enjoyable and drinkable as any kolsch I’ve ever had.  The Blarney Rubble Irish Red (I love the name) was a close second and an excellent representation of this style of  beer.

All of our beer sampling caused us to develop quite an appetite, so naturally we had to test the menu, too.  For a brewpub, Rocky River has quite a large and varied menu of your standard pub fare -- burgers, tacos, pizzas, sandwiches and an eclectic mix of comfort food entrees such as baby back ribs, enchilada lasagna and even a pad Thai dish.  The daily specials make it easy for the regulars or the undecided to choose something, and as you’d expect many of their popular menu items feature one of their beers as a key ingredient.

Since it was Tuesday, both of my co-workers took advantage of burger night.  For some reason, though, I felt like being a contrarian (shocking, I know) and ordered the beer battered grouper sandwich.  Maybe it was me sensing Lake Erie nearby.  Maybe it was the Cajun flair promised on the menu.  Or maybe I was just burnt out on burgers.

Nonetheless, the grouper turned out to be an outstanding choice!  Too often, fried fish can disappoint because you taste more of the “fried” than the “fish.”  This beer batter, however, served as the perfect barrier to seal in a wonderfully flaky and meaty fish fillet.  The Cajun remoulade was surprisingly excellent (I can be a harsh judge when grading anything New Orleans-influenced) and served as a superior substitute to the tried and true tartar sauce.  And the cool and creamy red cabbage slaw rounded out a very satisfying meal, especially when you have a few samples of Rocky River beer left to wash it down.

I left Rocky River Brewing Company clearly believing it had cemented its place the Cleveland brewpub scene.  If you love good home brews and bar food that’s well above the norm, its worth checking out if you’re in the area.  Your beer belly will probably be glad you did.

No comments:

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...