Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In the Market for Something Good

I was at Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City Thursday night. The size of the after-work crowd inside and out — suggested they were giving away beer. (To be clear, they weren’t.) But obviously word had spread quickly about this long-awaited spot that has been in the works for two years but open only a few days. It looked like half of Cleveland had come to check out what idea man and founder Sam McNulty and brewmaster Andy Tveekrem have accomplished.

The pair started with two empty and unexceptional buildings. Now, after major renovations and thanks to help from a veritable army of others, they’re presiding over a microbrewery that turns out a dozen different beers, a sprawling brew pub and a restaurant, and they'll soon be distilling onsite and pouring their own spirits as the first place in Ohio licensed to do both. Leave it to McNulty, a relentless beverage entrepreneur who already operates Bier Markt, Bar Cento, and Speakeasy (all directly across the street) to hit upon the trendy concept. According to an article that appeared in USA Today in May, pairing craft brewing and distilling is a nationwide phenomenon.

It was a glorious evening — blue skies, warm but not hot and a bit of balmy breeze — so the husband and I wanted to be in the beer garden, an appealing and convivial patio. It faces the alley running parallel to the West Side Market. (Equipped with a wood burning fireplace, it should be equally nice when cold weather returns.) By the time we arrived at 6:30, it was packed, but luckily our son Nathan had gotten there earlier and secured a corner and three stools at a long communal table that encourages conversations between friends and strangers alike. There wasn’t an empty seat out front either on West 25th Street and few unoccupied spots in the two interior rooms, each with its own bar. Sliding glass doors seamlessly connect patios and dining areas. The layout, with spaces flowing seamlessly together, makes it seem as if everyone is part of one big party, no matter where you are.

Amongst the curious and the thirsty, the husband and I saw quite a few people we know, which reinforced that impression. On our personal who’s who was Kevin Scheuring, of Spice Hound and manager of the Coit Road Farmer's Market (spotted but not greeted); Samantha Fryberger, director of communications for Jumpstart, who was with a friend from Positively Cleveland, her former employer; Natalie Ezzie, who is with St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, and her sister Nadine Ezzie, an attorney; Josh Taylor with Twist Creative; Joe Mosbrook of Cleveland State University; and Kurt and Barbara Zoss, owners of Zoss the Swiss Baker and our Cleveland Heights neighbors. They make the excellent soft pretzels on the brewery menu. The timing of their arrival was perfect; they stopped by to say hello just as we were polishing off an order.

I went there for a professional peek and some social time with my son and husband. I got both plus something more: a sense of community and an infusion of excitement. I felt happy for myself and for my town, happy to have a new business investing in the neighborhood and the city, happy for the energy and activity it brings to the street. I’m glad when good things happen here. I take it personally. And the opening of Market Garden Brewery definitely makes me want to celebrate.

photos by Stephanie Sheldon

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