Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Cocktails made with beer are a hot new trend. They’re serving a fine one at Amp 150, the bar and restaurant at the Airport Marriott. I had an opportunity to taste it at the start of a private dinner I attended a few weeks ago.

The purpose of the gathering was to introduce some members of the media to the new team: Executive chef Jeff Jarrett and food and beverage manager Nathan White. The take-away message and good news was that these two are continuing the commitment to keep a local focus when it comes to ingredients and products. And that was perfectly expressed in the refreshing drink that kicked off the evening.

It’s called The Rockmill, after the brewery in Lancaster, Ohio that supplies saison, a Belgian beer the bartender uses in combination with St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur, and fresh lemon juice. Matt Barbee, founder and fermentation master of Rockmill Brewery (pictured below), is in a truly unique position, and I mean that literally, to make this traditional farmhouse ale.

The former horse ranch owned by his family where he works his magic with organic yeast, hops and malt is located upstream at the source of the Hocking River. His water is not just clean but has a mineral profile remarkably similar to what’s found in Wallonia, the region of Belgium where saison was perfected. Since water is the main ingredient in beer, his stuff has an authentic edge that others can’t match.

Barbee also does a witbier, a dubbel, and a tripel. The production is small and hands-on. His beers were the only spirits selected for this year’s Maxim holiday gift guide. When I spoke to him last week, he was in a truck driving to Cleveland with his first delivery to all of Heinen’s grocery stores. Bottles are also sold at Grady’s Fine Wines in Rocky River. In addition to Amp 150, the beers are served at B Spot, Greenhouse Tavern, and Buckeye Beer Engine.

Sam McNulty and Andy Tveekrem of Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City, which also pours Barbee’s brews, are cooking up a special Nose-to-Tail beer dinner for Tuesday, Nov. 29. I love the collaborative spirit behind this event. Executive chef Michael Nowak of Bar Cento, another of McNulty’s dining and drinking establishments, and his team are in charge of the food side, turning a pasture raised heirloom breed pig from Tea Hills Farm into four fabulous courses (out of five, counting a non-pork dessert). Guests will get to meet the brewers and be among the first to sample something new from Rockmill. Tickets are $45. Reservations are required: 216-621-4000. Glasses are raised at 6:30 pm.

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