Cleveland Beer Week is in full swig .... oops, sorry .... swing right now. Christine Montague helps organize the event, which runs through Saturday and concludes with the giant beer festival known as Brewzilla in downtown Cleveland.
Question: How did you get selected to organize the event?
Answer: In 2005 and as director of marketing and events at Stan Hywet, I collaborated with John Lane of the Winking Lizard and John Najeway of Thirsty Dog Brewing to create the Blues & Brews craft beer festival that now makes its home at Lock 3. We worked very well together, had a common vision for craft beer events and kept touch after I left Stan Hywet in 2007 to focus on my freelance career. John Lane called me in early 2009 to ask if I would join the Cleveland Beer Week team to launch the first annual and, without hesitation, I signed on immediately for what has become one of my favorite projects.
Q: Why is it called Cleveland Beer Week when it runs for nine days? That’s more than a week.
A: You noticed? Similarly to other craft beer festivals around the country, we run Cleveland Beer “Week” so that it includes two weekends -- allowing patrons who have work obligations on weekdays to enjoy as many events as possible and retailers who host events to enjoy high weekend volume. We want to expose as many people as possible to the rich and ever-growing craft beer industry, by giving them a plethora of event options. And, to date there have been no complaints about our interpretation of a “week!”
Q: What’s new and different this year?
A: In our third year, retailers and distributors who plan events have focused on craft beer “experiences.” While we still offer pint nights and specials, the majority of our events — brewery tours, multi-course dinners, special tappings, meet and greets — provide us the opportunity to engage and educate our patrons on more personal level. Cleveland Beer Week has also added two flagship events that have garnered much interest. On October 15, Magic Hat hosted the first annual “Liquid Hunt” that included an on-foot crawl to Lakewood-area establishments. “Culture Yourself: A Premier Beer & Cheese Pairing” takes place at the new Market Garden Brewery on October 20 and features beers from 12 top breweries paired with more than 30 artisanal cheeses.
Q: Share something that most people don’t know or would surprise them about Cleveland Beer Week.
A: Not only are we not-for-profit, but we are philanthropic. Each year, we donate all net proceeds from Cleveland Beer Week to charity. We are able to do this because of strong support from local businesses. What continues to amaze and impress me is that businesses in competition with each other all year round — including distributors, retailers and breweries — all join forces, working together at all turns, to ensure that Cleveland Beer Week achieves its mission of craft beer education and yields positive economic impact for our community.
Q: If you could go to one event – and one event only – which would it be and why?
A: I would attend Brewzilla, our monster of a beer tasting and closing event. With more than 80 breweries represented, Brewzilla offers broad exposure to the stellar beers being produced by craft brewers. I always enjoy the Ohio Brewery feature showcasing our state’s rich craft beer industry and look forward to “One Hop Wonders,” a new feature where 14 area brewers used a pale ale recipe with only one variation — the variety of hops — to highlight how hops changes the aroma and flavor of beer. Brewzilla is a spectacular close to a “week” of celebrating craft beer!