Downtown Cleveland is getting a new craft brewery. In fact, it's getting a combined brewery and microdistillery.
The Portside Distillery is located in the basement of a brick building on West Ninth Street right next to the $272 million Flats East Bank project. It’s also adjacent to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority – which is the reason for the Portside name. (See video below.)
Partners Dan Malz and John Merrick hope to open the brewery-microdistillery tasting room in June. They also plan to offer 22-ounce bottles later and want to open a restaurant at the site early next year.
Portside will use the same seven-barrel brewing system for both beer and liquor.
“When you distill whiskey or vodka, all you’re doing is distilling the grain base,” he said. “Instead of calling it wort, you make wash … We’re going to make the wash and the beer in the same system.”
For legal reasons, the beer and spirits are kept separate. Beer fermenters are in one area. A bright tank and custom-made copper pot still for liquor are in another.
“We were originally planning to just be doing distilling but we wanted to incorporate beer and made the change recently. Just to be more versatile,” Malz said.
“To pay the rent,” Merrick joked.
They plan to start off with a white rum and rye whiskey, and then move into spiced rum, dark rum, vodka, gin and absinthe.
Portside plans to serve six beers.
“Our first beer, we’ve decided will be an IPA, a nice hoppy beer,” Malz said. “Then we are thinking about a smoked ale, vanilla porter or coffee porter. We really haven’t decided about the second beer …
“What I’ve noticed around here is that a lot of people who like craft spirits like cigars. So I want to make the perfect beer for a cigar.”
He also enjoys blueberry beers so expect to see one of those on draft.
One of the beers will be unique to Ohio: an 25-percent alcohol Eisbock. That’s over the legal limit for beer in Ohio, but the ice bock will technically be liquor, which they can make thanks to a microdistillery permit.
The ice bock won’t be on tap, since it’s considered a spirit. But Malz and Merrick will have a retail shop where they will sell their beer and spirits.
Malz, a homebrewer who has a physics degree from the University of Akron, has some professional brewing experience. He worked as a chemist for five years at Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland.
“I just like the brewing industry,” he said about why he wanted to open his own brewery. “It’s one of the only industries that’s growing. It’s a great industry to be in in America.”