Great Lakes Brewing Co. is paying tribute to Cleveland Browns legend Joe Thomas.

The offensive lineman who retired in March after 11 years with the NFL team helped brew 73, a limited-edition kolsch-style ale that will hit the Cleveland market next month.

“I love craft beer, and throughout my career in Cleveland I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the best from Great Lakes,” Thomas said in a prepared statement. “I had 11 pro seasons in Cleveland and they’ve had 30, so we’re a good, seasoned match. It’s been so much fun going through the entire process from design through brewing the first batch at the pub.”

The beer will be available in 12-ounce cans and on draft. The can label features an illustration of Thomas flexing a bicep and is adorned with the Browns’ colors of orange and brown. The background also highlights many accomplishments, including his All Pro awards and record playing 10,363 consecutive snaps.

Lest you think 73 is the number of quarterbacks he protected over the years, it’s actually his jersey number.

Great Lakes described the beer as “light, crisp, tailgate worthy.”

The collaboration came about after Thomas bonded over a beer with his next-door neighbor, Great Lakes Chief Executive Officer Bill Boor.

“He embodies so many things we admire at Great Lakes, and in Cleveland,” Boor said in a statement. “Reliability, hard work, loyalty, community involvement. The list goes on. After he retired, we agreed to make it happen. It seems so right for Joe Thomas and Great Lakes to work together on a special beer.”

Great Lakes used Iron Heart Canning Co. to put the beer in six-packs. It’s 5.7 percent alcohol by volume.

Thomas isn’t the first former Browns player to have a beer named after him. Hop View Brewing Co. produced Bernie Beer in collaboration with former quarterback Bernie Kosar.

Fat Head’s news

Fat Head’s Brewery will open its new beer hall and production brewery at 11 a.m. Aug. 20 at 17450 Lake Abram Drive in Middleburg Heights.

The much-anticipated brewery replaces Fat Head’s former production brewery and taproom, which was basically around the corner in Middleburg Heights. Fat Head’s also operates brewpubs in North Olmsted and Jackson Township, along with a restaurant in Pittsburgh.

The new facility is about 75,000 square feet — in other words, it’s humongous.

Growth continues

The Brewers Association says there were 6,655 active breweries in the United States as of June 30, up from 5,562 a year ago.

The Boulder, Colo.-based trade group also noted that there are an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 breweries in planning. It didn’t break down the specific number of openings or closings.

“The data demonstrate that 2018 is on pace to have the highest number of brewery openings and closings to date,” association chief economist Bart Watson said in a prepared statement. “However, even as breweries close, openings continue to far outpace the number that shutter.”

He offered a piece of advice for new brewers.

“New players looking to enter the space should be aware of the constructs of the current landscape, work to differentiate themselves and will need to make quality beer to succeed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the association estimated that production volume rose 5 percent.

Beer festivals

Looking for a beer festival this weekend? You’re in luck.

There are several scattered throughout Northeast Ohio:

• The seventh annual Science of Brewing takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, 11 W. Federal St., Youngstown. For details, go to:

• The fifth annual BrewFest Waterfront District runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at Black River Landing, 421 Black River Lane, Lorain. The event features more than 50 craft breweries, live music and food. For details, go to:

• The seventh annual Chardon Brewfest takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday on Chardon Square in Chardon. The event features more than 25 breweries, live music and food. For details, go to:

Beer sampler

• The Daily Meal assembled a list of the best beer in each state, choosing Columbus Bodhi for Ohio. The website says it used its own research, along with BeerAdvocate, RateBeer and UnTappd to come up with the list. To read the full list, go to:

• Perennial Artisan Ales from St. Louis is now available in Ohio through Cleveland-based Sixth City Distribution. “We are stoked to see Perennial shared in an awesome beer landscape like Ohio,” Perennial national sales manager Ben Bailey said.

• A Gallup poll says Americans who drink alcohol prefer beer (42 percent) over wine (34 percent) and liquor (19 percent).

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or Read his beer blog at Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.