CLEVELAND, Ohio – Upstate New York-based Southern Tier Brewing Co. is expanding operations to downtown Cleveland, taking over the spot formerly occupied by 811 Kitchen Bar Lounge.
A release from the company says Southern Tier’s brewery-taproom is expected to open this spring at 811 Prospect Ave., at E. 8th Street and across from the Winking Lizard in the Gateway District.
If the brewery’s name isn’t recognizable to mainstream beer fans, you might know it by one of its most popular seasonals, Pumking, a bright orange 22-ounce pumpkin ale that lines shelves annually in Northeast Ohio. It’s a divisive ale among craft-beer fans: Some people treat it as a cult classic they won’t pass up, others eschew its sweetness.
Cleveland will be the second satellite operation for Southern Tier, which opened a brewery and taproom in Pittsburgh in January 2017. Its beer has been distributed in Cleveland since 2008.
Artisanal Brewing Ventures runs Southern Tier and Victory Brewing Co., which is based in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Artisanal is the 13th largest craft brewery in the country, according to the non-profit Brewers Association. A year earlier, before the two Northeast breweries joined forces, Southern Tier was 33rd among craft breweries.
By comparison, Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Co. is 21st. (On the overall brewery list – which includes non-crafts Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and the like – Artisanal is 22nd.)
It’s a crowded market to be sure, with all by one craft brewery in the top 20 having distribution in Northeast Ohio.
Phin DeMink and Allen “Skip” Yahn started the brewery in 2002 in Lakewood, N.Y., 140 miles from downtown Cleveland. The village sits just south of Interstate 86, known as the Southern Tier Expressway. The brewery’s operations have expanded over the years, including the opening of a distillery in 2016.
Aside from having a healthy distribution presence in Northeast Ohio, Southern Tier also has produced at least one local brewer as well: Jim Waltz, originally from Avon Lake, is one of the brewers at Forest City Brewery in Cleveland. Waltz worked at Southern Tier’s distillery from 2015 to 2017.
The startup and expansion of breweries in Northeast Ohio has become a regular occurrence in recent years. But an out-of-region brewery setting up shop to brew here is not as common. Bad Tom Smith Brewing, with roots in Cincinnati, opened its first satellite operation as brewery and tasting room in Ohio City in December.
Southern Tier’s portfolio emphasizes big, flavored beers, including Creme Brulee Stout, Salted Caramel Stout and Imperial Cinnamon Roll Ale. Its beers are available in 12-ounce cans and bottles as well as bombers.
Last year, RED Restaurant Group announced it would close the short-lived 811 Kitchen Bar Lounge to re-brand and re-open in the fall. The restaurant had opened just prior to the Republican National Convention in 2016.