We’re always looking for ways to connect with our local communities and one way we do that is through our Brewery Collaboration Program at our Downtown Cleveland Store. Through this program we work closely with local Cleveland brewers and breweries, once a month, to brew new and innovative draft beers for exclusive release at our Downtown Store.
During any given month, under the magnificent stained glass dome of our Downtown Cleveland store you’ll find a group of beer enthusiasts gathering around a barrel of beer. That usually means that our newest Brewery Collaboration is ready for release.
We caught up with Ed Thompkins, Heinen’s Director of Special Events, to chat about this special program and what he envisions for the future…
What inspired you to start the Heinen’s brewery collaboration program?
At the heart of the program is a desire to celebrate Cleveland and all of the wonderful things the city has to offer. We’ve wanted to collaborate on a beer with Great Lakes Brewery for years, and when we decided to open our Downtown Cleveland store this February—the stars finally aligned. Our first creation was the Rotunda Pale Ale, inspired by the Cleveland Trust Rotunda Building, an amazing example of early 20th century grandeur in Cleveland and current home to Heinen’s.
How has the program progressed?
With no shortage of breweries churning out creative new beers, we jumped at the opportunity to continue to seek out new partnerships with these great beer-makers. We’ve been brewing and releasing a limited edition, one-of-a-kind beer at a monthly brewery tapping event at our Downtown Cleveland Store.
How do you decide what to make?
Our primary driver is seasonality—think “lawn-mowing beers” for the Summer, but we also want to maintain uniqueness and not just follow popular trends. The back to school inspired Post Homework Porter we’re making now with The BottleHouse Brewery in Cleveland Heights is our answer to the sea of pumpkin beers that start to flood store shelves in the Fall.
What do you enjoy most about the process?
I really do love it all, from getting the chance to play Brewmaster for a day, to tapping that first keg in the store. I think what I’m most excited about is how far we’ve come as a city since the 90’s when lots of people weren’t even sure the area could support more than one brewery— and look at us now.
What’s the next big thing to keep an eye out for in the craft beer scene?
Pairing food with beer is really starting to come into its own, with more and more people realizing the same principles we apply to wine pairings are easy to mirror with beer. The grassy, herbaceous, citrusy notes in Sauvignon Blanc are also found in wheat beer, making it a natural pairing with the same types of food, like tangy goat cheese, green vegetables and seafood.
Anything on the docket you are particularly excited about?
Christmas is definitely going to be a lot of fun. I think we might just break all the rules this year. It’s still too early to share any details, but stay tuned…