Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Scranton by way of Cleveland

This past weekend we loaded the family truckster, pointed it west on I-80, stabbed the thruster, and set a course for the Cleveland area to the annual family reunion. My sister C and her husband P were hosting the reunion this year and C put me in charge of Beer. It's a burden, I know. But, not really certain of the availability of beer by-the-keg, in Ohio, I decided to purchase a sixtel here, load it in a cooler with ice, and transport it, and my Beer Meister, the 300 miles. Side-note: a standard single 1/2-keg beer meister just fits into the back of an explorer, if you lay it on its side, and swing the narrow backseat forward to allow the tower to protrude forward.

My beer choice, as always for me, was an adventure of the highest order and excitement level. (See how just the littlest things amuse me?) In the end, I decided on a sixtel of Weyerbacher Hops Infusion. As many of you know and some may not, this is a very approachable beer that has an excellent hop aroma and unmistakable hop flavor that makes its presence known, unlike as I've heard described elsewhere: ``those insipid lagers'' , but not overwhelming. I figured that for some this may be the first time they've tasted this sort of beer, and something too radical and maybe no one would drink it. My fears were unfounded and most if not all of the assembled clan enjoyed it. (The keg did not kick, but it almost did, and I transported it and my Beer Meister safely back to PA after the reunion--where I retapped it and continue to quaff large quantities from it.)

For some of us on the trip, this was our first encounter with Cleveland and we decided to do it in style and make a long weekend of it by leaving Friday morning. We arrived after lunch and immediately headed downtown to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As we approached the pyramidal monument that serves as the mecca for those that revel in things loud, melodic, and raucous, it was with eager anticipation that I wondered what this place would hold for us. I'm here to tell you that our visit was wonderful and well worth the $22 admission. The special exhibit of The Doors occupied the upper-most level, and I learned that back in the day, the Doors had played a concert at Susquehanna University which is not too far from here. It struck me how the artwork on album covers, posters, show-announcements and such embodied the prevailing spirit of the time in that sort of spacey, swirling, dazed but I won't say confused way, that many of the time no doubt felt. (Do I wist for times like those?) L liked the Rolling Stone exhibit as there were many examples one of her favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson, and his major contribution to that seminal document of the Rock and Roll period. Of course there was the impressive staging and prop characters of The Wall that were used when Pink Floyd performed the album in its entirety only a few times. We concluded our visit by watching a 60-odd minute film-tribute to the past inductees. This is done in an imaginative and informative way that is able to document all the past winners, set to their music, in a collage-like fashion.

I could go on and on about other cool stuff at the Hall, but I won't, so you can experience, explore, and discover this treasure on your own. We only had four or so hours at the Hall, until it closed at 5: 30, so if you're planning on going, I would rather you have six to eight hours to fully appreciate and begin to absorb the enormity and scope of the place. It is easily worth every one of the 22 bucks entry.

Afterwards, we headed off to try to locate the Great Lakes Brewing Company for a meal and a chance to sample the liquid fare in their brewpub. Now, if you're not careful it's easy to miss the street--it's off of West 25th street, heading south, about a mile west from about mid-downtown. Hmmm, sounds impossible to find, doesn't it? Anyway, get the address, check a map, Google it, GPS it, etc. before you go. After missing the street as we traveled down 25th, we turned off 25th to go around the block and found the brewery one street north in the same block. It may be joined to the brewpub but I couldn't tell. We kept looking and driving and then located the court the second time by (McLean Court) and we began trolling and eventually caught and reeled in a free street parking spot around the corner and a block south. The place is located on a cobblestone, tree-lined street that holds other interesting looking places which we'll explore the next time we're in town. As we crossed the street, it was hard not to be enticed by the very nice outdoor al-fresco dining area, but we were informed by the hostess that there would be an hour wait for an outdoor table, but indoor tables were available immediately. I personally wanted to see the bar that I've drooled over in pictures, so we accepted an indoor table without a drop of hesitation.

We were seated in the tap room, at a table that was one of about six along the wall opposite the bar. It was about 6-ish on a Friday evening and the bar was crowded with an after-work bunch of office workers looking to blow off a little steam with a side benefit of blowing the head off a cold brew. The assembly included a guy there for his surprise 50th birthday party. I can only hope my 50th birthday party be held in such a place! Gazing around, it's hard to miss the bar and what a bar it is! It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the magnificent, dark, wooden, squat columns that bear arches that separate and frame mirrors over and dividing the back bar. The area of the columns are adorned with fleurs-de-lis-like emblems of the most involved symbolism of which their meaning I could not fathom. And this before I even tasted a single Brew!

Next time: what's Scranton about Cleveland.

No comments: