Southern Tier Brewing Company started out as a small brewery in Lakewood, New York, in the western part of the state, about a two-hour drive from northeast Ohio. Since its inception in 2002, the backcountry operation which started with beer making equipment salvaged from a former local brewer has grown significantly.
Perhaps best known for its seasonal Pumking Ale, Southern Tier now offers year-round beers available for purchase in approximately 30 states nationwide.
In 2017, he launched a satellite taproom initiative. The first satellite spot was in Pittsburgh (ugh, I know), and in the fall of 2018, Cleveland landed a Southern Tier dining and brewery, located on Prospect Avenue in the downtown Gateway District.
Unlike many breweries that span multiple locations and ship beer from the flagship – I might be able to throw a baseball from one and hit another at Mentor alone – Southern Tier provides its satellites their own brewing facilities. Among the thirty taps at the Cleveland site, seven beers are brewed on site, unique in the region. I think that’s pretty cool.
So on a recent family trip to a Cavaliers game, we stepped in ahead of time.
The space has housed several establishments over the years, the last being a pop-up restaurant that I never visited. It’s clearly been renovated, though, with a contemporary rustic-chic vibe. It’s a mix of light and dark wood tones, with high ceilings, lots of windows on the upper level, and a separate speakeasy-themed bar and lounge area in the basement. It’s big, and at the time of this pre-sports visit, noisy.
While we waited for a table, we sampled a few Cleveland-specific beers ($7 a pint). I tried the Praise the Haze, a New England style IPA which I loved. I’m a fan of Southern Tier’s 2XIPA, hopped with a hint of grapefruit but otherwise no citrus, and the Praise the Haze was in that vein. My wife had the Berliner Wiesse, a sour wheat beer that I thought was just ok, but I don’t like wheat beers.
The menu seems quite carefully constructed – foods that pair well with beer and employ some of the different beers throughout the year. We landed on the Bavarian Soft Pretzel ($9) and Smoked Wings ($15) from the entrees menu.
The pretzel was kind of what you’d expect from a giant soft pretzel at a beer hall. It came with a beer-cheese sauce, of course, which was above average, and a very good beer mustard, which was mostly mustard seeds and beer. It seems hard to go wrong with this, and I’ve had dozens of soft pretzels at least at dozens of breweries, and the amenities here were top notch.
I don’t believe the smoked wings were actually smoked. The barbecue sauce, made with the 2X IPA that I enjoy so much, was a bit smoky. The wings were crispy and meaty, two things I look for in wings and an often hard to find combination, but I would never spend $15 that way again. It’s just not a $15 appetizer, not even with downtown prices.
I chose the Reuben pastrami sandwich ($14) because of how intriguing pastrami on a Reuben-style sandwich sounded and because the Russian dressing is made with 8 Days a Week lager, which is another beer from Southern Tier which I really like. (I know, I’m way too familiar with Southern Tier offerings. But if it helps, I can steer you away from their Lake Shore Fog. If you’re a Clevelander, that might sound good, but it’s gross.)
The sandwich was amazing. I guess the pastrami was tossed on a grill until the edges were crisp and rolled up, and the kraut was just the right level of acid and the perfect portion for a sandwich. The Russian dressing was fantastic and everything was served on very good rye bread.
My eldest son had the bacon burger ($14) but didn’t read the menu carefully enough to realize it came with mustard. He’s a burger connoisseur of sorts but doesn’t like mustard, so he received lukewarm reviews. I love brown mustard but prefer yellow on burgers, but this worked for me. I liked the burger much more than my child.
My wife ordered a Meathead pizza ($14 for the 12 inch, $19 for the 16 inch), which consists of bacon, sausage and pepperoni with mozzarella and pecorino cheese on a semi flatbread crust . The crust was perfect and the flavor combination was solid. Especially for a brasserie, it was a good pizza.
My youngest son had chicken fillets ($8) from the kids menu, which I didn’t try. But his order came with the same fries as our sandwich and burger, and as fries go, you could do a lot worse.
You could also probably do worse with Southern Tier service, but you could do much better. also. It was busy, mind you, 90 minutes before an NBA whistleblower, but people were abrupt. The bartender was abrupt. The server at our table was brusque, although clearly excellent at his job. If you can imagine a really good surgeon whose skills you greatly appreciate, but with a terrible bedside manner, that’s what we’ve experienced. The welcome we felt at the host’s booth ended there. At a remarkable level.
But it is certainly not a deterrent. In an area that’s changed a lot during the pandemic — with no more Winking Lizard, Lola, Greenhouse Tavern, or Zocalo — Southern Tier is a great option, both for beers and the food that accompanies them.
Southern Tier Brewing Company
811 Prospect Ave.
Location: On the north side of Prospect Avenue, just west of E. 9th Street.
Type of restoration: Brewery.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Alcohol and wine: Full bar.
Disabled facilities: Yes.
Credit card: All adults.
Kitchen: American Tavern.
Vegetarian: Several options.
Special diets: Ask about food preferences.
Suitable for children: Children’s menu.
Outdoor dining: No.
Dress code: Relaxed.
Online order : Yes.
Prices: Reasonable – entrees and salads in the $9-$15 range; pizzas, burgers and sandwiches mostly $14.
Value: Very well.
Scores (out of five):
A service: 2.5.