CLEVELAND, Ohio – Kevin and Maria Glass have combined spontaneity, competitiveness and craft beer into what might be the coolest hobby ever.
The couple, who live in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, are on a perpetual quest to visit as many Ohio breweries as possible. At 336, they have sipped suds in every corner of the state, from urban breweries to suburban outposts to small-town brewhouses.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would go to this many breweries,” said Glass, who described himself at the beginning of the… journey, mecca, trek, whatever you want to call it – as a “typical beer drinker.”
Glass and his wife are sports fans as well as competitive. They are always up for a challenge.
They live – conveniently – across from Saucy Brew Works in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. In summer 2019, they had been dating for about a year, and the Indians had a doubleheader. They sauntered over to Southern Tier Brewing Co. downtown. A woman at the brewpub told them “Hey, you should take this Cleveland Brewery Passport.”
“We looked at each other, and we knew this was going to be the start of something,” he said. “This was right up our alley – passport, gizmos, gadgets, swag. That’s what we do it for. We got our first passport stamp then. ”
A month or so later, they “ran the table” and visited all 30-plus breweries in the Cleveland passport program.
To the uninitiated, brewery-passport programs are a way to get folks to visit breweries – often smaller ones with limited retail distribution – and sip a beer, have a meal or buy some merchandise. Collect a certain number of stamps, win prizes.
Within the past 10 years, passport programs have cropped up all over the state, from rural regions to clusters of breweries in a county or two and across major cities. Destination Cleveland runs the Cleveland Brewery Passport while Akron-Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau promotes its Summit Brew Path, for instance.
“I don’t know how we did it,” Glass said. “We had the time of our lives. It was new for us. And it was exciting. We would go to get a stamp; we wanted to go to the next one. And we never knew what it would lead to. ”
From their home, they can hit about 12 without getting into a car. They amassed shirts, coasters, stickers.
“We couldn’t live without a sticker,” he said. “Those are like our receipts.”
Then, in November 2019, they crossed the street and were having a beer at Saucy. They noticed the Ohio Craft Brewing Association’s Ohio on Tap advertised on a coaster. The couple exchanged looks again.
“OK,” Glass said, “are they ready for us?”
They downloaded the app, got their first stamp, and saw the leaderboard.
“One day,” Glass remembered, “that’s going to be us up there. One day. ”
They wound up doing the Cleveland Brewery Passport a second time while they embarked on the Ohio On Tap program. The app is from the OCBA, the non-profit promotional and lobbying arm for the state’s craft breweries.
Ohio On Tap was launched five years ago, OCBA deputy director Justin Hemminger said.
Here’s how it works: The program is perpetual, but deadline is individualized. Everyone has three years from the date of their first stamp to collect as many stamps as they can. And the number of breweries changes. Prizes are offered at various levels – 10, 25, 50 visits, and every 50 after that until you reach the “tour-complete level – which is basically how many open taprooms there are at any one time. The goal posts are kind of moving on that, ”Hemminger said.
The program is open to member breweries with open public taprooms. As the number increases, new prizes are offered, he said.
And that completion number keeps inching upward. When the program launched, it had 140 breweries. Now, the number to hit is 292, Hemminger said.
About 60 people are listed on the OCBA site as having completed the Ohio On Tap app.
“The people who get to that level, that takes a lot of dedication and a lot of planning and a lot of investment in making these trips, buying beers in all these places,” Hemminger said. “We absolutely love it when people have finished the app. They’re going out, they’re very passionate about Ohio craft beer. They love supporting not only the breweries in their neighborhoods but all over the state. They’re making friends with everybody everywhere.
The folks who complete the list or come close are great “ambassadors” for Ohio craft beer, he said.
“We get a lot of people sign up for the app because people like Kevin and Maria are preaching how great it is, how fun it is to go visit breweries.”
“It was fun for us,” Glass said. “Like I said, we’re competitive, like going to places, and it gave us something to do.”
Slowly they started to venture to Medina and other locales. They drove to Columbus in early March 2020. It was their first road trip for beer and, of course, they picked up a Columbus Ale Trail passport.
Thanks to their competitive nature and Maria’s organizational skills, armed with a spreadsheet and a thirst for craft beers, “We hit the ground running, and we haven’t looked back since,” Glass said.
“When no one was out, we were supporting Ohio craft breweries,” said Glass, who said they never contracted coronavirus and always felt safe in craft breweries.
And they were determined. They headed south to Dayton and Cincinnati. They knocked off passport programs all over, from the Summit Brew Path to the Route 33 Brew Trail in Fairfield County.
“We’d hit the outskirts of a town. Those are usually the coolest ones where you have no idea what you’re driving into, but it’s the anticipating, it’s the thrill of going to a place, the unknown, and opening up yourself to this world. ”
They were smart, mapping out breweries along routes and sharing beers. They knew who had food and who had merchandise.
“I can’t go out of the house without wearing a brewery sweatshirt, anything Ohio brewery-related,” Glass said. “I feel naked without it.”
They could open a clothing store with their collection of beanies, hats, shirts, sweatpants, hoodies and jackets.
“We go to the extreme for this,” he said.
‘It’s been a life-changer’
They are at the point where they wait for a new one to pop up, then hit the road. They have 11 remaining. By the way, the ever-changing total number of breweries in Ohio is about 370, and 400 by year’s end is probable.
“The app is our bible,” said Glass, a 32-year-old accountant. Maria, 34, is a speech therapist originally from Camillus, New York, just west of Syracuse.
If a brewery is on a local passport program and not on the app, they will visit it to check off the local program. Their trips vary; they go where their hearts – and palates – want to go. His parents have joined them on occasion.
“It’s been a life-changer,” he said. “There is so much more than beer to these places. Our favorites are these little garages where no one knows about. ”
Maria’s favorite: The Wooly Pig Farm Brewery in Fresno, in Coshocton County. Kevin’s favorite: DankHouse Brewing Co. in Newark. Locally, they both like Crooked Pecker Brewing Co. in Chagrin Falls as well as Cleveland favorites: North High, Saucy, Goldhorn and Terrestrial. Hoof Hearted in Marengo has great merchandise, he said, along with Unhitched in Louisville.
They want to feel like they are in a brewery, he said, not like they are sipping in a restaurant that has been converted to a brewery.
“We like the brewery feel, with the brewer in the back,” Glass said.
Twin Oast in Port Clinton holds a special memory: The couple got engaged there. Their rehearsal dinner was at North High Brewing Co. in Ohio City, and their reception dinner was at Forest City Brewing Co. in Cleveland.
“I’ve been to maybe 15 Main Street, Ohios. The little towns you roll up to – it’s crazy, ”Glass said. “And they are in the center of town, too, so everyone comes to these places, the rural town, USA. I never thought I would be in these little cities. … We like the surprises, the atmosphere, the people. ”
He added: “People always ask why? To quote from ‘Breaking Bad,’ I do it because I feel alive doing it. We feel like we’re helping the community, we’re living. People can look at it from a distance and say, ‘Hey, that’s just drinking and driving.’ We don’t look at it like that. ”
(Planning and sharing beers helps with sobriety, he added.)
One sad part: They go back to zero on Nov. 12. That’s when their Ohio On Tap passport expires.
“That’s the day we’re dreading,” Glass said.
“We’re going to rack up as many as we can, enjoy the summer, go to the new places, go to our favorites – there are a lot of favorites out there we’ve been back a second time. … We don’t just go to these places and stamp them. We interact with the community, we interact with the people. At first we were ‘Hey, let’s do it, it’s fun.’ But it’s turned out to be we’re the definition of ‘support local.’
And the couple’s fame might be extended a bit. There’s a chance they will land on the cover of the annual Ohio On Tap magazine, which comes out in July, Hemminger said.
More info: The Glasses have an Instagram page with images from their travels – @brewhahaing_in_ohio.
I am on cleveland.com‘s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 am Thursday morning. Twitter: @ mbona30.
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