Two Irish brothers, Pat and Dan Conway opened their fledgling brewery in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood in 1986. They attain a collective 75 years of brewing experience by recruiting Master Brewer Thaine Johnson and Engineer Charlie Price, both former employees of Schmidt’s, Cleveland’s last operating brewery. Together, the team designed GLBC’s 7-barrel brewing system, which is still used to brew Pub Exclusive beers.
Pat and Dan work with Thaine to develop beers reflective of the styles the brothers enjoyed during their European travels, and choose to honor their local roots with the names of their first beers. Eliot Ness Amber Lager honors the notorious prohibition officer who frequented the tavern that’s now home to the GLBC brewpub (how’s that for irony), and who once employed Pat and Dan’s mother as his stenographer. The Heisman, now known as Dortmunder Gold Lager, is named for football legend John Heisman, who once lived in the Ohio City neighborhood.
From the start, the brothers are focused on sustainability, opting to renovate 19th century buildings to house their brewpub, and purchasing used restaurant equipment to stock their space. As GLBC expands, new businesses sprout, and Ohio City gradually evolves into a bustling place to work, play, and brew. In their first year, the team brews less than 1,000 barrels of kegged beer, and hand-bottling doesn’t even begin for another year.
In 1992, we expand into the Fries & Schuele Building (later home to our Beer Symposium). Before long, we outgrow this space and move our main operation into our current production brewery on Carroll Avenue. The brewery’s 19th century buildings once acted as stables and storage facilities for the Leonard Schlather Brewing Company.
In the early 2000s, GLBC commits more deeply to environmental causes. In 2001, the first Burning River Fest takes place in the brewery’s tank farm. In 2007 GLBC puts down roots at Hale Farm & Village, founding Pint Size Farm. Two years later, they join a collective to form Ohio City Farm, thought to be the largest urban farm in the country.
All the while, the brewery experiences tremendous growth, first boosted by Northeast Ohioans, then a growing distribution footprint filled with thirsty craft beer drinkers. They pass the 100,000-barrel mark in 2010 after adding three new 300 barrel fermenters.
To commemorate 30 years of independent craft brewing in 2018, Pat and Dan Conway introduce an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), making GLBC’s staff employee-owners. The following year GLBC introduces year-round Great Lakes IPA, an American IPA, with a label featuring GLBC employees, in recognition of the company’s independence and employee-ownership.
We believe in crafting exceptional beer and exceptional communities, and we do both in a similar fashion: with respect, care, and good old fashioned elbow grease. We strive to be leaders in the communities we are part of through our hands-on involvement, and our commitment to community goes far beyond keeping our beer in stock on shelves. We’re here because we care about the neighborhoods, parks, waterfronts, and people who make our region great. Together, we’re Brewing Good.