It’s been more than 18 months since brothers Josh and Jason Sweet bought the former Lemon Grass restaurant space at 2178 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. I just a few weeks, Boss Dog Brewing Company will finally open the doors to its 10-barrel brewhouse and restaurant.
“It’s finally coming together,” says Josh Sweet, who acts as manager and oversees the front-of-house duties. “There’s 1,001 things to get done, but we’re done with the major construction of the interior. Now we’re just installing the interior fixtures.”
If all goes according to plan, the Sweets will have their grand opening on Thursday, Nov. 2. Four brews are already on tap, with four more in a fermenting process. On opening day, Boss Dog will offer Chief Chinook Pale Ale, Buck IPA, Dog Pound Brown, and Cuyachuga Chocolate Porter. Now that they have the brew cycle going, Josh says they plan to rotate 10-plus beers on tap; they will also have a full bar with a craft cocktail menu.
“It’s sort of hop-heavy because that’s what we like,” Josh says of the initial four brews. “But it’s for every type of palate. We’re more a mainstream classical brewpub. The [Chinook] pale ale is not too hoppy, but hoppier—our version of a light beer. The double IPA is a bit stronger, with seven to nine percent alcohol, and then we have a lighter brown ale and a porter with chocolate and honey flavors.”
Chef Charles Sanders will head up the culinary side of the gastropub, with a menu encompassing everything from small plates and snacks to full entrees. A Cleveland Heights resident, Sanders has formerly served as executive chef at various Cleveland hotels and Blue Point Coastal Cuisine in San Francisco. “We’re centered on the craft beer, and we want to make the food just as interesting,” Josh says.
Sanders isn't the only team member with ties to Cleveland Heights—the Sweets were born there and continue to have a strong affinity for the neighborhood. Jason Sweet is the brewmaster and Hugh McAree (a 15-year veteran of Lopez on Lee across the street) will serve as general manager. Cleveland Heights resident Ian Barrie is joining the team as bar manager. “There are just a few of us, but we’re keeping it local,” Josh says of the mostly-native Cleveland Heights staff.
In reimagining the space, the Sweet brothers gutted the 5,200-square-foot main floor, as well as the 3,000-square-foot basement. They also eliminated all signs of the former Lemon Grass, along with the original doors and flooring from a past incarnation as a McDonald’s. “We found old Happy Meal stuff in the basement,” recalls Josh.
The basement will not be a part of the public area, but will house much of the brewing equipment. “There’s a big window inside the space to see the brew system,” explains Josh. “You can even see it from the street.”
Nick Trent, owner of Nick’s Bricks, has been meticulously restoring the original brick inside the space. In fact, the team discovered a bunch of Stroh’s beer cans from the 1970s when they tore open one wall. “They used the beer cans to fill the brick walls,” explains Josh. “We said, ‘Wow, this was destined to become a brewery.’”
The interior will have 140 seats, with high-top tables near the bar area and traditional seating in the restaurant section. Custom keg lights with Edison bulbs are suspended from the ceiling for a true brewpub atmosphere.
In the warmer months, customers most likely will gather on the 2,000-square-foot patio on the side of the building, adjacent to the courtyard corridor between the parking lot and Lee Road. Josh estimates that half of his clientele will enter through the patio entrance, which is ADA-accessible. The other half will enter through the Lee Road front entrance.
“It’s a huge patio,” Josh says of the 100-seat outdoor space. “The city gave us extra land, and there will be nooks and crannies to it.”
Josh promises to have “toys” on the patio for customers to enjoy. One such toy is a 1954 M43 Army ambulance. “It’s a vintage military ambulance with tap handles in its side,” explains Josh. “We can serve beer directly from it on the patio. And it’s mobile, so we can also take it to various beer events.”
As the creation on Boss Dog comes to a close and Josh eyes opening day, he enjoys reflecting on the work they’ve done and seeing his dreams become a reality. “Just to see it all come together, we have to sort of remind ourselves of what it looked like before,” he says. “The stuff you create in your head, to see it all come together physically is [great].”