Bernie Beer, a brown ale named after Bernie Kosar, will debut in time for 2014 NFL Draft

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Bernie Kosar's name may be gone from the broadcast booth, but it's back on beer.

A draft version of Bernie Beer, a brown ale, will be available starting Thursday, May 8 – coinciding with the first day of the NFL Draft. Plans then call for wider distribution to be rolled out in time for the NFL season, which begins Thursday, Sept. 4.

Ed Thompkins, wine and beer buyer for Heinen's, said Kosar will be at Winks Bar and Grille, 25800 Central Pkwy., Beachwood, from 5 to 6 p.m. on May 8. Sixteen of 17 Heinen's locations also will have the draft available that day; only the Middleburg Heights location will not have it, since there is no growler station there. First-day draft coverage will air on NFL Network and ESPN beginning at 8 p.m.

Thompkins said a team effort was involved to fight the clock so the beer could be ready by Draft Day.

"We were building around the excitement of the draft," he said. "It was an opportune time. The timing worked out."

Like a well-executed play on the gridiron, where everyone has a specific job, several companies each have a specific role to play with Bernie Beer. The beer will be brewed by The Hop View Brewing Co., at Cellar Rats Brewery in Madison, under the name Bernie Beer Co. Hop View is the name Cellar Rats uses for contract brewing.

Contract brewing is when an entity – sometimes even a non-brewing venture - has a brewing recipe but no equipment. So an established brewer – in this case, Cellar Rats – is asked to step in.

"We're excited they approached us," Joel Sandrey of Cellar Rats told The Plain Dealer. "If this beer takes off, we hope to have other seasonals. Bernie Beer would be year-round in draft and cans, and seasonals would follow from the Bernie Beer Co. They (Bernie Beer names) would be based on the football season. Bernie's Brown Ale would be the flagship. All the packaging will say Hop View Brewing Co."

Sandrey's company is handling only the brewing. Initial launch of the brown ale will be draft only in half-barrels, he said.

"We are simply the place where the beer is being made," Sandrey said. "All we are is a place for brewing." The hope, he said, is the beer would be canned by Buckeye Canning of Amherst in time for the NFL season.

Sandrey said the recipe is a new one.

"We've never made a brown ale before at this facility," he said. "We brewed a small batch, brought out some samples, did some minor tweaks, and we came up with this."

Retail price and packaging – whether it will be cans or bottles, or four-packs or six-packs – is undecided, Thompkins said, but he added it will be "competitively priced."

"I like cans, their portability as for tailgating, as much as anything else," he said.

Thompkins said what excites him about the beer is it's a "total Cleveland effort," from the ale's creation by a local brewer to distribution through a family-owned grocery chain. And Kosar is, of course, an Ohio native.

Bernie Beer actually came about last year, after Thompkins introduced Kosar to Sam McNulty of Market Garden Brewery. The brewery released an amber ale on tap in September. Kosar greeted hundreds of fans who showed up for the release party at the Ohio City brewery.

That same month, Kosar, a beloved figure among Cleveland sports fans, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Solon. Charges were dismissed on April 28. Last week, it was announced Solomon Wilcots will replace the candid Kosar as preseason analyst in the broadcast booth.

Kosar played nine of his 13 NFL seasons for Cleveland.

"He's a living legend with his name on a beer in a greet beer town," Thompkins said.

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