Brews + Prose
In 2012, the year before Guide to Kulchur opened, two enterprising young writers helped co-found what has grown into one of the most popular reading series in the region: Brews + Prose at Market Garden Brewery. Dave Lucas, PhD, a poet and SAGES Fellow in the English Department at Case Western Reserve University, and Mike Croley, MFA, a fiction and nonfiction author and visiting assistant professor of English at Denison University, had a plan to launch something new and different in the literary scene, built on the fundamental assumption that “literature is better with beer.”
“We wanted to start a series where audiences could hear both emerging and established writers without the staid, formal atmosphere [found at] too many library and university readings,” says Lucas, who was recently named Poet Laureate of Ohio. “We wanted our audiences to feel welcome and relaxed, that they could have a drink with our authors before or after a reading, which has indeed happened.”
Lucas and Croley’s friend Matt Stipe (then at Market Garden Brewery, now co-owner of Banter Beer and Wine) was inspired by the “Write to Assemble” panel discussions at the Happy Dog by writer/editor Frank Lewis and Happy Dog co-owner Sean Watterson. So Stipe approached Croley, who looped Lucas in. Stipe explained that he wanted to host a literary event in the then-new beer garden, brewery and restaurant. He subsequently brought in Jeff Draeger, a manager at Market Garden, and the four of them created Brews + Prose.
“We just wanted to do something that seemed very ‘Cleveland’ to us, which is to give the lie to that false distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture,” Lucas says of the once-monthly event, which always features at least two authors so that audiences members who attend to hear one author might also meet a new author. The 2018 series includes graduate student writers from the NEOMFA program again, as well as writers from Twelve Literary Arts.
Croley and Lucas wanted to do more than de-lionize cultural assumptions, however: “Once we were able to maintain a budget, it became important to us to keep the events free and be able to pay our authors,” Lucas adds.