How Eliot Ness Brought Down a Prohibition Kingpin AND Helped Me Love Craft Beer

It’s a little known fact that my family has ties to organized crime from back in the days of Prohibition. No connection to the world-famous families of the world in regards to blood relations, but the scene in my little hometown of Bradford, Pennsylvania was one rich with mafia-related activity. Illegal booze made its way across the border of Canada, traveled through Buffalo, and stopped in Bradford before being divided and dispersed across territories throughout PA, neighboring states, and as far as Chicago where notorious alcohol trafficking kingpin Al Capone reigned supreme.

My great grandma dabbled in bootlegging during this wild and crazy time, and my grandpa’s half-sister married Al Ritchie, a man well-known in the region as someone on “both sides of the law.” Ritchie was an underworld character who later became an assistant McKean County detective. He operated the Sunset Inn, a small hotel north of Bradford’s neighboring Olean, New York where he was set up by Buffalo racketeers as a bootlegger. History states Capone once visited and had drinks at Ritchie’s establishment. While bootlegging, Ritchie was also friendly with local, state, and federal law enforcement…an action that led to his eventual shooting on River Street in Bradford on June 5th, 1931.

I could go on and on about this, but the point is all this history combined with my Italian heritage struck a chord with me and, throughout my childhood and as we speak today, organized crime-related dramas, stories, movies, and documentaries have always piqued my interest. Goodfellas, The Sopranos, The Godfather, The Departed – these are all productions I could watch all day, every day, with the volume turned up high, and not even come close to brushing with boredom.

The Prohibition period was an absolutely crazy time in America. All hardworking men and women like you and I wanted was to have a drink at the end of a long, hard day. And ‘the man’ said no. Emphatically. These dry laws, of course, stopped practically no one from consuming alcohol and resulted in arguably the most corrupt time period in our nation’s history. So much so, Prohibition ended in 1933, marking the first time in United States history a Constitutional law was repealed.

The Roaring 20s and Prohibition provided the backdrop for a wide cast of characters to emerge, many of whom’s legend status still lives on today. People found themselves either on the side of corruption, getting citizens their alcohol by any means necessary; or on the side of temperance, pretty much blaming alcohol for every single evil bestowed upon civilization. One of those figures was Eliot Ness, a man tasked with an unenviable job: enforce Prohibition and bring down the man at its heart – the aforementioned Capone.

Ness was placed in a position where he stood up for the law because it was his job, despite the fact most people didn’t agree with it…perhaps even him. Heading up a famous team of law enforcement agents in Chicago known as “The Untouchables,” Ness’ steadfast demeanor and devotion to his cause eventually led to the downfall of Capone. A few years after this historic moment, Prohibition was abolished. But Ness never wavered and chose to abide by the law until it no longer stood, as was discovered in his autobiography aptly named The Untouchables. Its release, of course, led to several television and motion pictures, the most famous of which was the 1987 movie with the same name starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. I’ve seen it about 57 times.

So you can imagine my confusion when I first started discovering craft beer and stumbled across an offering from Great Lakes Brewing Company called Eliot Ness. I had just moved to Pittsburgh and, having grown up in little ol’ Bradford where good beer options were limited at best, was discovering a world of beer that had previously existed only in my wildest dreams. This was waaaaay different from what I had slugged down in my earlier years. This beer had flavor. This beer was handcrafted. This beer didn’t have mountains that changed colors. And despite the fact he did everything he could to prevent people from getting the nectar they desired, I was reveling in the irony of the beer in question…and I was loving me some Eliot Ness!

You could say…it was all mine.

This year-round staple of the Great Lakes portfolio tips the scales at a crushable 6.1% ABV and 27 IBU. It pours a dark amber color with off-white head that hangs around for a bit after pouring. It’s malt-forward in nature, but presents impeccable balance with a sweet aroma and flavor that keeps you coming back for another sip. Its medium body makes it a beer perfect for consumption on the coldest of winter days or hottest of summer nights. It’s one of those beers hopheads can enjoy when looking for something that doesn’t rip the enamel off their teeth. And for those just getting into craft beer, Eliot Ness is a refreshing option that will help evolve the palate and bridge the gap between light lagers and more flavorful choices.

RELATED: 6 Craft Beer to Kickstart Your Palate

Eliot Ness can be found in 6-pack and 12-pack bottles, variety packs, and on draft and pairs well with smoked meats and hearty breads. It also boasts 12 World Beer Championship medals since its birth in 1995.

Which Great Lakes beer is yours? As the long-standing Cleveland brewery embarks on their 30th anniversary, now is the time to embrace your favorite(s) and share with the world! A pioneer in the craft beer landscape, Great Lakes has been producing innovative, high-quality beer since 1988 and has no plans of taking their foot off the gas pedal.

This summer, Great Lakes is introducing a summer tour dubbed Pint Size Pub – a traveling version of their brewpub in Cleveland. Having visited that destination personally, I can confidently say the real version is well worth the trip and the Pint Size version should be just as epic. You can check out the Great Lakes website, as well as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for upcoming announcements about tour dates and how you can win a trip to the brewery in Cleveland to be part of the anniversary festivities in September. And, to connect with Great Lakes’ extensive beer portfolio in a neighborhood near you, tap into their Beer Finder today.

In addition, stay close to Breaking Brews and subscribe to my weekly newsletter to learn about chances to win more prizes in the upcoming weeks! This feature is part one of how Great Lakes has impacted me. Stay tuned for part two at the end of March.


What Great Lakes beer is all yours? We want to hear about it! Share in the Comments section below or post a photo on social media using the hashtag #GLCBisMine.












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