AboutDavid Nilsen – PorchDrinking.com
Little Fish Brewing sits at the western tip of Athens, Ohio, a small college town in the southwest region of the state. It’s at the very edge of town, with the county fairgrounds and a small state park separating it from the city proper and its compact and cozy downtown. The location geographically represents the philosophical space Little Fish occupies as a brewery, straddling the culture of the college town and the wilds of the southeastern Ohio Appalachian foothills. Little Fish Brewing Sunfish Saison serves as a shining example of the brewery’s dedication to conserving the resources found within that unique, beautiful location.
Atlas of Beer: A Globe-Trotting Journey Through the World of Beer (National Geographic, 2017) by Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark W. Patterson, with foreword and tasting tips by Garrett Oliver
For well over a century, National Geographic has been bringing the world’s wildlife, landscapes, and cultures to our homes in the form of an iconic magazine, incredible photography, and television programming. Now, the esteemed publication is broadening our perspective on an unexpected but welcome topic: beer.
The Steam Plant on Third Street just east of downtown Dayton, Ohio, was built 110 years ago by Dayton Power & Light to provide heat for the small Midwestern city before being closed in the 1980s and falling into disrepair. It appeared destined for a date with the wrecking ball until a recent renovation restored this art deco industrial building to its former glory and turned it into a premier event space.
Dayton, Ohio, doesn’t get much love.
While the country’s craft beer nuts have started to pay attention to the amazing beer scenes in nearby Cincinnati and Columbus, Dayton gets ignored. That’s a big mistake because Dayton has an excellent and growing beer scene in a compact and affordable city center. With close to twenty breweries (and more in the planning stages) and quite a few excellent beer bars and beer-conscious restaurants—many of which are located in or near an attractive and walkable downtown area—Dayton makes for a great weekend beer getaway. If you decide to leave downtown, there are plenty of breweries and awesome restaurants in neighborhoods and suburbs farther afield, but let’s just focus on the heart of Dayton for now.
On Saturday, October 21, Ale-O-Ween will take over the recently renovated Dayton Steam Plant in downtown Dayton. From 6-9 p.m. (with a VIP hour beginning at 5), attendees will be treated to beer from over 30 Ohio craft breweries, including Dayton breweries Warped Wing, Fifth Street Brewpub, Carillon Brewing, Dayton Beer Company, Eudora, Toxic Brew, Star City, Lock 27, Lucky Star, Yellow Springs Brewery, Hairless Hare and Heavier Than Air. Other excellent breweries from around the state include Fat Head’s Brewery, Great Lakes, MadTree, Little Fish, Seventh Son and many others. A complete list is available at the Ale-O-Ween website.
Fred and Mira Lee had been married less than two weeks when they made what Mira refers to as “an unholy vow” to open a brewery in Columbus, Ohio. “I think there was a literal spit handshake,” jokes Mira as she reflects back on the challenge the couple set for themselves a little over five years ago. The pair were already accomplished homebrewers by that time, and had assembled a pilot brewing system nicknamed Amelia Beerhart in their garage, complete with a “surprisingly legit” analysis lab. In fact, when they decided to go pro, they started out doing yeast propagation and lab services for other breweries before brewing themselves. Actual Brewing began production in 2013, but they still offer lab services under the side business Hoax Labs.
Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink, Second Edition (Storey Publishing, 2017) by Randy Mosher
If you’ve put much serious time into learning about beer, you’ve probably already dog-eared your copy of Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer. The book is the foundational text for studying for the Cicerone exam, and is usually the first book recommended when someone wants to go beyond the basics of beer and understand our favorite beverage better.
Ask most people to picture Ohio, and they’ll probably think of flat farmland covered in soybeans and corn stretching for miles toward the horizon and broken up only by farmhouses and small towns. That’s an accurate enough image for much of Ohio, but as you head toward the southeast corner of the state, the landscape becomes something else entirely. This region is hilly and rugged, wooded and more wild than the tamed crop lands of the rest of the state. These are the foothills of the Appalachians, and this region of the Buckeye state feels like it has more in common with its neighbors, Kentucky and West Virginia, than its does with the rest of Ohio.
When it came time for Yellow Springs Brewery in western Ohio to redesign their logo and cans, they wanted designs that would express both the experimental freedom of the brewery and the intricate, complex precision with which master brewer Jeffrey McElfresh crafts their excellent range of beers.
Athens, Ohio, is a small college town hidden in the hills of southeast Ohio’s coal country that plays host to several excellent breweries, the oldest and most notable of which is Jackie O’s Brewery. Jackie O’s beers cover the spectrum of styles, from sessionable pale ales to barrel-aged behemoths, and rustic saisons to elegant barleywines. Nothing is off limits for this eclectic brewery, and it’s fitting that one of their most celebrated new beers this summer is a style that’s just beginning to creep into the consciousness of American craft beer drinkers—grisette.
The Homebrewer’s Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to Making Your Own Beer from Scratch (Countryman Press, 2016) by Marika Josephson, Aaron Kleidon and Ryan Tockstein
The folks at Scratch Brewing Co. are connected to the land around their brewery in ways few other brewers can boast. Secluded in the woods near Ava in southern Illinois, the Scratch gang doesn’t just use local malt and hops, they pull the ingredients that make their beers so unique from the terrain of the surrounding forest. Tree bark, leaves, mushrooms, berries, nuts, flowers, even plants many of us have been trained to think of as weeds—it’s all fair game for brewers Aaron Kleidon and Marika Josephson. Consequently, their beers have a quality of place—terroir, to use the fancy parlance—few other brews have.
One of the highlights of each year when I was between the ages of 10 and 12 was the annual AWANA Pinewood Derby (AWANA was like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for church kids—I had a weird childhood). I would give my dad an impossible car design on paper, he would do an impressive job of cutting that design from a three dimensional block of wood, and then on a Saturday morning in February—car in hand and hopes high—we would head to the track to get our asses squarely kicked. We never won anything and never came close, but it was a lot of fun.
Sofia Coppola emerged from the shadow of her family name in 1999 when her directorial debut The Virgin Suicides—an adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel—hit screens. From the beginning, Coppola’s films have melded scene-perfect rock music with evocative visuals to explore the inner lives of her (usually) female main characters. Coppola’s sixth film, The Beguiled, came out last month, and while the movie has faced some controversy since its release, what is not controversial is that the director has an eye for great shots and an ear for great tunes.
Trappist Beer Travels: Inside the Breweries of the Monasteries (Schiffer Publishing, 2017) by Caroline Wallace, Sarah Wood & Jessica Deahl
The world’s 11 Trappist breweries hold a mystique for beer drinkers that few other breweries can generate. Not only is the beer that is produced at these monasteries consistently excellent, but the remote and cloistered nature of these breweries blankets them in an air of mystery. Few of us will ever step inside the hallowed walls of these monastic breweries; the three authors of Trappist Beer Travels have been inside all of them.
Nestled in the woods of southern Illinois, among the dips and low hills of a surprisingly wild region of the state, sits one of the most innovative breweries operating in the American craft beer scene today. That innovation, however, comes by way of ancient tradition. Owners and brewmasters Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon aren’t pioneering cutting edge brewing technologies or using explosively flavorful new varieties of experimental hops. Rather, they’re reviving the use of ingredients and techniques that humans have used for centuries to make beer. Foraging among the underbrush of their wooded property for edible bark, nuts, fruits, flowers, roots and mushrooms, and growing yet more ingredients at their brewery garden, the folks at Scratch are bringing unexpected flavors to beer drinkers lucky enough to make it to their rustic property.
Image by David Nilsen
ABV: 6.2% | IBU: 8
When you taste an authentic Belgian oude gueuze or other lambic-based style, you’re tasting something its brewers certainly hope you enjoy, but there’s a sense the beer doesn’t really need you. It existed before you, and it’ll find a way to survive after you, just like the wild microorganisms that give these beers their distinctive character. You drink a lambic or gueuze on the beer’s own terms, not yours.
Featured image courtesy of David Nilsen
I had never met a nun before. That feels important to establish at the outset.
Though I grew up religious, the spiritual instruction of my youth came mostly from non-denominational preachers with overactive sweat glands and a predilection toward sermons about the end times rather than from black-clad Catholic nuns. So I had no idea what to expect when my wife and I arrived at Monastery Immaculate Conception, home of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana. I was there to interview Bruce Luecke, the brewmaster at Saint Benedict’s Brew Works, the only brewery in the country housed on the grounds of a women’s religious community. The graceful but imposing dome of the monastery’s century-old chapel rose above us on a hill as we stepped out of our car in front of the Kordes Center, the monastery’s guest lodging facility. The brewery was nowhere in sight as we entered the doors of the retreat center.
Image courtesy of Full Frame Studios.
ABV: 4% | IBU: 20
When the temperatures begin creeping into the 70s here in Ohio each spring, we begin shedding our winter coats and making plans for summer. As we put our fuzzy mittens into storage, we start opting less often for stouts and other heavy beers and reaching instead for lighter, sunnier fare. For those of us in the Dayton area, that often means Warped Wing Trotwood Lager.