AboutDavid Nilsen – PorchDrinking.com
Friends, I was lucky: I never went through a crappy beer phase.
When I reached the legal drinking age in the early 2000s, I drank a lot of really bad wine instead, believing myself to be refined. When I finally loosened up and decided to give beer a fair chance, a friend who worked at a liquor store pushed me straight past the macro shelves toward the craft beer section. I found the variety confusing (if I thought that during the first George W. Bush term, I can only imagine what it’s like for a newcomer today) so I asked him what he drank.
“Most nights? Sierra Nevada Pale Ale,” he said. “That’s my go-to.”
“It just feels right that this is a beer that comes from Cleveland,” says Great Lakes Brewing Company co-founder Pat Conway of his brewery’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. The iconic dark brew is named for the ill-fated iron ore freighter that sank on Lake Superior with all hands during a vicious storm on November 10, 1975.
If you’re reading PorchDrinking, chances are you have a list in your head of breweries you really want to visit, distant cities rich in brewing tradition you want to travel to, and rare beers you have to taste before you die. British beer writer Mark Dredge started writing down his own such list a few years ago, and then decided to tick as many items off that list as he could and write a book about it.
Pappy Van Winkle commands an awe factor in American spirits like no other bourbon does. It’s produced in small batches and can be incredibly difficult — and expensive — to acquire, with special bottles carrying four to five figure price tags. When Fifth Street Brewpub in the historic St. Anne’s Hill neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio, announced in April that they would be releasing a single batch of their Schmidion Damme Belgian Dark Strong Ale that had been aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels, it definitely caught my attention.
It may come as a surprise to many people that beer pairs beautifully with cheese. Wine has long held a stranglehold on cheese pairing, and while excellent wine and cheese combinations abound, cheese might actually find its ideal companion in the nectar of malt and hops rather than grapes. Janet Fletcher has written a book to help beer lovers get the most of this match made in heaven.
I don’t have a pretty photo of Carillon Brewing Company‘s Coriander Ale to show you. Carillon’s beers and, more importantly, the brewing techniques used to craft them, are from a time when the appearance of beer was only just beginning to matter with the emergence of pale malts and clear glassware. Their anachronistic visual appearance—often a bit murky—is part of the authenticity of enjoying a flight of beers inside Carillon’s reproduction 1850s barn brewery on the grounds of Carillon Historical Park, a living history museum by the banks of the Great Miami River in Dayton, OH.
To those of us who love and know beer, it’s no secret that our favorite drink is awesome with food. Beer kills it with cheese; it crushes it with chocolate, and it’s never met a meat or vegetable it didn’t like. But while we’re all aware beer can pair beautifully with just about any dish, fine-tuning those pairings can prove an elusive feat, especially since everyone’s vocabulary for food and beer pairing seems to be different.
The first time I tasted Rivertown Brewing’s Raspberry Flicker in their airy Monroe, Ohio, taproom on a sunny day in late January, it reminded me of childhood. I realize that’s an odd thing to say about an alcoholic beverage, but stay with me. No, my childhood did not involve me throwing back refreshing lagers. But it did involve raspberries.
Many PorchDrinking readers already recognize North Carolina as one of the country’s best beer states, but most of the attention goes to Asheville in the western tip. The beer scene in Raleigh, several hours east, is exciting and vibrant as well and worthy of a weekend beercation. The greater Raleigh area hosts such heavyweights as Fullsteam Brewery, Lonerider Brewing, Trophy Brewing, Brewery Bhavana, Bond Brothers Brewing—as well as numerous other breweries—and a few top notch beer bars. Only one brewery in the City of Oaks bears the city’s name however: Raleigh Brewing Company.
For beer writer and historian Stan Hieronymus, brewing local means more than just using attention-grabbing, wild ingredients like dandelions and tree bark; it means looking at the complete agricultural picture of a region as it relates to beer. That certainly includes those aforementioned esoteric additions but also encompasses workhorse fermentables like corn and rice, which were looked down upon in craft circles until recently.
Mexican-style craft lagers had a bit of a moment last year, and while the trend seems to have slowed a bit heading into the warmer months of 2018 (or more likely been enfolded into the broader craft lager movement), excellent examples still abound. While these adjunct lagers—a category once considered anathema in craft beer circles—offer a trendy marketing opportunity for some breweries, the draw goes deeper for others.
Beer Is for Everyone! (of Drinking Age) by Em Sauter (One Peace Books, 2017)
Em Sauter’s book Beer Is for Everyone—and the web comic Pints and Panels on which it is based—is a simple concept brilliantly executed. Em is a …
Just north of downtown Cincinnati sits the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The enclave got its name because of the high German population that settled this part of the city in the 19th century. Crossing the former Miami-Erie Canal into this neighborhood was said to be like crossing the Rhine River into Germany.
50 Must-Try Craft Beers of Ohio by Rick Armon (Ohio University Press, 2017)
I sincerely believe Ohio is among the most exciting beer states in the country right now, though I am undoubtedly biased. I’ve lived in the Buckeye state for all fifteen years of my legal drinking life, and I’ve watched Ohio’s craft scene explode along with the rest of the country’s. While many of our breweries have gained national recognition, many more truly excellent breweries remain largely unheralded outside of our state borders. To be honest, it’s one of the things I love about our beer scene here; visitors don’t expect the incredible Belgian beers of Rockmill Brewery, or the farmhouse prowess of Little Fish, or the world-class lambics of Rivertown, or the all-around brilliance of Jackie O’s.
Maria Stein, Ohio, is not the first place you expect to find a great brewery. The tiny, unincorporated town in rural Mercer County is home to only a couple hundred people, and the cattle in the area likely outnumber them. This region of west central Ohio, just north of the midline of the state, was heavily settled by German Catholics in the 1800s under the spiritual leadership of Francis de Sales Brunner, a missionary priest who established parish churches in the area. The region is now known as The Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches due to the unusually high number of Catholic worship structures in this rural area. When driving through this flat, agricultural county, you can see for miles in every direction, and no matter which way you turn, a tall steeple is silhouetted against the horizon. However, just outside of Maria Stein sits Moeller Brew Barn.
My Beer Year: Adventures with Hop Farmers, Craft Brewers, Chefs, Sommeliers, & Fanatical Drinkers as a Beer Master in Training by Lucy Burningham (Roost Books, 2016)
In her book My Beer Year, Portland-based journalist Lucy Burningham chronicles her time preparing for the Certified Cicerone exam. She presents herself as a novice early on (though she clearly knew more even then than the average beer drinker), and the book covers the year or so she spent gaining more knowledge and experience.
It’s a new year. There are possibilities to be explored, horizons to be reached, and resolutions to be broken. Most importantly, there are a host of winter seasonals that don’t have the word “Christmas” in their name waiting to be enjoyed for the next couple months.
That’s right, not every winter beer is brewed with the holidays in mind. Here in Ohio, it gets cold in November and stays cold till March, and that means we need a host of bracing beers to get us through the frigid days from December 26th till the Vernal Equinox. Fortunately, Ohio breweries are up to the task. Check out these blizzard-ready Buckeye brews the next time you’re in our beautiful state.
Despite a late night signal boost from Seth Meyers, production of a beer named in honor of singer Beyoncé has been forced to re-brand. Lineup Brewing, a Brooklyn-based brewery known for their clever beer names, had brewed Biëryoncé since opening in late 2016, and recently canned the beer for the first time in 16 oz cans. The small brewery received a cease and desist letter last week from Beyoncé’s legal team ordering them to stop production.
Brewed in Michigan: The New Golden Age of Brewing in the Great Beer State (Wayne State University Press, 2017) by William Rapai
It is possible in 2017 to find good beer and exciting breweries in every state in the union. Gone are the days of large beer deserts in this country; you might just have to look at little more diligently in some states than others. Still, a few states rise above the rest with an embarrassing wealth of great breweries both old and new. Michigan is one of those states, and if you need any persuading, a new book by William Rapai aims to quiet your objections.
MadTree Brewing is a major player in the Ohio beer scene, and among the largest breweries in Cincinnati’s thriving craft market. The company built a new production brewery in early 2017, and have grown rapidly, but sustainably in the half decade since their founding. Their quirky but smart beer portfolio and attractive packaging are now available all around Ohio, as well as some areas of Indiana and Kentucky.