AboutDavid Nilsen – PorchDrinking.com
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.
If you fly to Iceland during the cold half of the year, there’s a good chance it’ll be dark when you get there. In early November, when my wife and I boarded an A321 in Chicago and flew to this volcanic island in the north Atlantic, the sun set by 5 p.m. and didn’t rise again until after 9 each morning. In the middle of winter, it doesn’t rise at all. The island is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so if your plane takes off in the afternoon or evening, it’ll be hours before dawn when it touches down at Keflavik International Airport, about thirty miles from downtown Reykjavik. A short walk through the cold, pre-dawn air will see you onto a shuttle bus that will deposit you on the city streets of the world’s northernmost capital a little under an hour later. Those streets will still be dark, and the city will just be waking up, slipping on thermal underwear and insulated jackets to keep out the insistent chill of this city on the water.
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.