Here’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that from my four-hour bar crawl in Athens on Sunday for the ninth annual Ohio Brew Week. I made the three-hour drive from Akron for a little sampling and then made the three-hour drive home that same day. It was a whirlwind:
Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher was a major attraction for The Pub. Other bars were reluctant to sell the award-winning brew from Akron because of the high cost of a keg.
Big mistake. The Pub owner Tom Van Dyke reported that the beer sold out in two days.
Another fan favorite at The Pub is Blueberry Light from Rocky River Brewing Co.
“We can’t get enough of it,” Van Dyke said. “It’ll be gone by the weekend.”
In past years, the bar has actually hauled empty kegs back to Rocky River, a mere three-and-a-half hour drive away, to get them refilled.
Van Dyke has learned to ration the beer. It’ll be on tap for a few days and then he’ll take it off, just so that it doesn’t run out too quickly.
As several people were walking out of the bar, Van Dyke attempted to stop them and encourage them to go on a bar crawl with RateBeer.com founder Joe Tucker.
“It’s Sunday. Drinking for Jesus,” he yelled. “I’m going to get hit by lightning one day.”
Ohio Brew Week, which kicked off Friday, is off to a solid start.
“It’s been a great success,” Director Weston Lombard said while waiting for Tucker to show up for the bar crawl. “Record numbers at our events so far.”
Asked to recommend a beer, Lombard freely admits that he’s putting on his politically correct hat. Then he suggests the Paw Paw Wheat at Jackie O’s — the local brewery.
Pressed a little harder, he mentions that he likes Mt. Carmel Amber Ale. He also has enjoyed MadTree Brewing and Listermann Brewing, both from Cincinnati.
“The variety and creativity of MadTree and Listermann is pretty impressive,” he said.
SPEAKING OF RECOMMENDATIONS
I made sure to put some other folks on the spot as well, asking them to give me the name of a beer or brewery that has stood out for them. There are about 240 Ohio-made beers, ciders and teas being served around town.
Brady Duncan, co-founder of MadTree: Wheat’s Up from Jackie O’s.
“I like everything Yellow Springs does,” he added.
Jason Brewer, who does just about everything for Listermann: “The [barrel-aged] Salazar from MadTree is pretty bitchin’,” he said.
Gin BA Salazar is a kolsch aged in Watershed Distillery barrels and made with juniper and ginger.
Brewer also recommended the PawPaw from Buckeye Brewing.
Fred Karm, owner and brewer at Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron: MadMann Blackberry Gose. In case you couldn’t guess it, MadTree and Listermann collaborated on the beer.
“I like that style now,” Karm said. “It’s light as hell. It’s salty with a dash of fruit in it.”
Jacob Fischer, a senior at Ohio University and Bowling Green resident: Willoughby Nut Smasher.
“I really enjoy that one,” he said while at Courtside Pizza.
He’s working his way through all the beers.
“I imagine that it’s the easiest way to drink your way through Ohio,” he said about the week.
RateBeer.com founder Joe Tucker is the big Ohio Brew Week celebrity this year. In addition to delivering the keynote speech and helping judge the homebrew competition, Tucker spent Sunday afternoon on a bar crawl.
While sampling at the J-Bar — and being encircled by a small crowd of brewers and craft beer fans — Tucker praised Ohio’s craft beer scene, saying that Ohio’s ratings “have been significantly above the world average” on his website.
“Ohio beer has come out of the gate,” he said. “It’s just this passion for great beer that’s here and it’s been consistent from when we started to now.”
When asked to name an Ohio-made beer that he was looking to sample, Tucker politely side-stepped the question. Instead, he said he wanted to try everything.
“I’m always interested in feeling out the edge,” he said. “What’s popular and what’s not popular.”
“I think he meant to say Listermann,” Brewer joked.
QUIP OF THE DAY
At every bar in Athens, you’ll find a pamphlet with a “Brew Tasting Checklist” that provides a rundown of every beer, cider and tea being served and where you can find it.
“If we check off all these, do we win a new liver?” asked Todd Schwartz, who came in for the week from Washington, D.C., to visit and drink with his son John, a soon-to-be senior at OU.
While in Athens — again for a mere four hours — my friend and drinking partner Duane Lawrence and I stopped by The Pub, J-Bar, Casa Nueva, Courtside Pizza, Crystal, CI, Cat’s Den and Jackie O’s. Not bad for the short time we were there.
We sampled, in no particular order: Rocky River, MadTree, Listermann, Fifty West, Findlay, Seventh Son, Weasel Boy, Granville, Homestead, Rhinegeist and Portsmouth. We gravitated toward anything we couldn’t buy in the Akron area.
Duane’s top pick? Rhinegeist Truth. He’s an IPA fan.
Mine? I’ll go with three: MadTree Rounding Third, Listermann Rummy and Granville Betrayer.
Ohio Brew Week continues through Saturday. For more details about all the events, click here.