Fred Karm is not only a decorated brewer, but he’s also one sly fella. He’s been pestered for years by beer fans about when his Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron — the 17th best brewery in the world, according to Ratebeer.com — would open a tasting room.
But every time he was asked, Karm demurred, saying he wasn’t really interested or it would be too much trouble. Not true.
In fact, Karm had been dreaming about something big all along. He just didn’t want to tip his hand before anything was official and get fans excited needlessly.
But with a work crew now pounding away at the brewery, Karm is announcing that Hoppin’ Frog will open not just a tasting room featuring his award-winning brews, but a bar serving elite and rare beers from around the world.
It’s thundering news for the beer geek community, where Hoppin’ Frog brews are revered for their higher alcohol and bold flavors.
"I always dreamed of having a nice tasting room where you’d be comfortable if you wanted to sit and have a couple of beers and relax at the end of the day," Karm said.
The Hoppin’ Frog bar, slated to open sometime over the summer, is designed to duplicate the best of European taprooms.
It will feature 24 stainless steel taps, some single-malt scotches, a small selection of wine, a retail sales area, 60 seats, a small kitchen offering signature dishes, a stage for live music and a professional sound system.
Hoppin’ Frog, which opened in 2006 in a small industrial park across U.S. Route 224 from the Akron Airdock, made 28 different beer styles last year so most of the bar taps will be filled with its own beers.
It’s a bit of a departure for the brewery, which traditionally has sold its beer only in 22-ounce bottles. But Hoppin’ Frog has been pushing more draft beer in the market over the last year.
The bar will feature three separate kegerators, all set at different temperatures. This will allow Hoppin’ Frog to serve a beer at its ideal drinking temperature. For example, beers such as Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher aren’t designed to be consumed extremely cold.
Karm, whose beers are available in 12 other countries, has traveled extensively in Europe and collaborated with brewers there. So it makes sense that he wants his bar to feature beers from his foreign brewer friends.
It’s part of his overall plan to create an enviable beer menu.
"You have to drive to Cleveland, it seems, to have a beer list that good," Karm said. "I’m hoping to rival some of the best beer lists in the area, if not in America."
Karen Bujak, who writes about Ohio breweries for the Great Lakes Brewing News and runs the Ohio Beer Guide blog (www.ohiobeerguide.com), said it’s excellent news for the Akron community, which doesn’t have a brewpub now. (Both Thirsty Dog Brewing and Ohio Brewing in Akron offer tasting rooms.)
Many local beer drinkers know Hoppin’ Frog only for its 22-ounce bottles at the store. The bar and the ability to get a glass of beer should help raise the brewery’s profile in its own backyard, Bujak said.
"This will do wonders for sales, too," she said.
Unlike many other tasting rooms and brewery bars, the Hoppin’ Frog bar won’t be inside the actual brewery. Instead, Karm is renovating a warehouse next door.
Being immersed into a brewery atmosphere and taking in all the sights and smells is great for some operations, but Karm said he wanted to create a more relaxing experience.
"My wife is going to want to hang out here," he said during a tour last week.
The bar will probably be open at least 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday — but that’s subject to change, Karm said.
There also will likely be a small outdoor beer garden. Karm also isn’t sure exactly when it will open, other than sometime over the summer.
"It’s a work in progress, you could say," he said.