Ohio has plenty of animal-named breweries.

There’s Hoppin’ Frog, Thirsty Dog, Hairless Hare, Weasel Boy and Cellar Rats.

And now you can add Spider Monkey.

Two longtime friends and homebrewers — a financial planner and a Presbyterian pastor — have launched the Spider Monkey Brewing Co.

Their first beer, an American wheat called Orange Barrel Ale, is hitting stores now in the Akron area.

Matthew Stroia, 38, of North Canton and Aaron Meadows, 38, of Tallmadge had been talking about opening a brewery for years and are now pulling the trigger.

“I’ve brewed ever since I was 18,” Stroia said last week while sipping an Orange Barrel Ale at Riverside Wine in Kent.

“Seventeen. You were in high school,” Meadows interrupted.

“I was,” Stroia continued. “I just always brewed. I always had a passion for it. Dabbled all the way. And then probably five years ago, six years ago, we had a discussion about starting a small brewery and it grew from there.”

Instead of opening an actual brewery and investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, they are having their first beer made on contract. Orange Barrel Ale is being produced at Black Box Brewing Co. in Westlake, which also makes the Western Reserve brands, Cleveland’s Own Christmas Ale, ReHive Ale and others.

The contract route is a well-worn business model in the beer industry and has been used over the years even by big craft breweries such as the Boston Beer Co., Brooklyn and Akron’s Thirsty Dog.

“We’re fairly patient,” said Meadows, who is pastor at the Kent Presbyterian Church. “We’re not in a rush. We want to make sure that when we open a brewery location, it’s a location we want and it makes sense.”

Stroia, who runs Stroia Financial, sees another advantage to contract brewing: “This way, we build our brand,” he said.

They are looking in Kent and North Canton for brewery sites.

Stroia’s name may be familiar because a few years ago he announced plans to open Black Squirrel Brewing Co. in Kent. Meadows was part of that effort, as well. They still own the Black Squirrel brand and plan to release beers under that name down the road.

For now, Orange Barrel Ale is the only Spider Monkey beer available. The beer name refers to the start of Ohio’s annual road construction season and the label features an orange barrel.

“We’d like to thank the state of Ohio for the free advertising,” Meadows said with a laugh.

There’s no actual orange in the copper-colored, unfiltered beer, which is 5.8 percent alcohol by volume and has 30 IBUs (international bittering units). It tastes almost like a pale ale, as opposed to a cloudy, yellow wheat.

Orange Barrel should be available through the spring and summer, they said. The next Spider Monkey release will be either an India pale ale or an Oktoberfest. Stroia and Meadows also would like to release a Christmas ale.

Spider Monkey has two release parties scheduled:

•?May 22 from 6 to 10 p.m. at Riverside Wine, 911 N. Mantua St., Kent.

•?June 5 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Barrel Room, 7901 Cleveland Ave. NW, North Canton.

Ken Stewart’s dinner

Ken Stewart’s Grille, 1970 W. Market St., Akron, will host a five-course beer pairing dinner with Elevator Brewing Co. at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The featured beers will be Heiferweizen, Bleeding Buckeye Red Ale, Dark Horse Lager, Big Vic Imperial IPA and Horny Goat Porter. Tickets are $55, plus tax and tip.

Reservations are required and can be made by calling Terry Kemp at 330-697-6917.

Fishers tasting

The Fishers Foods grocery store at 8100 Cleveland Ave. N., North Canton, will hold a special “Five for $5” beer and food tasting from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 9.

The event will feature music, food and many brews from Elevator, Bell’s and Evil Twin. The store also will sell empty 32-ounce growlers for 99 cents.

Spröcketbier

The Tremont Taphouse, 2572 Scranton Road, Cleveland, will host the creators of Stone Brewing Co.’s newest beer at 4 p.m. Friday.

Stone fans will be able to chat with brewery quality assurance supervisor Rick Blankemeier and production warehouse lead Robbie Chandler. They designed Spröcketbier, a black rye Kölsch-style ale.

The Tremont Taphouse also will have other Stone beers available.

Chouffe Fest

Chouffe Fest, a one-night beer fest celebrating the Belgian beers of Brasserie D’Achouffe, is coming to Cleveland. The event is from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Ave.

The brewery mascot is a gnome so expect a gnome-inspired theme. What’s that mean? The brewery tries to make you feel tiny, like a gnome, with huge props.

Tickets are $10 and include music and food. For more details, go to: http://tinyurl.com/k7rrd6u.

Beer samplers

•?Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Co., revealed to Esquire magazine his secret for not getting drunk: He eats a packet of active dry yeast before drinking.

•?Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub in Columbus is changing its name to distinguish itself from Barley’s Brewing Co. in Columbus. It’ll be known as Smokehouse Brewing Co. going forward.

•?Pretzels and beer go together like … well … pretzels and beer. Now, Anheuser-Busch’s Shock Top has released the limited-edition Twisted Pretzel Wheat.

•?Lollyphile, a candy company in Austin, Texas, has created IPA, stout and lager-flavored suckers. Check them out — along with other wacky flavors such as breast milk and blue cheese — at www.lollyphile.com.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his beer blog at www.ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.