Get your mind out of the gutter.
The new Crooked Pecker Brewing Co. coming to Geauga County is named after woodpeckers.
Ever since the Stewart family — yes, the brewery will be a family affair as in dad, mom, son and daughter — filed for a state brewing permit, people have been wondering what’s up with the unusual and potentially risque name.
“We just wanted a name that stuck out,” brewer Erik Stewart said with a laugh.
I sat down with the tight-knit Stewart family earlier this month to talk about Crooked Pecker while sampling some of Erik’s homebrew at the Pine Lake Trout Club in Bainbridge Township.
So about the story behind that name?
“We live in Geauga County, in Newbury, a really rural area,” Erik said. “We’re pretty secluded in the woods where we live and we have a lot of woodpeckers around us.
“I don’t take things too seriously, besides brewing,” he added. “There might be a joke in that name. But it’s … the only name that stuck with us.”
The brewery logo features a pileated woodpecker with a hop cone in its beak.
The Crooked Pecker family hierarchy breaks down like this:
• Erik, 25, is in charge of brewing. He’s a graduate of the American Brewers Guild in Vermont who did an internship at the well-respected Oskar Blues in North Carolina and admits to spending an inordinate amount of time on the road seeking out special beers in Vermont. He also managed the beer department at a local Giant Eagle store and readily confesses that he was drinking beer well before the legal age of 21.
• Sister Heather, 27, is handling the marketing and public relations.
• Father Scott is a full-time Realtor with KellerWilliams.
• Mother Karen is in charge of numbers.
“We’re all in for an adventure, an awesome adventure,” Scott said.
The Stewarts are transforming 3,000 square feet of space in a building at 8284 E Washington St. in Bainbridge Township near Chagrin Falls into their brewery, which will employ a five-barrel brewing system from Portland Kettle Works. The hope is to be open by Labor Day.
There are a few reasons why Crooked Pecker is setting up shop in the less populated community.
For starters, it’s home. There also aren’t many other local brewery options.
“I’m tired of going to Cleveland to drink beer,” Erik said.
Crooked Pecker will operate with an unusual business model — at least unusual by Ohio standards — that fits its location.
The production brewery will be open only three days a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and focus on selling 16-ounce cans in four-packs to go, as opposed to operating a traditional tasting room.
There will be only two beers available at a time to ensure that anything you buy is super fresh.
As for the beers, Erik is smitten with the hazy New England style, so there always will be one of those available. He’s also a big fan of stouts.
Crooked Pecker expects there will be eight regular beers, along with experimental offerings, that will be sold on a rotating basis.
“I have a different philosophy on producing beer,” Erik said. “I’d rather have eight recipes that I feel are knockout solid than offer 25 different beers.”
People will be able to come in and grab a sample of anything they want on draft before making their purchase and leaving.
Crooked Pecker isn’t being set up as a place to hang out and drink.
“To me, that’s not appealing,” Erik said. “We want people to get these cans and go out and enjoy them. Go kayaking and crack these cans. Go on a hike and crack these cans. That’s what we’re trying to push. Go home and sit around a fire with your friends.
“You don’t have to sit in a brewery to enjoy them. The best beers that I’ve ever had have rarely been in a brewery. They’ve been after a day of hiking or fishing on a boat in the middle of nowhere.”
He wants to create a must-visit destination brewery — similar to his favorite spots such as The Alchemist, Trillium and Hill Farmstead. He also recognizes the appeal of Hoof Hearted Brewing Co., which has a production brewery in rural Marengo in Ohio and does regular canned beer releases that attract crowds.
“I traveled a lot … hunting these breweries down and getting to them,” Erik said. “The thrill to me is finding a destination, getting there, waiting in line and trying these beers that are world class. There’s nothing better to me than driving eight hours to Vermont, getting there and driving another hour and a half and driving up these dirt roads to go to the middle of nowhere to go [to] a brewery that’s world class.”
Thirsty Dog news
The new Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. taproom will host its grand opening March 9 and 10.
The Thirsty Dog Taphouse, a taproom and kitchen, is located at 587 Grant St., Akron, in a 3,000-square-foot building that for years housed Glen’s Train Shop. The space is just a few doors down from the brewery.
I’ll share more details next week.
Rare Beer Club
The Hoppin’ Frog Brewery Rare Beer Club is back.
The Akron brewery — which is fresh off again being named one of RateBeer.com’s Top 100 Brewers in the World — is signing up members now.
“It’s our way of giving back to the craft beer community,” owner and award-winning brewmaster Fred Karm said. “It’s just fun. I look at this as us selling fun.”
Hoppin’ Frog, 1680 E. Waterloo Road, launched the club last year, giving fans a chance to join and get access to six limited-edition beers brewed just for the club, along with discounts on merchandise and food and other perks.
The cost this year is $150, down from $200 last year.
For more details, go to: www.hoppinfrog.com.
Wadsworth Brewing Co. is now offering 16-ounce cans.
The brewery, 126 Main St., has purchased a machine that allows it to fill a single can at a time with its draft beer to go — think of it as a smaller Crowler.
Co-owner and brewer Ernie Joy said he’s excited to offer another to-go option. The brewery also fills howlers and growlers.
The 12th annual Winter Warmer Fest will showcase 56 Ohio craft breweries and more than 200 winter, high-alcohol and rare beers (along with many regular ones, as well).
The event, a fundraiser for the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Windows on the River, 2000 Sycamore St., Cleveland.
If you want tickets, get ’em fast because the event was close to selling out Tuesday.
For more details or tickets, go to: www.ohiocraftbeer.org/winter-warmer-fest.
Art & Ale update
If you were waiting until the last minute to buy tickets for the Akron Art Museum’s 11th annual Art & Ale beer and food tasting, you’re out of luck. The event, set for March 9, has sold out.
New brew path
Ohio has a new brewery trail. Well, in truth Ohio and Pennsylvania have a new trail.
The Stateline Brewers Guild is launching the Ales & Trails path starting Thursday. The trail covers six counties in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania and features 14 breweries in both states. It also highlights bike trails in the area.
Everyone who gets stamps at all the breweries will receive a fanny pack.
For more details, go to: www.statelinebrewersguild.com.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his beer blog at www.Ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.
Beer notes: Crooked Pecker coming to Geauga County; Thirsty Dog taproom opening; hot tickets
Get your mind out of the gutter.