Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. hopes beer drinkers are in a sour mood.

The Akron brewery is opening the Sour Haus, a sour-focused tasting room next to its production brewery to serve as an outlet to share its sour beers. It opens March 23.

Thirsty Dog co-owner John Najeway said he believes Northeast Ohio is ready to embrace the style. Sours aren't everyone's cup of tea. He admitted that it took a little while for him to warm up to them.

It happened about 10 years ago when he took a trip to Belgium and stopped by hallowed breweries such as Cantillon and Lindemans.

"As I always tell everyone, you have to drink 100 to find a style within the style that you like," Najeway said. "I found some I really liked."

Upon returning to Thirsty Dog, he launched a sour barrel-aging program. The brewery now is aging beer in about 120 barrels that once held everything from red and white wine to sherry.

Sour brewer Joe Lero blends batches that have been aging anywhere from six months to six years to get the perfect end product.

The Sour Haus will offer five Thirsty Dog sours on draft all the time, including Cerasus Dog, a Flanders red aged in cherries, and Rubus Dog, a Flanders red aged in raspberries. Black Currant Berlinerweisse will be available on opening day. There also will be a few bottled non-sour Thirsty Dog beers available, along with a house-made root beer.

The family-friendly tasting room is located in the same 1,200-square-foot space that held Aqueduct Brewing at 529 Grant St. Thirsty Dog will employ Aqueduct's former two-barrel system to pump out more small-batch sours.

"The goal is to switch from these super acidic bombs to making more balanced and approachable [sours] — having different levels," Lero said. "You can still get that crazy acid hit and then you also can go to that other extreme where it's just a little bit funky and nothing else, or even dry-hopped sours."

He said his personal favorite now is Thirsty Dog's Saison D Chardonnay, a farmhouse ale aged for 18 months in chardonnay barrels.

In addition to offering the sours on draft, the brewery plans to hold a special 500-milliliter bottle release each month for a new sour. People will be able to order growlers and howlers to go.

Thirsty Dog isn't the only Ohio brewery that offers sours. Urban Artifact in Cincinnati produces only sours. Jackie O's and Little Fish, both located in Athens, also are well-known for sour beers. Rivertown in Monroe and BottleHouse, which has locations in Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and Shaker Heights, also have been making sours for years. Meanwhile, Platform is opening a sour-only facility in Cleveland known as Phunkenship.

The Sour Haus will be open limited hours: 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. On March 23, it will be open noon to 8 p.m. The tasting room will be a separate, dedicated spot on the 2019 Summit Brew Path, which kicks off March 23.

R. Shea three-peat

Ron Shea came dressed to the Akron Art Museum’s 12th annual Art and Ale beer fest on Saturday ready to defend his People’s Choice award.

Shea, the founder and brewmaster at R. Shea Brewing Co. in Akron, wore a boxing outfit, complete with red gloves and a robe. He was set to knock out the competition. R. Shea had won the People’s Choice honor two consecutive years and he wanted a three-peat.

He got it.

R. Shea Shandy Isles took first place, edging out McArthur’s Brewhouse’s Sour by a single vote. R. Shea also picked up third place for Polymer Caramel Espresso Stout.

“The fact that we were able to get it a third year was awesome,” Shea said after the honor was announced.

More than 600 people attended the beer tasting. This year, the museum shifted the event to a Saturday and held two sessions, helping boost attendance.

In addition to the People’s Choice award, there was a Curator’s Choice competition. Three judges — myself, Cleveland.com beer writer Marc Bona and Acme Fresh Market executive Jon Albrecht — sampled more than 30 beers in a blind tasting to determine a best of show winner.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout took home the top prize. The rest of the top five in order, were:

• Urban Artifact Gadget, a fruit sour.

• Masthead Extra Extra, a double New England-style IPA.

• Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA.

• Akronym BBA Deimos, a barrel-aged Russian imperial stout.

Summit Brew Path

The Summit Brew Path is opting not to hand out a little prize to everyone who finishes the brewery trail this year.

Instead, it’s offering free entry into a new Akron beer festival and a chance to win cold, hard cash.

Everyone who completes the passport program — there are 22 stops on the trail this year — will be eligible for a drawing for $2,000 in cash and other prizes. The drawing will take place Jan. 10 during the inaugural Summit Brew Path Bash, a tasting that’s free to attend for tour finishers and will showcase the participating breweries at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron.

The brewery trail, organized by the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau, kicks off March 23. (It originally was slated to begin March 16 but was pushed back to avoid the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.)

The cash prize is a big change for the Brew Path. Organizers handed out a T-shirt the first year and a glass howler last year. There was discussion this year about hats, bottle openers, glasses and other items.

But Jim Mahon II, vice president of marketing and brand management for the tourism group, said that the feeling is people aren’t completing the trail for a free gift. Instead, they enjoy the challenge and making friends along the way.

Last year, nearly 2,500 people finished the tour and turned in their passports. Thousands more participated, but didn’t complete the Akron-centric tour, which showcases all the breweries in Summit County and select ones in Stark, Portage and Medina counties.

It’s unclear whether people will embrace a trail without a guaranteed prize at the end. But perhaps more people will finish the tour if there’s $2,000 at stake.

“You are definitely going to want you and your wife to have two passports to up your chances,” said Ernie Joy, co-founder and brewer at Wadsworth Brewing Co. in Wadsworth.

But he said he has heard from a couple of customers who are disappointed and don’t plan to finish this year.

Organizers are eager to see the response.

The brewery trail works like this: People grab a passport at the participating breweries and then get them stamped at each location. Once they collect all the stamps, they turn in the passport to be eligible for the prize.

There will be only one entry per person for the cash prize. In other words, people can’t complete the trail multiple times to boost their odds. The grand prize winner also isn’t required to be at the Summit Brew Path Bash.

The trail will feature: Akronym in Akron, The Brew Kettle in Hudson, BrickOven Brew Pub in Akron, Canton in Canton, Headtrip in Stow, HiHO in Cuyahoga Falls, Hop Tree in Hudson, Hoppin’ Frog in Akron, Ignite in Barberton, Lock 15 in Akron, MadCap in Kent, Magic City in Barberton, McArthur’s in Cuyahoga Falls, Missing Falls in Akron, Missing Mountain in Cuyahoga Falls, Mucky Duck in Green, Royal Docks in Jackson Township, R. Shea in Akron, Thirsty Dog Taphouse in Akron, Thirsty Dog Sour Haus in Akron, Two Monks in Akron and Wadsworth in Wadsworth.

While the passport program officially begins March 23, Mahon was at the Art and Ale beer tasting at the Akron Art Museum, where he handed out passports and special limited-edition glasses to the first 100 visitors at both sessions. He also will hand out passports and glasses March 21 at Jilly’s Music Room, 111 N. Main St., Akron, during the 3rd Thursday event.

For more details about the trail, go to: www.summitbrewpath.com.

Pizza and beer

The Slice of the Valley isn’t just about pizza anymore.

The annual pizza tasting, which runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Metroplex Expo Center in Girard, is adding a beer competition this year. There will be a best of show award, along with people’s choice and best beer with pizza honors.

“I thought that this event was getting a little stale and I needed to add something,” said Rob Berk, who organizes the event as part of the Rotary Club of Warren. “What goes better with pizza than beer? It seemed like a natural.”

The following breweries are participating: Biker, Clubhouse, Great Lakes, Modern Methods, Noble Creature, Numbers, Ohio and Paladin.

The judges are myself, Jim Cyphert of the Mahoning Valley Flight Crew and certified beer judge Dennis Lewis.

The family-friendly Slice of the Valley will feature live music, desserts from Mocha House, and celebrity pizza judges — there are pizza awards, too. The following shops are taking part: Amen Corner, Avalon, Belleria, Buena Vista, Cocca’s, Gionino’s, Ianazone’s, Leo’s, Marco’s, Pizza Joe’s, Primanti Bros., Salvatore’s, St. Anthony’s, Sunrise Inn and Wedgewood Pizza.

Tickets are $10 for adults who receive three slices of pizza and $5 for children under 6 who get two slices. Extra slices can be purchased for $2.

For more details or tickets, go to: www.sliceofthevalley.com.

Welcome, Funkwerks

Funkwerks has brought its Belgian-style and sour beers to Ohio.

The Fort Collins, Colorado-based brewery — which took home the award for Small Brewery of the Year at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival — began distributing in the Buckeye State and Kentucky last week through Heidelberg Distributing.

Funkwerks Raspberry Provincial, Saison, Tropic King and White will be available at select retailers on draft and in bottles. Winky’s Snack Packs, which include Saison, Raspberry Provincial, Deceit and White, also will follow.

Funkwerks was founded in 2009 by Gordon Schuck and Brad Lincoln. It has won five medals at the Great American Beer Festival, including four golds. Its beers are now available in 10 states.

 

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