Ohio has a new king of beers.
Fat Head's Strange Magic IPA took home the "best of show" honors at the annual King of Ohio beer competition, which this year focused on Ohio-made IPAs. The beer, a 6.5% West Coast-style IPA, bested more than 90 other IPAs at the event, held last weekend at MadTree Brewing Co. in Cincinnati.
Fat Head's, which operates brewpubs in Canton and North Olmsted and a production brewery in Middleburg Heights, debuted Strange Magic earlier this year.
"The goal was to have a bright tropical hop characteristic without excessive bitterness," Fat Head's co-owner and award-winning brewmaster Matt Cole said.
"From the first time we made it, we were all elated with the results," he added. "It's been a go-to beer for a lot of our brewers."
That's saying a lot. The brewery is known for its award-winning IPAs, with Hop JuJu, Head Hunter and IBUsive among the many Fat Head's beers taking home awards at national and worldwide beer competitions.
It was a close call at the end of the King of Ohio competition.
The final table — made up of nationally ranked Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judges Phil Meyer, Thomas Morgan and Roxanne Westendorf — debated giving the crown to Strange Magic or Seventh Son Miracle, a light, hazy beer. Seventh Son Brewing is located in Columbus.
"These are definitely the cream of the crop," Westendorf said as the judges went back and forth discussing the two beers.
The final vote was 2-1 for Strange Magic. The judges opted to name Miracle as the best of show runner-up.
Upon learning that Strange Magic bested a hazy, Cole, who's not a hazy fan, quipped: "I'm glad that a West Coast IPA trumped a hazy IPA."
The King of Ohio is an annual competition organized by myself; Pat Woodward, the author of the beer blog Pat's Pints in Columbus; Joe Easton, who runs the blog Craft Beer Joe in Cincinnati; and Morgan, an associate professor of American and African American literature at the University of Dayton.
The competition is unusual because it focuses only on Ohio-made beer and only on a specific style, which changes each year. It allows each Ohio brewery to enter just one beer. And unlike other judged events, it's free to enter.
The judging includes beer writers from around Ohio, professional brewers and certified beer judges.
While Fat Head's took home the best of show honor, there were many other winners. The beers were separated into five categories, with the winners in each category advancing to the final best of show table.
Here's a look at the category winners:
Traditional IPA: Fat Head's Strange Magic (gold); Noble Beast Evil Motives (silver); and Platform Speed Merchant (bronze).
Imperial hazy IPA: Masthead Extra Extra (gold); Sixth Sense Disco Hops (silver); Saucy Love You, Bye (bronze) and R. Shea Double NEO (honorable mention).
Imperial IPA: Combustion Now We're Talkin' (gold); Wadsworth River Styx (silver) and Rhinegeist Knowledge (bronze).
Hazy IPA: Streetside #Blessed (gold); 16 Lots Soak City (silver); and Magic City Florida Stanley (bronze).
Specialty/Session: Seventh Son Miracle (gold); Urban Artifact Phrenology (silver); Nocterra Bus Eater (bronze) and Dogberry On the Black (honorable mention).
Akron-area beer drinkers will notice two local breweries among the winners. Magic City is located at 2727 Manchester Road in Akron, while Wadsworth, of course, can be found in Wadsworth at 126 Main St.
As for where the competition will be held next year and what style we will focus on? That's still up for debate.
The Cuyahoga Falls Oktoberfest is getting crafty this year.
The event, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, will showcase local craft breweries for the first time. HiHO, Missing Mountain, McArthur's and Ohio from Cuyahoga Falls; Hop Tree from Hudson; and MadCap from Kent will participate.
Each brewery will bring its Oktoberfest beer, along with other styles.
In the past, the Cuyahoga Falls Oktoberfest has used a beer distributor, as opposed to highlighting local breweries.
"We’ve been wanting to feature the local breweries for some time now, especially since the craft breweries are multiplying in our own city and on the same street as our festival," co-organizer Jessica Brandy said. "We are also a nonprofit organization that raises money for charities and organizations in need all year and we support local businesses as much as we can."
The Oktoberfest runs Sept. 20-22 along Front Street downtown. In addition to beer, there is live music, food and craft vendors.
For a full list of activities and hours, go to: http://oktoberfestcfo.com/.
Biking, beer and music
The Urban Troubadour will kick off its roving concert season this year with bicycles and beer.
The first concert, dubbed “Bikes, Brews and Beethoven,” will feature a five-mile bicycle ride from downtown Akron along the Towpath Trail to Magic City Brewing Co. for beer, food and a 20-minute concert with a flute and string trio. Concert-goers will then return along the trail to Missing Falls Brewery for more beer, food and music by a blues guitarist.
The ride begins at 1 p.m. Sunday at 540 S. Main St.
“We’ve created events in all manner of interesting spaces, from penthouse loft apartments to glass blowing studios,” Urban Troubadour Artistic/Executive Director, founder and flutist Jane Berkner said. “This is our first time to offer a concert event in a brewery.
“I got the idea from the owner of Dirty River Bicycle Works when he and his wife attended one of our concert events last year,” she added. “They like our concept of presenting music in unusual ways, and asked when we would plan a bike ride to a concert. I am of the opinion that everyone will find a love of classical music when it is presented in their comfort zone. So bike riders and beer drinkers are encouraged to join us.”
Tickets are $22 and are limited to those 21 and older. Participants have to provide their own bicycles.
For more details, a schedule of other concerts or to buy tickets, go to: https://www.urbantroubadour.org.
Cilantro Thai and Sushi Restaurant, 326 S. Main St., Akron, will host a beer pairing dinner with Hoppin' Frog Brewery at 5 p.m. Sept. 19.
The event will feature a special menu of Thai dishes paired with Hoppin' Frog's Thai One On Coconut Curry Beer. The menu will include entree and appetizer combinations for $25 each, and an appetizer platter for $15. Those prices include a 12-ounce bottle of Thai One On.
Reservations can be made by calling 330-434-2876.
Beer and food trucks
Macedonia is bringing together craft breweries and food trucks.
The inaugural Macedonia Craft Beer and Food Truck Festival, organized by the Macedonia Family Recreation Center and Rotary Club of Nordonia Hills, is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 15 at Longwood Park, 1566 E. Aurora Road. It will feature 10 breweries and eight food trucks.
The participating breweries are: Akronym, Bookhouse, HiHO, Hop Tree, Ignite, Lock 15, Masthead, Ohio, Railroad and Working Class. The food trucks are: CLE Chicken, Cleveland Cookie Dough Co., Street Rolls, SWAT Food Truck, SWAT Smoked BBQ, The Funky Truckeria, Taste of Nawln’s and Wrap It Up.
The event — which also will include live music and activities for kids — is free to attend, with people paying for the beer and food they consume. Ten tastings and a beer sampling cut will cost $25.
For more details, go to: https://bit.ly/2kbn3fx.
R. Shea Brewing Co. in Akron (the new Canal Place location) and Unhitched Brewing in Louisville received their state brewing permits last week. Unhitched, 115 S. Mill St., will host its grand opening Oct. 25. Meanwhile, look for an opening date announcement soon from R. Shea.
It's time to say goodbye. This is my last weekly beer column for the newspaper, as I've accepted a position as editor at the Wooster Daily Record/Ashland Times-Gazette.
It's been an entertaining beer journey since I began writing this column in April 2011. The Ohio craft beer scene exploded over the years, growing from about 50 breweries back then to more than 300 today.
There are way too many great memories to mention here.
Thank you to all those readers who followed along and the brewers who helped me report the news. Cheers.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his daily beer blog at www.ohio.com/beer. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.