February 2014 Issue
Editor's Note: Winter Warmers
Ohio was once filled with beer makers. Most people know that Cincinnati and Cleveland were brewing strongholds, but towns such as Mansfield, Lancaster, Ironton and Zanesville also had their own, smaller producers.
Some of the more obscure Buckeye State suds sported names such as Zest, Tuscora and Old Lockport. Eventually, even the more familiar names — Schaller, Erin Brew, P.O.C. — disappeared and left a beer landscape ruled by macrobrewing giants.
But in the 26 years since Pat and Dan Conway opened Ohio’s first craft brewery in Cleveland, there has been an explosion in the number of places making small-batch beer. (We visited the Conway brothers’ Great Lakes Brewing Co. for this month’s cover story. You can read about their landmark spot and four other Ohio brewpubs offering great food and made-on-premises beer starting on page 36.)
Today, there are dozens of craft breweries throughout the state. They bear names such as Rivertown, Weasel Boy and Hoppin’ Frog, but don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of them. Most microbrews are still primarily distributed in the region where they’re made. Many aren’t available at grocery stores and must be purchased at the brewery itself or at nearby bars and restaurants. Those who want to experience the depth of our state’s hops scene must get out and explore.
The good news is, no matter where you live, there are people putting great care into making beer, even in places you might not expect: towns such as Millersburg and Lancaster, Findlay and Portsmouth. Those who want to take a weekend trip to Columbus, Cleveland or Cincinnati could create entire tasting tours from the craft-beer boom happening in these cities.
Much like Ohio’s successful wine industry, independent beer makers are creating new food-and-drink destinations. Many of them operate brewpubs that offer thoughtfully planned food menus and pairing suggestions that ensure what’s in your glass complements what’s on your plate.
But beyond that, brewpubs provide an atmosphere — a feeling that goes hand in hand with mahogany wood and warm fireplaces. They are places of relaxation and enjoyment, of sipping and savoring, of hanging out with friends and making new ones. They engage our senses with rich flavors and wonderful aromas.
If you ask me, that sounds like a pretty inviting way to spend some time while riding out the last stretch of winter.