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‘Ohio Breweries’ Guidebook Review

Submitted by on December 16, 2011 – 2:08 pmNo Comment

I make no secret of my fondness for the Ohio craft beer scene and its breweries. I discovered the thriving scene during a trip to Cleveland in 2010, and returned earlier this year to attend the inaugural Cleveland International Beer Festival. That world-class festival will take place again May 11-12, 2012.

So I was happy to receive a review copy of the “Ohio Breweries” travel guidebook in the mail. I looked forward to learning more about the state’s brewery business – and I discovered there was a lot to learn.

With 49 regional breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs (at the time of publication), there’s plenty for author Rick Armon to explore. Armon, a Cleveland native, currently lives in Akron and writes for the Akron Beacon Journal, where his reporting duties include the beer beat.

Ohio Breweries” covers beer makers from the giant Anheuser-Busch InBev plant in Columbus (10.7 million barrels/year) to the Hazards Island Microbrewery on Middle Bass Island in Lake Erie (6 bbl/year). All together, Ohio is the fifth largest brewing state in America, but it seems that few people outside the state realize it.

The book follows the same basic framework as other brewery guidebooks published by Stackpole Books. The state is divided into five zones, and each zone comprises a section of the book. Another section is devoted to the “Big Boys”: AB-InBev, MillerCoors (Trenton) and Boston Beer Company/Samuel Adams (Cincinatti). “A Word About …” chapter divides each section and takes a closer look at other aspects of the Ohio beer scene, such as Ohio’s beer economy, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association and Ohio beer festivals.

For each brewery, Armon uses words to paint a picture of the establishment based on personal visits and interviews with owners and brewers. Here’s an excerpt from the entry for Rockmill Brewery in Lancaster, about owner Matthew Barbee:

His grandfather had operated a winery and it was Barbee’s dream to one day follow in those footsteps. But he didn’t want to grow grapes in the Midwest. At the time, he was researching the saison or farmhouse ale style of beer-making – bottle-conditioned beers that are fermented at warmer temperatures and typically bottled in wine-sized bottles. It just so happened that his stepfather, Dennis Smalley, had the water at the farm analyzed and it was almost identical in terms of minerals to Wallonia, a French-speaking portion of Belgium where the saision style originated.

Barbee knew then that he wanted to make farmhouse ales. Remarkably, he wasn’t a homebrewer and had never made beer before launching his brewery, which is named after the farm. He is self-taught, having learned the craft through experimentation and reading books as opposed to attending a beer school.

“We chose to take our own path in order to have a true reflection of our DNA and journey in the end product,” he said. I’m really glad we did that because I have a specific learning style and one of my favorite things is exploring a city or exploring a craft. That was a big part of the fun for me, the exploration of it all.”

Each brewery entry also includes a list of beers brewed, the author’s pick for the must-try brew, and information such as production numbers, hours and tour availability. The back of the book contains a handy list of suggested beer websites and a glossary of beer terms.

We highly recommend “Ohio Breweries” to anyone planning a Road Trip for Beer to Ohio.

This is the latest in a series of regional brewery guidebooks published by Stackpole Books. Previous ones are “Pennsylvania Breweries” (now in its fourth edition), “New York Breweries” and “Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Breweries” by Lew Bryson; “New Jersey Breweries” by Bryson and Mark Haynie; “Michigan Breweries” by Maryanne Nasiatka and Paul Ruschmann; and “Indiana Breweries” by John Holl and Nate Schweber.”

“Massachusetts Breweries” by Holl and April Darcy is scheduled to be released in spring 2012.

Ohio Breweries, by Rick Armon. Introduction by the author. Stackpole Books, 2011. 192 pp. ISBN: 9780811708685. Suggested retail price $19.95.

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