Put yourself in my shoes. I have a husband that loves craft beer.
Wait, that wasn’t filled with enough emotion.
I have a husband that looooves craft beer. When I met him years ago, he was a Rolling Rock fan. Now, as he is maturing, so is his taste for well-made, craft beer from regional breweries. He peruses our beer stores like I shop for clothing. If someone mentions a local brewery, he’s heard of it and on the rare occasion he hasn’t, he wants to know everything about it- including details down to the hops!
When Mr. Locke found out that I had planned a visit to Ohio Brew Week
in Hocking Hills, Ohio, for the final weekend of the festivities in mid-July, the man was giddy, I tell ya. And when he found out it was located in Athens, Ohio (a quaint college town home to Ohio University), he was excited to return. I let the man run amuck in his craft brew element and while he sampled and oohed and aahed over the high quality, complex flavors, and craftsmanship, I talked to the owners and creators. I’d call that a team effort.
So, just how much fun did we have on the final weekend of Ohio Brew Week this year? Hint: Mr. Locke is still talking about it like he has a new best friend.
What is Ohio Brew Week?
This July, Ohio Brew Week celebrated its 10th Anniversary, and there’s a reason why it keeps growing year after year. Featuring Homebrew Competitions, a New Brewers Symposium, the tasty Brew BQ, and the record-breaking Last Call (the final day of the event), the week is one giant homage to craft beer and the not-so-subtle science that is behind the creations.
This year’s giant Last Call featured well over 30 craft breweries, food vendors, and the locals bars and pubs were open early and ready to serve hundreds of craft brew selections.
Prost! Slainte! Cheers! Salud!
Bellying up to the bar was a breeze as one of main drags in Athens, Court Street, was closed for the event and where cars normally motor, craft beer breweries set up shop.
Mr. Locke and I kicked off our visit to the brew fest with a belly full of tasty Mexican food at Casa Nueva and a Gnarly Brown by MadTree Brewing. This is THE spot for Mexican food in Athens and the restaurant/bar is always packed.
Next Stop? Jackie O’s
! This BrewPub offers dozens of its own brews and beer collaborations and is just the coolest place to grab a bite to eat and a beer. Or four- Jackie O’s offers customized beer flights as well and they are very popular. Mr. Locke’s brew of choice was Jackie O’s own Hibernator- a nitro-infused imperial brown ale brewed with buckwheat and brown sugar.
Hitting the Streets
Last Call officially began at 2pm on Saturday, July 18th, and folks of legal drinking age lined up for beer coins from the get go. To save on waste, Ohio Brew Week has instilled their own, fun version of the solo cup: for two bucks you purchase an official cup and additional brew coins for a dollar each. It was a hoot seeing a sea of blue plastic cups and the fun revelry that accompanied them.
Before things got too crazy busy we had a chance to speak with a few Ohio craft breweries and the fun folks that give their all to make their brews the best possible.
So, with live music in our ears and an Ohio Brew week cup in Mr. Locke’s hand, we hit the streets to find out what’s on tap from a few breweries for this season.
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Offering three brew selections (two were pub exclusives!), Great Lakes Brewing Co.
hailing out of Cleveland is what I like to call the “Big Daddy” of Ohio craft breweries. Along with the ever-popular Eliot Ness amber lager, the brewery tapped Rally Drum Red Ale and Blonde Honey Ale. While Mr. Locke talked about the smooth consistency and alcohol content, I asked about seasonal brews and what makes them tick. Bottom line: they love making great-tasting, flavorful brews. Works for me.
Land Grant Brew Co.
Based out of Columbus, Land Grant
had three icy cold taps on deck: 1862 Ale (a Kolsch-style), Stiff-Arm I.P.A., and Greenskeeper (a Session I.P.A.). Their Columbus taproom sits directly in front of the brewery on Town street in Columbus and a large rotation of food trucks are out front for a bite to eat.
North High Brewing
Also based out of Columbus, North High Brewing
was showing off their stuff. Two brews, X-treme I.P.A. and 7 Hills Milks Stout. Mr. Locke had a tough time deciding which one he liked the best, but the 7 Hills finally made the cut. want to brew a batch of your own? Head to the microbrewery’s High Street location and schedule a kettle to brew your own 15 gallon batch. If given enough notice, North High will even work with you to develop a new taste. Now, that’s brew devotion.
Lagerheads Brewing Co.
is based out of Medina, Ohio, and had at least a dozen brews on tap. They actually had two sides to their beer stand! With the standout Smokey Robbins, a smoked wheat beer that Mr. Locke is still raving about, and Whitewater Whitte, I had a blast chatting with the Lagerheads folks. Head to Medina and you can check out their brewery and BBQ Smokehouse.
Wait…what? A winery at Ohio Brew Week? You betcha! The Athens Uncorked Wine Bar is hyper local (it’s actually in Athens), and served four delicious styles of wine. My favorite? The Blueberry Noir. I love sweet wines and this one was tops for me.
Between the great food, fab brew and wine, and all-around fun atmosphere, there’s a definite reason why thousands head to Athens, Ohio, for the past ten years to enjoy Ohio Brew Week. I learned so much about the brewing process and the passion behind the brews that I’m really excited to learn more about these breweries. I promised them the next time I was in their town I’d swing over and check out their digs. And I will make good on that promise this year.
Cheers to great beer, good family, and fun in the Hocking Hills!