The opening weekend of Ohio Brew Week in Athens made a strong showing with brewery tours, a homebrew competition, and lots of Ohio beer sampling. The rest of the week promises many more fun activities before ending with the Last Call event on Saturday, July 23.
During the opening weekend, special tours took place at Jackie O’s, Little Fish, and Devil’s Kettle breweries and at the West End Ciderhouse. Folks got a true behind the scenes look at the state of brewing in Appalachian Ohio.
Jackie O’s Brewery on fast track
At Jackie O’s, brewer Tim Twining provided an informative tour of the recently expanded brewery building. This is a brewery that is growing fast. Inside the spacious new, 6800 sq. ft. building, one row of 120-barrel fermentation tanks was in place and a second row of three should be installed this November. Combining the old and new brewery space, Jackie O’s will eventually have the capacity to produce 35,000 barrels of beer annually.
Moving some equipment to the new building has opened up space in the original brewery section. That’s where you’ll find the brewhouse and smaller fermentation tanks. It takes six runs of the brewhouse to fill the 120-barrel fermenters. You can find a more complete write up of Jackie O’s expansion project here.
Jackie O’s canning line was recently moved into the new brewery building. The market’s growing demand for Jackie O’s canned 6-packs is soaring. At the tour, the canner was set up for the popular Mystic Mama IPA. Mystic Mama makes up around 40 to 50 percent of Jackie O’s total annual production. Twining said the additional brewery tankage will hopefully allow the company to keep up with demand. Also in the new building is a sour beer production room that they keep isolated from the rest of the brewery to prevent the wild yeasts from getting into their standard beers.
Little Fish makes a splash in its first year
Only one year old, Little Fish Brewing had quite an eventful first year. Co-owner Jimmy Stockwell talked about the brewery’s success as he led the Ohio Brew Week tour of his facility. He said that Little Fish took home a gold medal from World Beer Cup this spring—an unusual a feat for a first year brewery.
The Little Fish taproom has proven to be quite the community meeting place. It’s an extremely friendly spot with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor space includes a children’s play area and the Cajun Clucker food wagon. Selling beer by the glass, in growlers and in bottles, Little Fish serves a steady line of customers.
Little Fish released a special beer for Brew Week. Sunfish, a tart and funky Ohio saison, went on sale Saturday and sales were brisk. Special cask releases are scheduled later this week.
The large property at Little Fish holds a hop yard, fruit trees, and berry bushes that, once mature, will produce ingredients for brewing special Little Fish beers.
West End Ciderhouse sources local ingredients
Ohio Brew Week also makes room for Ohio cider. In Athens, that means the West End Ciderhouse. Just a bit little over two years old, the ciderhouse is one of the nicest places to have a drink in all of Athens. In addition to cider, they feature a nice selection of Ohio and regional craft beer and a full-service bar offering Ohio-made spirits.
Cider maker Kelly Sauber was on hand to lead tours and discussion of his cider-making process. Sauber uses all locally-sourced ingredients in his ciders. He is also a distiller, and you can find his Fifth Element brand of spirits at the ciderhouse bar.
Devil’s Kettle adds variety to Athens beer scene
Touring Devil’s Kettle Brewing Company, we found out this is another business with increasing sales. Devil’s Kettle recently celebrated its one year anniversary.
Devil’s Kettle has a most impressive automated 20-barrel brewhouse and lots of fermentation space. Taking a tour is the only way to see this beauty of a brewing system. The brewery also just opened a very nice outdoor brick patio.
While the brewery primarily focuses on standard beer styles, Devil’s Kettle is not afraid to brew outside the lines. It is releasing special barrel-aged, wild-fermented or sour ales each day of Ohio Brew Week.
Homebrew competition shines again
One of the highlights of Brew Week is always the homebrewing competition. Organizer Jody Grenert skillfully manages to put together one of the best contests anywhere in the region. This year the competition judged 271 entries from 148 homebrewers, with the farthest away being from Hawaii.
Pat McGarry won Best of Show gold for his Schwarzel Schwarzbier. As part of the recognition for winning Best-of-Show, a batch of this beer will be brewed commercially by Little Fish Brewing Company and offered for sale at its taproom.
The Jim Leverentz Award plaque went to William Crothers, Jr. for winning the most medals at the competition.
Members of the Greater Huntington Homebrewers Association had a successful competition. Winning medals were Wayne Palumbo (gold and silver), Dave Zalewski (bronze), and Jane Zalewski (silver).
Upcoming Brew Week events
Coming up in Athens are many more Brew Week activities each day. The final weekend has some big events. On Friday, July 22, the big outdoor barbecue, beer, and music event, called Brew-B-Q, kicks off at the old Athens train depot. This is always a great feast of food, beer and music.
For those preferring a more traditional beer festival format, OBW has that too. On the Saturday, July 23, Brew Week closes out with Last Call. Last Call is a downtown street fair complete with lots of beer tents, where folks may sample beers from 35 Ohio craft breweries.
Throughout the week, thirty bars and restaurants turn over their taps to Ohio craft beer from across the state. Walking around the Court Street and Union Street areas you will find a bounty of Ohio brews, many of which you have never had before. All are available in 4-oz tasters or full pints.
So if you missed opening weekend, you still have a lot to look forward to by making a trip to Athens later this week.