Ohio Brew Week starts strong, more to come

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

Ohio Brew Week
Jackie O’s brewer Tim Twining prepares to lead a tour in the newly expanded brewery building.

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.

Ohio Brew Week - Jackie O's Brewery
Twining explains the mashing process at Jackie O’s production brewery.

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.

Ohio Brew Week
Jackie O’s Mystic Mama IPA on the canning line.

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

Ohio Brew Week, Little Fish Brewin
Co-owner Jimmy Stockwell leads an Ohio Brew Week tour of his Little Fish Brewing Company.

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.

Ohio Brew Week - Little Fish Brewing Company.
Abby Haffelt fills a growler with Karmenfest amber lager at Little Fish Brewing Company.

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.

Ohio Brew Week - Little Fish Brewing
Sunfish (at right), a tart and funky Saison-style beer was released for Ohio Brew Week.

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.

Ohio Brew Week - hopyard
The first-year hop yard at Little Fish Brewing.

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

West End Ciderhouse
West End Ciderhouse

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.

West End Ciderhouse - Ohio Brew Week
Distiller and cider-maker Kelly Sauber (standing, in dark red shirt) tells customers how he locally sources his ingredients for the West End Ciderhouse.

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.

Ohio Brew Week - Devil's Kettle.
Sarah Nelson (at right) explains the Devil’s Kettle approach to brewing during an Ohio Brew Week brewery tour.

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.

Ohio Brew Week - Devil's Kettle.
Devil’s Kettle is releasing a special barrel-aged beer each day of Ohio Brew Week. On the first Saturday it was Devils Kettle Dew (a wild Brett ale) and an Apricot Wild Sour Ale. 

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

Ohio Brew Week homebrew competition
Lead organizer Jody Grenert (at left) with two members of his outstanding panel of judges. Jane Zalewski is president of Greater Huntington Homebrewers Association and Josh Clarke is chief of fermentation and brewing for Heston Farm in Fairmont, WV, Both are experienced homebrewers and beer judges.

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.

Ohio Brew Week homebrew competition
GHHA member Wayne Palumbo of Ashland, KY,  took home two medals for his mead from the 2016 Ohio Brew Week Homebrew 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.

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