I fear I’m becoming a bit of a beer snob.
Now, I may not be as bad as those wine people who talk about mouthfeel and bouquet, but I sense myself treading closer to their terroir.
When a co-worker swore off hoppy India pale ales for something lighter, I reacted with a mix of judgmental bitter beer face and disappointment. I often let taproom bartenders fill my flights with their favorites, which has introduced me to gems such as Saucy Brew Works’ Fauxbia nitro white stout, Platform Beer Co.’s Merciless Love Belgian pale ale and Avon Brewing Co.’s Barrel Aged Black Widow imperial black IPA. I’ve even learned how to properly pronounce “gose” (It’s GOHZ-uh, like Rosa, for the German beer style that’s sour, salty and sweet).
Blame Northeast Ohio’s kegger of a craft brewery scene for my transformation if you like. The number of new breweries in recent months is like freshmen lining up at a frat party. In 2017, more than 15 spots have opened, bringing the count to more than 40.
But it’s not just the upstarts: Platform has grown from less than 100 barrels when it opened in 2014 to 20,000 just three years later, while Market Garden Brewery christened a 35,000-square-foot production facility just 15 months ago.
At October’s Great American Beer Festival, the craft beer industry’s Super Bowl, Northeast Ohio nabbed five of the state’s nine medals, including one from Masthead Brewing Co. for its Midwest Red IPA. That’s pretty heady stuff for a place that just opened in a 16,000-square-foot Superior Avenue space in January.
All this frothiness has caused some to wonder if the market is becoming tapped out. Yet many of the brewers we interviewed for this month’s “Brew Nuts” feature see potential for growth — especially in neighborhood tasting rooms. “Instead of bars and restaurants on every corner, you have some more of those turn into places where people make beer and sell beer at their location,” says Paul Benner, co-owner of Platform.
At places like Working Class Brewery in Kamm’s Corners or Avon Brewing in the suburb’s French Creek District, that’s already happening. “We sell a lot of beer here,” says Mathias Hauck, co-owner and brewmaster at Avon Brewing. “We love our community. People have rallied around us and embraced us.”
I’ll happily raise a glass to that.