Five Beers To Try From Ohio

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Great craft beer from the Buckeye State!

I lived in the heart of Ohio many years ago and was happy to find, upon settling in, that there were neighborhood bars everywhere. There was no shortage of places where I could find taps pouring. Of course, that was many years ago, before craft beer was even a thing. Heck, that was even before the “microbrewery” boom of the 1990s, but it didn’t stop the folks in the Buckeye State from enjoying the results of mixing barley, water, hops and yeast.

No doubt, part of the appreciation for good beer there had at least some of its roots in the infusion of German settlers beginning in the early 1800s. In a state where hard work is a staple thanks to manufacturing and agriculture, beer was obviously a welcome addition.

So it is in modern days, when more than 250 breweries are operating, making Ohio near the top 10 in the U.S. Kind of makes me wish I’d waited a few years to move there, even if only for a short stay.

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Anyway, here are five beers you may want to pay attention to if you find yourself passing through the Midwest. This isn’t a ranking, mind you, just a cross section of what you’ll find in the Buckeye State. Cheers!

Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland): Launched in 1986 by Patrick and Daniel Conway, Great Lakes Brewing is a Buckeye State staple. This smooth porter, named for the sunken freighter that sank beneath the surface of Lake Superior during a storm in November 1975, pays special tribute to the 29 crew members who died that day. The award-winning beer, which is as black as that fateful November night, offers bittersweet notes of dark chocolate, coffee and roasted barley, with plenty of body for fall and winter sipping.

Siberian Night Russian Imperial Stout, Thirsty Dog Brewing (Akron): Another long-standing Ohio Brewery, founded in 1997 by John Najeway, checks in with one of its many canine-themed beers. In a time when there’s plenty of suspicion regarding all things Russia, it’s nice to bring one of these big, warming beers close to one’s lips. The rich, creamy brew packs plenty of roasted, toasted and caramel malts, with a big boozy kick at 8.92% alcohol by volume. (Give Thirsty Dog’s Old Leghumper a try, too.)

Hop Ryot Rye IPA, Jackie O’s Brewery (Athens): Jackie O’s is a unique concept, blending a taproom brewery, a production brewery, and a farm and bakery where pizza and bread are made from spent grains from the brewing process. Speaking of grains, this beer is packed with rye spice and lots and lots of Simcoe hops that bring a citrusy aroma and flavor to help offset the rye. At 6.5% ABV, it’s nevertheless a surprisingly easy-drinking and dry-finishing beverage.

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Konkey Dong, Hoof Hearted Brewery (Marengo): It’s hard to resist the madcap approach this brewery, located just outside Columbus, takes with its beers. With brews bearing names like Are We Having Fun Yet?, $60 Nachos, Drop the Fries and I Must Look Like a Dork, it’s clear the name of the game here is having a good time. One can do just that with Konkey Dong, a double IPA, an 8% ABV drop-kick brewed with copious amounts of Galaxy, Simcoe and Dr. Rudi Hops and allegedly fermented in Donkey Kong barrels. (Yeah, take that last bit with a grain of salt.)

Original Lager, Christian Moerlein Brewery (Cincinnati): Talk about history, this brewery, which won Ohio Brewery of the Year in the 2019 NY International Beer Competition, has got it. It originally started brewing in the city’s Over the Rhine neighborhood back in 1853, during a time when German immigrants were settling in Cincinnati in large numbers. The brewery later closed due to that pesky Prohibition, but the brand was revived in 1981. If you stop in, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t grab a pint of Germany’s favorite style, the lager. This one is a classic take on the Vienna-style lager, with moderate hops and an even-Steven 5% ABV, making it an easy and essential summer thirst quencher. (If you’re feeling brave, ask for a sixer of Little Kings, the ubiquitous cream ale quaffed by many a college student. Go on, we dare you.)