If the classic Hank Williams song “There’s A Tear in My Beer” is running through the mind of a beer-loving Ohioan, it could be because that person is conflicted about what Buckeye State brew to order at their favorite establishment.
Ohio has become one of the largest beer producing states in the United States-with its output winning countless awards, creating over 43,000 jobs and serving as a $7.7 billion economic driver for the state.
Ah, but to pick three to represent the whole Buckeye State?
Now that’s enough to make anyone cry in their beer. No self-respecting journalist or beer lover would attempt to narrow the field down to three to the exclusion of others because the variety of flavor profiles and styles is endless.
But I digress. One must begin somewhere. Hence, submitted for your approval are my Top Three Ohio Microbrewed Beers in no particular order. They’re pretty easy to find inside the Buckeye State and are sure to impress your friends even as they broaden your own palate and horizons:
Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
2516 Market Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Being a Clevelander, I can certainly speak to one of the city’s most successful entrepreneurial success stories-Great Lakes Brewing Company. This 20-year-old institution founded by brothers Pat and Dan Conway turn out incredible brews which are peerless in the Midwest, and hard-pressed to be equaled elsewhere. They’ve already captured hearts with flavors as diverse as the old-style Tempus Fugit, the crimson Nosferatu, the chocolaty Blackout Stout and the potent seasonal darling, Christmas Ale.
Their 15-time award-winning porter is loaded with full-bodied flavors of bittersweet chocolate and hops-impressive enough for dark beer lovers, but accessible enough to capture the heart, mind and taste of your average brew fan as well. Named for the bulk ore carrier the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald-which sunk in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975 after countless Cleveland dockings-this porter is a great match for ribeye steaks, barbecue and chocolate desserts.
Thirsty Dog Brewing Company’s Hoppus Maximus
529 Grant St., Suite B
Akron, Ohio 44311
This Akron brewery has won as many awards as the “Fitz” mentioned above, scoring festival titles for their Hoppus Maximus and Old Leghumper beers. And for a Buckeye State picnic, you almost can’t beat the microbrewery’s delectable Labrador Lager beer. Ownership might disagree, but the Hoppus Maximus is really their flagship release.
With a sophisticated mélange of caramel malts and American hops and amber, this American Amber/Red Ale beer is as brusque as it is and uplifting. Fans of hops are likely to enjoy it without being weighed down, or flinched by a biting aftertaste. A Silver Medal winner at the 2001 Great American Beer Festival, the medium-bodied Hoppus Maximus also won a World Beer Cup title in 2005.
If there’s a better match to a roasted chicken or turkey burgers, I have yet to find it.
Christian Moerlein’s “O.T.R.” Ale
260 Northland Blvd.
Cincinnati, OH 45200
Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (a.k.a. “O.T.R.”) brewery district scores big points even before longtime Cinci brewer Christian Moerlein takes residence there in 2011. With its deep copper malty brew, Moerlein’s impeccable American Pale Ale is big with “hopheads” (hops fans) and microbrewed beer aficionados-and anyone else who like a bit of bite and fruity-floral notes to match a toasty aftertaste. Cascade and Fuggle hops intermingle for a really crisp and well-balanced beer.
The best thing about the O.T.R. is that it is the most versatile of the three Ohio beers selected here-especially as it relates to food pairing. At home with a bowl of four-way Cincinnati-style chili, beef pot roast or Shepherd’s Pie, this one’s a keeper. Even hot dogs at your backyard grill-out are better for a Moerlein or two.