By Mary Vlahos
Does it seem like a new craft brewery is opening every month? The craft brewery expansion is a trend that’s sweeping across the US. Northeast Ohio has seen an explosion of craft breweries across the region of all sizes and flavors creating a Craft Brew Tourism industry. Some communities have developed brewery districts or regional brewery tours, while others have tried to capitalize on the Craft Brewery Craze with craft beer festivals. Every community seems to have an interest in the craft beer craze.
The Brewer’s Association reported that the craft beer yearly retail dollar value to the US economy is $26 billion with a market growth of 5%. The economic impact of the craft beer market for Ohio was $2.7 billion providing 15,762 jobs. Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, was quoted in the 2017 Craft Beer in Review as saying, “Today, 83 percent of the population lives within 10 miles of a local brewery, meaning that the positive impact of breweries is being felt in communities all over the country.” Kevin Mardorf, from www.beerfests.com, reported 92 beer festivals registered on their site in Ohio in 2017. With more than 6,300 breweries operating in the United States, we can certainly see how this much economic impact is possible.
Would you like to create your own brewery tour and get rewarded for visiting your favorite craft breweries? Well now you can! The Ohio Craft Brewer’s Association launched a new, free app, “Ohio On Tap.” The app has already been downloaded more than 11,000 times. It features a state-wide list of over 140 breweries, comprehensive information on each brewery, maps that assist you in planning your own tour, an ability to locate breweries near your current location, social media integration, beer suggestions based on previous choices, event listings, and a label scanner.
For each member brewery you visit you get a virtual stamp that will turn into virtual points, towards real prizes. Yes, you get rewarded for drinking beer! If you’d like to try an established brewery tour, try the Summit Brew Path, created in 2017 with over 2,600 craft beer enthusiasts completing the tour. This year’s brew path features 18 craft breweries in the Akron-Canton area with a commemorative growler on completion. It’s not recommended you finish the entire tour in one day, by the way.
With that big of a list it’s difficult to know where to start your beer tasting. Why not start in your own backyard? Lockport Brewery, in Tuscarawas County, is the first brewery the county has seen in 65 years, and they’re taking advantage of it. After only 3 months Lockport added additional fermenters to keep up with the growing demand for their beer. Founded by Andrew and Lauren Marburger, the brewery has become a community favorite. Lockport just celebrated their one-year anniversary in November of 2017, with Gateway Extra Pale Ale as their most popular craft brew. This is a great stop on a summer road trip. Enjoy a flight, a bite to eat, and their Saturday entertainment. Make plans for your summer road trip with your Lockport Brewery stop at www.traveltusc.com.
Head slightly north and visit the Canton, Stark County folks. There are quite a few more craft breweries to choose from here, and some have very interesting histories. The Canton Brewing Company was founded in 1883 by Otto Giessen from Bavaria. It of course, like other breweries, struggled through prohibition by manufacturing non-alcoholic beverages. There are some rumors, however, that bootleg beer was being manufactured by the Canton Brewing Company during prohibition. Officially dissolved in 1928, this brewery was brought back to life in 2014 by owner David Beule. There’s even a nostalgic speakeasy entrance on Market Avenue to take you back in time to the prohibition era. Royal Docks Brewery, another Canton favorite, opened in 2015. Its owners were inspired by their 2 years in England and produce British-inspired beers in a pub-like atmosphere.
Maize Valley Winery and Craft Brewery, near Hartville, had roots in farming and wine production before making the leap to brewing craft beer. Maize Valley features a relaxing, farm atmosphere, beautiful views, and a 140-year-old restored barn. To get an overview of all the breweries in the Canton-Stark County area go to www.HOFHOPS.com.
Keep heading north and you’ll hit one of Akron’s oldest breweries, Thirsty Dog. They just celebrated 20 years as a brand and 10 years bottling in the Akron area. Thirsty Dog recently added equipment to help expand their distribution. They currently produce 75 different beers all with unique names of the canine variety like Leg Humper and Citra Dog. Check out their recently opened Tap House, with locally sourced foods to complete their new menu.
Joe Wathey and Erica Antoniotti, owners of Nauti Vine Winery in Portage Lakes, are another example of brewers that started off as wine makers. Mucky Duck Brewery started at the winery and soon moved to its current location across the street. Now the Mucky Duck Brew Pub produces a variety of handcrafted micro brews that compliment its tasty pub menu. If you have any doubts about the popularity of craft breweries, check out the coming soon section of the Summit Brew Path at www.SummitBrewPath.com. That’s quite a list to look forward to.
One of the first breweries and brew pubs in Ohio is right in our backyard, Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland. Great Lakes was founded in 1986 by Patrick and Daniel Conway. Not well versed in brewing themselves, the Conway brothers hired an experienced team of brewers to develop their craft beers. With a modest start of 1,000 barrels, the brewery currently produces over 100,000 barrels a year. Don’t miss their Great Lakes Burning River Fest August 17 & 18, 2018.
Fat Head’s Brewery, an Ohio favorite, was actually founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1992. They expanded into North Olmstead in April of 2009 and soon to follow in 2012 was a full-scale brewery in Middleburg Heights. With their ever-expanding popularity Fat Heads opened a new location in Canton, Ohio, in March of 2018. They are also slated to open their new, 13-million-dollar brewery and beer hall, near their current Middleburg Heights location, in the summer of this year.
Let’s keep heading north to Geneva On The Lake Brewing or GOTL for short. For some breweries a food menu is an afterthought. Not so for GOTL. They feature a full-service restaurant with a made-from-scratch food menu. Delmonico steak and fresh Lake Erie Walleye are not something you find on most brewery menus. This micro-brew owner, Tim Allen, started experimenting with brewing beer in his own kitchen before opening his own microbrewery and restaurant. GOTL features its own handcrafted brews, and several other craft bottled and draft beers. With a great patio overlooking Lake Erie, an ever-expanding list of craft beers, and an amazing food menu, this brewery is a must on your brew tour.
Summer is a great time to explore your own backyard and beyond. Develop your own brewery tour with the Ohio On Tap app or explore the already established brew tours. Get out and experience a beer festival, a brewery district, or just do a beer tasting at the brewery down the street. Craft Brew Tourism is a great way to explore a city. Jump on board!
Ohio Brewery Tour