Keeping it local with Athens’ original brews
Because craft brewing has given us an excuse to call our drinking habits a hobby.
Located along the Appalachian Trail of Southeast Ohio, Athens is a melting pot of food, people, and beer. Home to Ohio Brew Week (OBW), Athens has become increasingly known for its annual summer event as well as several craft breweries located around the city. OBW first occurred in July 2005, and hosted events such as home brew demonstrations, beer infused foods, and formal tastings. More than 70 Ohio made brews appeared that year. OBW caught the attention of brewers all over Ohio, and by 2013, it expanded to include 76 events with more than 276 craft beers available, ending a weeklong event with a street festival and live music.
Breweries in the area contribute to the event and the hobby of craft brewing has become a more common profession. Some of the most popular breweries include Jackie O’s Taproom, an evolving tasting facility located on the eastern edge of town; Little Fish Brewery, a new, eco-friendly facility located on the west end; and Devil’s Kettle Brewery, a new facility focused on home brews, located on the northern outskirts of town. All three of these relatively new breweries contributed to OBW’s 10th Anniversary this past July, offering tours of each of their facilities.
Jackie O’s Taproom (contrary to a second location in uptown Athens) is where the brewing ensues. The somewhat small location is home to 16 taps that enable customers to drink directly from the source, as well as try other Ohio-made brews that cycle through. Jackie O’s offers customers the chance to take their favorite brews home in growlers. The taproom bottles and cans some of their originals such as Mystic Mama and Hop Riot, and as of March 2013, packages their original brews into kegs, all of which are distributed across Ohio. As of September 2015, the brewery is starting another expansion to increase brewing capacity, with plans to expand enough to double the amount of fermentation tanks currently in use. Jackie O’s owner, Art Oestrike, is planning to keep distribution within Ohio because in-state demand is so great.
Jackie O’s gets the barley malt it uses from Briess, located in Wisconsin. Along with a wide variety of brews, Jackie O’s offers a local snack menu. They get their meat, maple syrup, and pickled vegetables from Athens Own by Constantine, cheeses from Laurel Valley Creamery located in Gallipolis, tortilla chips from Shagbark Seed & Mill, and any other vegetables needed from the Athens’ Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. They also make their own salsa and hummus in-house.
Little Fish Brewing Company opened in July 2015 and is co-owned by Sean White and Jimmy Stockwell. Together, they wanted to create an environmentally-conscious facility by installing the building with energy efficient appliances such as LED lighting, low-flush toilets, mini-split heating and cooling units, and are planning to install solar panels in the near future. Little Fish also uses 100% wind-power sources, meaning they buy credits from AEP that enables their bills to go directly to subsidized wind-farmers.
About 90% of the grains used are organic. Little Fish purchases some of the grains from Briess, but the other corn and spelt they use comes from Shagbark Seed & Mill, located right in Athens. The company distributes their original brews to five different bars in uptown Athens, as well as multiple bars and pubs in the Columbus area. Little Fish offers a small snack menu and supports the local food vendors by scheduling various food trucks to come Wednesday-Sunday. Some of those include the Cajun Clucker, Holy Guacamole, and Mauvette’s Caribbean Fusion. Co-owner Sean White says that they plan to keep distribution local to Ohio, but plan to expand the company to increase brewing capacity sometime in the future.
Devil’s Kettle Brewing is owned by a man who started his journey in brewing on the streets of Athens. Cameron Fuller has won first place multiple times at Ohio Brew Week for Best Home Brewer. That is one of the things that has given him the push to open a brewery of his own. Fuller is adamant to sticking to the European style of beer drinking, with simple, rustic brews instead of overly hoppy beers. Devil’s Kettle opened in June 2015 with an important part of the brewing process aimed at the quality of grains used. Fuller explained that if he wants to make an English Style malt, he gets the grains directly from Crisp, or Simpson’s, located in England. For a German beer, he gets the grains from Germany. For his American malts, he gets the grains from a company called Rahr, located in Minnesota.
Devil’s Kettle distributes kegs to multiple bars uptown including Casa Nueva, Tony’s, Cat’s Den, The Pub, Busy Day Market, and the Cider House. The company offers a menu of snacks as well as supports local food vendors with a scheduled food truck lineup. Local, original artwork is displayed inside the taproom, and it is not uncommon for a local band to provide live music, on occasion.
Craft brewing is sure to continue, and Athens will remain a hub for Ohio-brewers, especially during OBW every summer.