King of Ohio Session Beers 2016 – Results and Reflections

The 2nd annual King of Ohio contest is now in the books.  For those not familiar with this contest it started two years ago when a group of Ohio beer bloggers teamed up to sponsor a contest designed to pick the best Ohio-brewed IPA.  The eventual winner, Hoof Hearted’s Musk of the Minotaur, was an unknown quantity to many people in the Buckeye state at that time, but has gone onto become one of the more sought after IPAs in the state.

In addition to changing the style this time around, from IPAs to session beers, we wanted to be more inclusive and so every brewery in the state was invited to participate. After a busy couple of weeks collecting beers, recruiting judges and stewards, doing our best to organize a contest with nearly 60 entries the results are now in.

The beers were divided into four categories: Session IPAs, Sour & Wild Ales, Lagers and Kolschs, and Session Ales. The latter a grab bag of styles that didn’t fit neatly into one of the other categories.  The beers in each category were judged by teams of 3-4 judges, each of which included as least one BJCP certified judge and one of the participating beer bloggers.  We used the 50 point BJCP scoring system to rate each beer, but unlike a true BJCP event we did not judge each beer to a particular style. After all most people in the general public don’t know the finer details of the style guidelines, but they know good beer when they taste it.

Without further delay the top three beers in each category are as follows:

Session IPA (19 Entries)

  • 1st Place: Summer Sesh by Commonhouse Ales (Columbus)
  • 2nd Place: PSA by MadTree (Cincinnati)
  • 3rd Place: Glass City Pale Ale by Maumee Bay Brewing (Toledo)

Session Ales (16 Entries)

  • 1st Place: Clear Sky Daybreak by Wolf’s Ridge (Columbus)
  • 2nd Place: Movin’ On American Session Ale by Blank Slate (Cincinnati)
  • 3rd Place: Apple Ale by Numbers Brewing (Lisbon)

Lagers and Kolschs (14 Entries)

  • 1st Place: Kaffee Kolsch by Willoughby Brewing (Willoughby)
  • 2nd Place: Light Lager by Hofbrauhaus (Cleveland)
  • 3rd Place: Pioneer Pilsner by Homestead Brewing (Heath)

Sour and Wild Ales (10 Entries)

  • 1st Place: Raspberry Beret by Streetside Brewing (Cincinnati)
  • 2nd Place: Petrichor by Jackie O’s (Athens)
  • 3rd Place: Brett is My CoPilot by Fifty West Brewing (Cincinnati)

King of Ohio Prizes.JPG

The first place finishers in each category were then matched up against each other in a best of show to determine who would have bragging rights.  When the dust had cleared Raspberry Beret a fruited Berliner Weiss from Streetside Brewing in Cincinnati emerged as the King of Ohio, edging out Clear Sky Daybreak in a split decision.

If you’ve never heard of Streetside Brewing you’ve got company.  They are currently in their soft opening stage, which means they are literally the newest brewery in Ohio.  They are located in Cincinnati (4003 Eastern Ave.), east of downtown in the Columbia Tusculum neighborhood, not far from Blank Slate Brewing I’m told.  Their grand opening is scheduled for October 7.  I reached out to the brewery on Facebook for a brief description of how this beer is made.  Head brewer Garrett Hickey described the process in this way

So with Raspberry Beret we mash in, then we move to our kettle for a quick boil to pasteurize the wort, and then move it back to the mash tun because we can make that air tight. We pitch our lacto blend (We sour solely with lactobacillus) then it’s a waiting game, for this batch of Raspberry Beret it took 25 hours to sour to the pH we wanted. After we achieve the pH we wanted we move it back to the boil kettle for another quick boil to pasteurize again and then we treat it like any other beer. Pitch our house yeast and let it go.

When Hoof Hearted won the contest in 2015 they were still brewing beer in a barn.  Nowadays throngs of people descend on the fields of Marengo when they have a canning release party.  In the coming months can we expect lines of people camping out in Columbia Tusculum to get the next sour release from Streetside?

A tasting flight at Streetside Brewing. Raspberry Beret is the red one if you couldn’t guess.


A few thoughts on the results.

I wasn’t shocked that the winner of the sour ale category took the best in show.  Most sour ales are naturally sessionable, and the bold flavors give it an edge versus the more refined nuances of a kolsch or an English bitter.  However, I was surprised to see a fledging brewery stave off the likes of Jackie O’s, whose limited release sours have a cult following.

Kudos to Commonhouse Ales for winning the Session IPA category against a strong field that included entries from Fat Heads, MadTree, Land Grant, and the Brew Kettle.  I suspect this beer is off the radar for many.  Follow this link to see what it is all about, or better yet check it out first hand before its all gone, summer can’t last forever you know.

How did it come to pass that two of the four categories were won by coffee infused golden ales?  That’s a bit of a quirk with the way we sorted the beers into categories.  Because the base for the Willoughby beer is a kolsch, it ended up with the lagers (kolschs are arguably the most lager like member of the ale family) while the Wolf’s Ridge beer is based on a cream ale and so went in with the session ales. In an official BJCP event both beers would likely have been in the specialty beer or spiced beer categories. Both beers feature bright fruity coffee flavors that are nicely integrated with the flavors of the beer.  If you like your session lagers and ales to follow the Reinheitsgebot I suggest you go with Blank Slate’s Movin’ On (their take on an English Best Bitter), Hofbrauhaus Light Lager or Homestead’s Pioneer Pilsner.

Two members of the judging team were selected from a drawing open to anyone. One of the winners, Mike Lawson, e-mailed me on Friday night from the hospital.  He had come down with appendicitis. Mike I hope you are feeling better, you missed a good time on Saturday. The second judge, Autumn Reynolds from Cincinnati, was an excellent addition to the tasting panel.

Autumn Reynolds and Gautam Bagchi hard at work judging the session ales.


Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who made this event possible.  First of all Jamie, Laura and Doug from the Columbus Craft Beer Alliance who reached out to me and asked if we would reprise the King of Ohio contest.  We needed that push to get our act in order.

Thanks to the Ohio Taproom and the Columbus Craft Beer Alliance for sponsoring the prizes, and to Laura’s brother for making the King of Ohio belt, and coaster sets for the category winners.

Thanks to all of the volunteer judges who helped us including J.D. Malone from the Columbus Dispatch, Craig O’Herron from Sideswipe Brewing in Columbus, Frank Seta from the Lucky Turtle in Cincinnati, Autumn Reynolds, and the following members of SODZ, the local homebrew club: Jim Sudduth, Steve Henry, Jude DuPart, Gautam Bagchi, and Chris Paloma.

Thanks to Ralph Wolfe, Mark Weaver and Chris Buirley for serving in the critical role of stewards.

Thanks to Mark Richards for most of the photos you see here.

Finally thanks to my fellow beer bloggers Rick Armon (The Ohio Beer Blog), Tom Aguero (BrewMinds), Cory Smith and Ron DeGregario (The Brew Review Crew) for helping with the organization that made the event possible.

Let’s end with a few more photos from the contest.

Craig O’Herron and Jude DuPart hard at work.
Rick Armon goes in for a deep dive on the aroma.
Steve, Tom and Frank discussing the finer points of one of the sours.
Mark (left), Chris (right) and Ralph (not pictured) were invaluable stewards.


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