This past weekend I took my birthday as an excuse to head out to Licking County and visit a few breweries. It was great to see some old friends and share a few beers together. Here are a few thoughts on the experience. Nothing too deep but some food for thought if you are considering a similar day out.
This was my first visit since they’ve opened a taproom to the public (Fridays and Saturdays only). The brewery and taproom are located in a building that used to serve as the family recreation/party room for co-owner Ross Kirk and his family. The setting has an intimate feel as you would expect, not wildly different from going to a party at your neighbor’s house, and in keeping with that spirit the hospitality was superb. Various parts of the taproom, including the bar itself are still works in progress. Since acquiring temperature controlled fermentation vessels from Buckeye Lake they’ve expanded the offerings to be less Belgian-centric. In addition to the core saison, tripel, and Belgian amber were pouring a couple of stouts (one aged in maple bourbon barrels), a porter, a citra saison, a wit beer. and a few others. If you are looking for an informal setting to enjoy a few beers and some good company, a place to rub elbows with the owner and be served by the head brewer, Granville Brewing Company is the place to go.
The drive from Granville Brewing to Three Tigers, which is actually located in Granville, is only about 8 minutes. When we arrived it was about 5 pm and Three Tigers was doing a brisk business. That might help to explain why there were only four house beers on tap (out of 12 total taps). Given the diminutive brew system and their popularity, it must be a challenge for brewmaster Patrick Gangwar (formerly of Kindred and Jackie O’s) to keep his beers on the board. On Saturday they were pouring a Cream Ale (Old Gregg), a Porter (Outpost), an Irish Red (Shenanigans?) and a New England Pale Ale (Computer Games). If you are the kind of person who’s into novelty it would be hard to top Computer Games, a hazy, hoppy pale ale made with smoked malts. What a curious combination, and based on this single data point not one likely to catch on anytime soon. The Vietnamese food at the adjoining Mai Chau is great, my bahn mi sandwich came at just the right time.
The planned itinerary was a bit too ambitious for much of the group but in the true spirit of exploration a small group of us continued our Licking County adventure by heading to Dankhouse Brewing in Newark. The journey from Three Tigers to Dankhouse takes you past the VFW lodge and an Eagles club (we contemplated stopping but didn’t because I was concerned that while we might be able to close out our tab, we could never leave). The brewery is housed in a medium sized white cinder block building located amongst the trees on the outskirts of Newark. As we exited the car, the enticing smell of barbecued meats immediately grabbed my attention. The smells were emanating from a food trailer set up outside the front door. It might have been a good thing our party had shrunk to four, because the place was buzzing and there weren’t many seats to be had. Similar to Three Tigers the draft board was mostly guest taps, almost all Ohio-brewed beers to their credit, but did feature three Dankhouse IPAs – Super Fantastic, A Dose of Citra, and Abba Zappa. To my palate the Super Fantastic was the best of the bunch – fruity and dank from generous helpings of new world hops, golden with decent clarity, and a crisp clean finish. The other two beers were both hazies. Of the two Abba Zappa, featuring Zappa hops (new to me), was the better pick.
I have to admit I don’t know much about Heath, Ohio. It seems like a good place to eat at a chain restaurant or possibly build a jet airplane, but to me a visit Homestead Beer Co. is the only legitimate reason to go to Heath. Unlike the previous two stops, which are really bars that have a small brewery, Homestead is a full on production brewery with a taproom. With a flat cap and a stylish mustache the bartender channeled the old-time vibe that used to be more prominent in the Homestead branding. No guest taps here, and no questionable beers either. There are typically 8-10 tap handles, typically focused on American-friendly styles. The thing about Homestead that always gets my attention are the prices: Pints run you $4-$5, and 64 oz growlers of most beers are $9-$10! I’ve been impressed with Homestead’s lagers in the past so I opted for a pint of White Elephant Pilsner, and was not disappointed. For a while I lingered in the brewing area, where the only TV is located to see Gonzaga go down to Texas Tech. To finish the day Ralph (Wolfe) bought me a snifter of the Bimini DIPA. My senses might not have been at their sharpest at that point in the day, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that we saved the best for last.