If you love beer, you’re in the right place
I’ve never met a beer I didn’t like. Well, I have, but I drank it anyway. With so much variety available to beer enthusiasts around the area, I often don’t play favorites. Instead, I’ve found that I like to try whatever beer I haven’t tried before.
Now is a great time for beer lovers as the seasonal beers start to get darker and weirder. It’s the perfect time to go on a tasting quest as the end of the annual Oktoberfest brews (my favorite is Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen) give way to pumpkin beers (Southern Tier’s Pumking is a favorite) and the dark stouts of winter (I love all of them).
The first, and best place, to start your search in Stark County is at any of our local grocery stores. All of which have noted the rise in craft brewing and have expanded their selections in return. Many have regular tastings, which is a great way to find what you like without having to buy a bunch of different kinds. And, usually, an expert is on hand to point you in the right direction based on your individual tastes.
Another place to find variety is Erik’s Grocery Bag at 835 E Maple Street in North Canton. It boasts more than 1,100 beers, and I believe it. When you first walk into the store, it looks like any convenient store. Then you realize that all of the grocery shelves are stocked with beer. You can break up cases to buy individual bottles. If I’m not sure what I want to drink or just want variety, I head here for a random six-pack.
Of course the best place to taste great, new beers is at the source. There are a number of great breweries around the area. If you are looking for a good atmosphere and a variety of beers that don’t go to too many extremes, check out Canton Brewing Co., 120 Third Street NW in Canton. My favorite place in the area is Royal Docks Brewing Co., 7162 Fulton Drive NW in Jackson Township, which features a number of beers of all types. Though not for the novice drinker, my favorite is Vlad the Impaler, a dark-as-night Russian Imperial stout. Despite having a 13.1 percent ABV, it doesn’t drink like a glass of grain alcohol, but instead it maintains a smoothness full of flavor.
If you really are feeling adventurous, check out Hoppin’ Frog Brewery, 1680 E Waterloo Road in Akron. Its beer menu is deep—more than 50 beers on the menu at last glance. These are not beers for the faint at heart, but a good time for the enthusiast looking to taste something daring.
Keep your craft beer
Confession time. The whole craft beer craze is lost on me. Maybe that’s not the politically correct thing to say in the front of a magazine devoted this month largely to local breweries and their beer meisters.
I admit it: I am “that guy” to whom Budweiser is marketing with its drum-heavy pitch that’s basically declaring: “We waste more beer than those little guys sell.”
With some friends and relatives deep, deep, deep into IPAs, stouts and porters, I’ve gained an appreciation for the artistry of brewing something unique. Just not a taste for it.
Make mine—and usually one is enough—a fresh American or Canadian lager. With pizza or a burger. Or after mowing the lawn on a 90-degree day.
I will experiment occasionally. I’ve learned—through painful trial and palate-destroying error—to look for the IBU number associated with a beer. I know what it means and that if it’s anything above a single digit or so, that brew is better off in front of someone else.
I can’t wrap my head around all the exotic flavors, either, and have yet to find one remotely appealing. Does the world really need bubble gum-flavored beer? Or something “infused with hints” of sriracha?
Pine? Sure. Who doesn’t want to drink something that smells like a floor cleaner?
Maybe I’m just bitter about the 3,000 or so empty beer cans packed away in my attic—relics of the collecting craze of the 1970s and ’80s that never quite paid for my kids’ college educations. Really, honey, the stupid fad will make a comeback any day now. Our financial security lies just one Olde Frothingslosh away.
But, hey, the craft beer craze makes more sense than, say, paying $4.50 for a cup of coffee. I mean, imagine if any Americans did that?
Oktoberfest in September?
If I’m being honest, I have to tell you I’ve never understood Oktoberfest. This festival is 16 to 18 days long and stretches into the first week in October. If most of Oktoberfest is actually in September, shouldn’t it be Septemberfest?
It is merely a reason for us to consume more beer, as if any red-blooded American man needed a reason in a month that doesn’t make sense to drink beer. Drinking beer I understand. Drinking beer on a fall weekend night, I understand. Beer and fall nights go together like, well, s’mores and Bud Light.
Drinking these microbrewed beers concocted from recipes with hops picked from Uncle Charlie’s backyard is something I’ve never understood. Beers that are measured by IBUs—yes, International Bitterness Units—is a concept that my little mind and regular Joe taste buds never grasped. Bitter Beer Face is the same in Canton, Ohio, as it is in Canton, China. Who needs an IBU to say so? Little bitter beer faces on the sides of a bottle would be better understood.
With all due respect to local breweries, Anheuser-Busch has been brewing beers for 165 years and when Bud Lights taste seems out of style, Miller Brewing Company has been making beer for more than 160 years.
Those are staples, like ham and cheese. I’m pretty sure Bob the Brewer isn’t making anything for my liking better than either of those “domestics.”
And when I want an international flavor, I only trust the fellas who have been brewing beer longer than both of my domestic go-tos: Labatt Brewing Company. The Labatt Blue Light is a treat.
So during this Oktoberfest season, there’s a good chance you will find me around a fire on a neighbor’s patio enjoying company and one of my Oktoberfest beers in September.