For the growing ranks of craft-beer fans, Jen’s Place Craft Beer Tasting Room in downtown Massillon is an oasis.
Jen’s Place, at 43 Lincoln Way E, is a tasting room devoted to Ohio-brewed beers, with Ohio wines and snacks rounding out the menu.
“We’ve been really well-received,” said owner Jen Doll. “We opened September 8, and we still have a ton of people coming in for the first time, telling us how grateful they are to have something like this in Massillon.”
Q. Is a tap room devoted exclusively to Ohio beers a unique concept?
A. “The last I counted, I was one of only five in the state. I was looking for a reason to differentiate myself from everyone else. Ohio has gone through a brewing explosion, but the retail side hasn’t caught up. People don’t have the ability to get to a lot of breweries. That’s where I come in—to get their names out there and draw attention to them.”
Q. How many draft beers do you serve?
A. “We have 16 taps. The majority of our kegs are sixtels, which are roughly five gallons so I can rotate them frequently. I want to make sure the taps have a lot of variety. We don’t want 14 IPAs.”
Q. What are some of the Ohio breweries you have featured?
A. “I’ve dealt with Rhinegeist, Urban Artifact, R. Shea, Little Fish, Collision Bend, Saucy, Terrestrial and some of the bigger ones like Jackie O’s, Platform, Thirsty Dog, Great Lakes. There’s so many new ones, it’s hard to keep up.”
Q. Do you serve beers from any of the local breweries?
A. “I have a keg from Lockport (in Bolivar) right now; they were part of the opening lineup. I have Royal Docks (from Jackson Township) in my cans-and-bottles cooler. You can drink them in-house or build your own six-pack. I have a ton of breweries; you can take home six different beers and try ’em all.”
Q. Do you find that craft beers are intimidating to some people?
A. “Yes, and we train our staff to offer recommendations and explain some of the styles to people who are new to craft beer. We’re trying to dispel some of those stereotypes that it’s all dark and all IPA. We definitely have craft beer that is on the lighter side. We have a blond ale from Jackie O’s called Ricky, and 96 percent of the time Bud Light fans will drink it and like it.”
Q. There’s a new brewery, Paradigm Shift, in downtown Massillon. The more the merrier, right?
A. “I’ve known Mike (Malinowski) for a few years. He’s spent a ton of time in my bar. He’s a great, great brewer, and he’s doing a great job. I think the fact that we’re only a couple of blocks apart is going to make Massillon stand out as a craft-beer destination. Downtown Massillon is going through an evolution, and we’re excited to be on the ground floor. It’s so walkable. I can’t wait for summer.”