The Canton Brewing Co. review: Mixing beer and history

Canton Brewing Co. has had an undeniable impact on downtown. The brewery and restaurant, which opened in its current form in 2015, dates its history back to 1883. It was founded by Bavarian immigrant Otto Giessen and went through different owners and incarnations until the onset of Prohibition in 1919.

3.9/5 stars

Jessica Holbrook taste-tests Scotch eggs, goat cheese salad, Brewer’s Burger, Mahi Sandwich, the Queen Margherita pizza and Pub Pretzels at the Canton Brewing Co.

Canton Brewing Co. has had an undeniable impact on downtown.

The brewery and restaurant, which opened in its current form in 2015, dates its history back to 1883. It was founded by Bavarian immigrant Otto Giessen and went through different owners and incarnations until the onset of Prohibition in 1919.

The brewery celebrates that history, both in its historically inspired brews and brick-and-wood atmosphere that features plenty of vintage advertisements and artifacts.

The massive space—a 5,000-square-foot restaurant and bar on top of the 15,000-square-foot speakeasy—is a great gathering place. The variety of cocktails and craft beer, combined with an expansive menu and loads of seating, lends itself to group outings. The underground speakeasy is a seriously cool space, with loads of seating and bar games, including corn hole and giant Jenga. And since opening nearly four years ago, the brewery has hosted plenty of special events from dinner with the brewmaster to paint nights to football watch parties.

Canton Brewing is just down the street from the About offices, making it an ideal lunch spot. After a failed trip on Monday (the brewery is only open Tuesday through Saturday), I grabbed a table around noon on a quiet Tuesday. The restaurant was nearly empty, emphasizing just how big the space is. The restaurant is anything but intimate, and wasn’t playing any kind of music or ambient sound when I visited, which made dining solo at a booth feel a little awkward. I’d grab a seat at the bar next time. Or, in better weather, the new sidewalk patio.

The Mahi Sandwich ($12.90) sounded perfect on paper. How could I turn down grilled mahi, roasted pepper and pineapple salsa and chili lime crema fraiche? But what sounded great in practice fell short in execution. The sandwich is served on a buttered pretzel bun—an odd pairing with the fresh, sharp flavors of the salsa—that absorbed all of the crema fraiche. The fish was well cooked but over-seasoned, with visible pieces of sea salt that overwhelmed the other flavors.

The sandwich came with a side of fries that were also perfectly cooked but excessively salty. I left nearly all of them on the metal pizza tray covered with paper that served as a plate.

I’m a big fan of craft beer, so I was eager to return after business hours and sample their selection.

I grabbed my husband, Dave, for dinner on a Thursday night. We also invited a few friends to join us, to give us a chance to use the space to its full potential and sample more of the menu and beer selection.

Canton Brewing offers three core beers—a crisp Tuscora Pilsner, hazy Cascade Pale Ale and Carpe Noctem Coffee Porter. It also has rotating seasonal taps. When we visited in October, the regular Carpe Noctem, my personal favorite, was replaced by a pumpkin-infused variety that I just had to try.

The beer was dark, spicy and warm, the perfect option for a blustery fall night. Our group enjoyed nearly every beer we sampled. And though I’m not typically a fan of pilsners, the Tuscora was light, drinkable and a great pairing at dinner.

The Scotch Eggs ($10.94) were a fun twist on the traditional British pub fare. The hard-boiled eggs were wrapped in chorizo sausage, breaded and fried, drizzled with an herb hollandaise and served with a few spoonfuls of pico. I loved the flavorful sausage paired with the more mild eggs and spicy pico. The hollandaise sounded interesting but wasn’t flavorful enough to stand out alongside the stronger flavors.

Soft pretzels are one of my favorite foods, and the CBC Pub Pretzels ($5.94) definitely delivered. The beer cheese sauce had an unexpected kick that I loved.

Dave opted for the Brewer’s Burger ($13.88), which featured bacon, buttermilk fried onions and barbecue sauce on a pretzel bun. He also added white cheddar. His burger arrived overcooked—he asked for medium rare and got something much closer to well-done, but still juicy and flavorful. The onions were on the soggy side—they just didn’t hold up to the barbecue sauce, but was still a nice addition to the otherwise rich components.

His fries were basically perfect without the heavy-handedness I experienced earlier.

The Goat Cheese salad ($12.94 plus a $3 up-charge to add chicken) was hands-down my favorite part of dinner. It combined mixed greens with grape tomatoes, red onions, Craisins, strawberries, candied almonds and balls of fried goat cheese and was served with a side of a fruity vinaigrette. The chicken was perfectly cooked, the vegetables were crisp and fresh—I was especially impressed by how good the out-of-season strawberries were—and matched well with the sweeter dressing and Craisins.

The creamy, mild goat cheese was the real star of this dish. I’ve never had goat cheese deep-fried before, but the soft cheese was a perfect candidate for that preparation. I’d happily order it again. Luckily for me, Canton Brewing also offers a Fried Goat Cheese Ball appetizer ($8.98).

Our group also split The Queen Margherita Pizza ($13.65), which came topped with olive oil, roasted tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and grated Parmesan. I’ve enjoyed Canton Brewing’s pizza in the past, it’s a great dish to order over beers in the speakeasy, but this time I came away disappointed. The components of the pizza were flavorful and fresh, but the crust was chewy and overcooked. It was almost a chore to eat.

Because that same pizza has been crisp and delicious in the past, I’m willing to chalk this one up to a bad night. Everyone has an off day.

Review

Taste: 3.5/5
Pretty hit or miss. The kitchen could use some quality control.

Service: 5/5
Our servers were quick, helpful and friendly, even when juggling a larger table.

Ambiance: 4/5
It’s a great space for a group but a little too bright and sparse for a more intimate outing.

Concept: 3.5/5
Pub fare with a twist, though nothing earth-shattering.

Pricing: 3.5/5
Prices are on the steep side, especially for sandwiches and fries.

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass