With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
In case you missed the last 34 states, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. Having left the N states behind, we’ve made it all the way to the 35th edition of our list, The Buckeye State, Ohio. Their nickname is derived from the tree of the same name, known by local native tribes as the hetuck. But the nickname didn’t really stick until William Henry Harrison ran for president in 1840. Those opposing him claimed he was “better suited to sit in a log cabin and drink hard cider,” and was thus dubbed “The Log Cabin Candidate,” choosing a campaign logo of a log cabin made from buckeye timbers and adorned with strands of buckeye nuts.
Ohio ranks 7th in total population (roughly 11.6 million), is ranked 10th in population density and houses 143 craft breweries as of 2015 (an increase of 98 since 2011) who are represented by the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. The state ranks 12th in total breweries (including D.C.) and 27st in breweries per capita as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.
The state’s official brewing history begins not in its largest city, Columbus, but in Cincinnati, as the first production brewery was opened by Englishman Davis Embree, in 1812. Then in the 1830’s the first waves of German and Bohemian immigrants began to settle, then brew in neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, near the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland and The Brewery District of Columbus.
There were so many breweries and such a flourishing industry in these three metro areas that it’s actually hard to find resources that cover the entire state. And over time, even before prohibition and the general dominance of the largest national brewers, Ohio breweries were constantly merging, changing ownership and competition was fierce.
The Mid-1800’s saw the opening of brewers that persisted through Prohibition and into a time of mergers and closings. Hudepohl Brewing (1885-1987, later merged with Schoenling in 1986 and bought by Samuel Adams in 1996), Bruckmann Brewing (1856-1949) and Burger Brewing (1880-1973) were the biggest players in Cincinnati. In Cleveland, Pilsener Brewing (aka Duquesne, Schmidt 1892-1984), Standard Brewing (aka Schaefer, Schmidt 1904-1972) and Carling Brewing (originally Brewing Corporation of America 1933-1971) were the most prominent brewers. Although Columbus’ 6 major brewers consolidated in 1904, they were unable to persist through Prohibition, ceasing all operations in 1923.
The rebirth of brewing in the state began in Cleveland with it’s first new brewpub and craft brewery opening in 1988, Great Lakes Brewing. Still the largest in the state and now 21st largest independent brewer in America, they produce in excess of 160,000 barrels annually and have won 10 GABF medals.
8 More Ohio Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Columbus Brewing (Columbus) – The second oldest brewery in the state, also opening in 1988, Columbus has become a go to location for some of the best IPAs around. Known for their GABF medalling Bodhi and Creeper Double IPAs, they’ve created over 110 styles and just recently opened a brand new facility on the west side of town.
Fat Head’s Brewery (Cleveland + Middleburg Heights) – Originally founded in Pittsburgh in 1992, currently with 4 locations including Portland, OR and now headquartered in suburban Cleveland, Fat Head’s has garnered the most GABF medals of any brewer in the state with 19. Known for their whimsical style and pub atmosphere, their IPAs (Head Hunter and Hop JuJu) and over 300 recorded styles, you can’t go wrong here.
Hoof Hearted Brewing (Marengo) – Only open since 2012 and located in a small town north of Columbus, Hoof Hearted is more than just a stinky play on words – they make excellent Pales, IPAs and Double IPAs. In 5 short years they’ve already created over 86 styles and are known for their outlandish beer names (Mom Jeans, Konkey Dong, etc.) and comical cartoon label art.
Hoppin’ Frog Brewing (Akron) – Known for their killer line of Imperial Stouts (B.O.R.I.S., D.O.R.I.S., etc.) this 11 year old brewery is one of the most award winning in the state. One of ratebeer’s Top 100 Brewers in the World for 6 straight years, Hoppin’ Frog’s excellent line of barrel-aged delights, IPAs and experimental concoctions are certain to knock you off your feet.
Jackie O’s Brewing (Athens) – Proudly brewing in Athens since 2005, Jackie O’s offers possibly the most diverse lineup of beers under one roof that you’ll find anywhere. Over the past 12 years, they’ve created over 400 styles, but are best known for their Imperial Stouts, fruited sours and experimental takes on European styles. Not to missed if you’re in the Southeast Region of Ohio.
MadTree Brewing (Cincinnati) – Only open 4 years this month, MadTree has already created over 170 styles of beer. While not exactly pigeonholed as relying on only a few styles, some of their top rated beers are Double IPAs (Galaxy and Citra High) and barrel aged versions of their Axis Mundi Imperial Stout. With a dizzying array of Kolschs, Goses and IPA’s there’s something here to enjoy for every taste.
Rhinegeist Brewing (Cincinnati) – Setting up shop in the old Moerlein Bottling plant in the aforementioned Over-the-Rhine district in 2013, their name literally means “Ghost of the Rhine.” As arguably the fastest growing brewer in the state, they too have already cooked up around 150 styles, but unlike their in-state brethren, their focus lies more upon lighter sessionable styles including a wide variety of Pales and IPAs.
Thirsty Dog Brewing (Akron) – Located in this famously industry town of Cleveland, Thirsty Dog has been one of the most award-winning brewers in the state since their inception in 1997. They’ve been awarded 9 GABF medals in that span and are known primarily for their dark, sweet and often barrel aged Scotch ales and Imperial Stouts. They’re about to open a new taproom in the former Burkhardt Brewery space from the 1800’s
Find More Breweries in Ohio. Check out this awesome map at Ohio.com.