If you are a homebrewer or craft beer drinker, Akron’s Brew at the Zoo is a great place to go to sample the local craft beer scene. If you are a brewery, it’s a great place to easily sample the competition and to see what styles people like. My wife and I were finally able to get tickets this year as it is always sold out in the past. This year they added a few more sessions as it has been wildly popular the last few years.
Essentially the Akron Zoo is open to adults-only from 6-9 while about a dozen breweries represent under tents. You get a pass that they check everytime you get a sample. You can get pints too. You can then tour the zoo without your kids! With craft beer!
These reviews are in the order of my favorites.
Black Box Brewing – Westlake Ohio
This was my favorite brewery at this event. Though oddly enough, they don’t really have a website – it appears that they are part of a beer and wine store. The brewer told me that for now, they only keg.
I sampled all four that they had on tap,
2012 IPA – It’s an IPA. From my other posts, you know I am IPA’d out.
Cloud Nine Belgian White Beer – This was a good beer, not too much white though, and it was also a little more clear than I would have liked…possibly filtered.
Drumroll….here are my favorites:
Bockzilla – ABV 7.6%. I just made a bock a few months ago and have been scouring the market for bocks to sample. This one was just like mine except more alcohol and more maltiness. Very well balanced. Not a quaffer like mine, but definitely not a sipper. They had the only bock on tap.
Convent Crasher Abbey Style Ale – This was a great Abbey style ale without the strong ‘Abbey’ yeast profile. This was a dark amber beer with a peppery spicy finish. I loved it.
Lager Heads Brewing Co. – Medina Ohio
I only had one of their beers but the one I had was exceptional:
Bed Head Red – “Complex Ale with Caramel”. Yes. It IS complex. I wanted to sample this to compare to against my amber. It IS good. I loved it. It had many of the characteristics that my amber has, that lives up to it’s amber name but there was a lot more going on and in a good way. I would highly recommend this beer.
The Brew Kettle – Strongsville Ohio
Yeah, this is a brew-on-premise place with a restaurant and a production facility. I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up having their entire lineup:
Summer Soulstice, Belgium Style Wheat – Another good wheat, very raw and unfiltered (look at the pic) which made it stand out.
White Rajah IPA – I liked this IPA. It stood out a little more than others did with the citrus.
4 C’s Pale Ale – Another good pale ale with several hop varieties starting with the letter C.
Kitka Milk Stout – This was a nice and smooth stout. I wish there was time for more.
This place also impressed me as the VP was off to the left and was a very nice, chatty guy. He told me all about their operations, exactly what they did and even would have fit me in to do a brew.
I know, I know. But they had a few in the lineup that were ‘interesting’.
Shiner Ruby Redbird (from the makers of Shiner Bock) – This beer had grapefruit and ginger. It was good. I wish I had a pint to more fully evaluate. But it seemed to work and was the only ‘fruit’ beer there…surprisingly.
Griffin Cider Burley Man (Robust English Cider) – I am on a cider evaluation hunt since I have a few recipes. I really liked this cider. It seemed more natural and had some good tartness. I wanted a pint.
Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. – Akron Ohio
This was kind of a let down. It appeared that there were pour problems as there were unused foamy glasses everywhere.
Irish Setter Red – This beer, though it may have been good, was a downer as it was warm and flat. I really wanted to compare it against Bed Head Red from Lager Heads and my own amber.
Rise of the Mayan Dog, a Chocolate Honey Stout – This was a good stout and due to the style, less affected by temp and carbonation.
O’ Hoppy – This is an IPA. It was good. I asked about the status of the new brewery and it appears that it is still in flux. I am a fan of the Cardinal, but many of the other beers in the past have had issues as far as flavor and ‘gushers’. I hope with the new brewery that the quality rises. They have a great name and should be capitalizing on it.
Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus – Columbus Ohio
Heiferweizan – Another wheat amongst many. Good taste, true to style.
Stone Brewing Co. – Escondido California
Yes, even they were here which surprised me. I’m not sure if they were actually representing or it was through a distributor. Anyways, I had one of their new beers:
Matt’s Burning Rosids, Imperial Cherrywood Smoked Saison – Smoked and Saison should not be part of the same beer. Period.
Jackie O’s – Athens Ohio
Firefly, Amber – This is STILL not an amber. I tried this a few months ago and wrote that it may be an accidental pale ale and was misbottled. It still is.
Revolution Brewing – Chicago Illinois
Eugene, Porter with Chocolate Malt – A good porter. It’s hard to find good porters but this one works.
I actually wanted to try the ‘Rosa Hibiscus’ but they ran out. They can their beer like Jackie O’s. A recent NPR show discussed canning in the craft brew industry and that it no longer signifies ‘straw’ beer and is a lot less costly to start canning. Plus the cans are like a work of art anymore.
And the No Shows
Being Akron brewers, I was hoping Hoppin Frog and Trailhead Brewery would have represented. I mean…it’s Akron…homebase.
Great Lakes was there, but they had three of there main, classic beers. Hence I didn’t do Great Lakes. I wanted seasonal, even experimental beers.
SAAZ – Akron Homebrew Club
I met up with JP and Steve near the end, brew partners. Nice to meet and see you again gents. I think a Brew at the Zoo should feature SAAZ club member’s beers. That would be cool. (JP’s and Steve’s Blueberry beer they told me about would have been a perfect style at this venue – I can’t wait to sample some). These guys and gals make some GREAT beer.
Everybody had an IPA and a Wheat. The IPA’s and Wheats were mostly indistinguishable from each other. In this hot weather, there were no fruit beers. This is why I loved Black Box Brewing as the styles were solid, but for two of them nobody else had (the Abbey and Bock) but they did well.
What I learned
Make sure the way you give tiny samples is solid with no foam. This seemed to be a problem especially with Thirsty Dog. The Brew Kettle seemed to do well by bringing a portable 4-taphouse on wheels, but then dispensing it in pitchers before pouring samples. Doing it this way preserves the carbonation and keeps it cold. Most others had some combination of warm or ice bathed kegs going through jocky boxes.
What would have I served?
My Peach Wheat would have been PERFECT at this venue. I would have also had my Bock on tap. Perhaps a Rye IPA or RyePA – since this is a hot style. When I make a Jalapeno Pilsner, that would be a good one too. And for the fourth beer? The Saison.
Thanks to my wife for keeping the paperwork as far as what I had drank. She puts up with me.