Beer Guide: Outside 270: Ohio breweries worth the drive

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Who would have ever thought beer would be as close-knit a business as, say, your regular farmers market? We've arrived in a special beer era where consumers not only go out of their way for great beer, but love seeing the faces of the folks who make it. If you're one of these interested connoisseurs, you know Columbus is burgeoning with microbreweries.

And, of course, we're not alone. With summer's firm grasp finally upon us, this is as good a time as any to load up the car and take the not-too-long trip (60 to 90 minutes) to one of the state's small(er) town breweries. Go out, see where some of your favorite supermarket crafts come from and check out the breweries that have yet to expand their distribution that far. Be sure to drive home responsibly.

Jackie O's

24 W. Union St., Athens

jackieos.com

Jackie O's legacy surely matches that of some Ohio's most distinguished breweries like Great Lakes or Thirsty Dog. That can be attributed to the variety and quality of beers it produces, doing so many brews so well that it's an on-point brand for hop and rye fiends alike. Besides direct access to Jackie O's pours, the Athens brewpub is in the backyard of Ohio University, whose student population provides the backdrop for the bar's "power hour" - $2 non-imperial drafts from 8-9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Be careful if you stick around the bar after scoping out the brewery.

HomesteadBeer Co.

811 Irving Wick Dr. W., Heath

homesteadbeerco.com

You might be able to see Homestead's bottles around town, but you'll want to take a trip out to Licking County to experience the full breadth of their offerings. They currently have close to 10 taps for your drinking disposal, most of which aren't hopped to oblivion and are brewed with the purpose of not getting you floored. Needless to say, this brewery jives best with those whose taste defies ultra-bitter craft beer trends.

Rockmill Brewery

5705 Lithopolis Rd N.W., Lancaster

rockmillbrewery.com

Rockmill has probably left the biggest mark in Columbus out of these non-central state breweries. From collaborating on boozy ice cream with Jeni's to meshing its tripel with the oak whiskey barrels at Middle West Spirits, Rockmill has a firm grounding in our city. But trying it here is different than trying it in the tasting room there, away from the bustle of the city and close to the water from which they actually brew their beer. They even encourage you to stop by Katzinger's to pick up cured meats and cheese to enjoy with their brews, so Rockmill is basically begging you to spend a quaint day with them.

Warped Wing Brewing Co.

26 Wyandot St., Dayton

warpedwing.com

Unless it's coming from your Columbus transplant friend, we don't hear a whole lot about Dayton around here. Warped Wing makes the list for the sheer diversity of their menu: one can nab a coffee fruit-infused saison, followed by an oatmeal stout, an IPA and a sample of just about every other major variety of beer there is. If you go on a Sunday, you can attend one of their prescheduled tours before jumping into the tasting room for yourself.

Dayton Beer Co.

912 E. Dorothy Ln., Kettering

thedaytonbeerco.com

While you're in the Dayton area, the Dayton Beer Co. should be the other focus for your palate. Dayton's first microbrewery has gained recognition for its award-winning, small-batch brews as well as its comfy taproom. DBC is also thinking of the big picture - the brewery was just approved to build a 5,600-square-foot beer hall in downtown Dayton, which means more beer and more opportunity in the future to check in on Dayton's beer scene. The quantity of stores to purchase DBC brews is scarce in Columbus, so seriously, take the trip.

Brew Kettle

877 Pearl Rd., Strongsville

thebrewkettle.com

Brew Kettle has seemingly just gotten the distribution it deserves, with their beers now gaining real estate on the shelves of many neighborhood groceries (the hoppy, but not hearty, Four C's Pale Ale comes highly recommended). Of course, picking up a six-pack is probably (once again) nothing compared to actually going there - the brewery allows you to rent facilities to craft your own beer and boasts a full-blown smokehouse of barbeque delicacy. Located in Strongsville, it's a bit further out than the rest of these breweries, but with everything going on at Brew Kettle I don't think that's worth stopping you.