In 2017 my wife and I set out to complete the Summit Brew Path Tour and I am happy to say that we were able to live up to those expectations. Fourteen breweries in a little over five months. We broke the trek up into five different adventures that placed us in Wadsworth, Canton, Akron twice, and finally in Kent. For the most part the breweries that were part of the tour did a fantastic job at hosting.
This year the tour has moved into its second iteration and added six breweries to the mix, while subtracting two in the process. The addition of Hop Tree Brewing, The Brew Kettle, Headtrip Brewing, Ignite Brewing Company, Magic City Brewing Co., and McArthur’s Brew House makes the lineup pretty stellar. I’ve personally been to seventeen of the eighteen breweries on the tour, and I can say without a doubt that just about 90% of the breweries on the tour truly belong on the tour.
The breweries included on the tour could be ranked in five categories; perennial powerhouses, solid stops, great potential, Adequate, and Does not belong. We might as well take a look at the list and see how these eighteen breweries stack up in the Brewer of Seville ranking system.
The Perennial Powerhouses
The top two establishments on the tour are Thirsty Dog and Hoppin’ Frog. Both of these breweries put out amazing products every year and they never seem to disappoint. Thirsty Dog produces one of the best Dortmunder Lagers that I have ever tasted, in fact if you are currently a fan of Great Lakes Brewing Dortmunder I implore you to go to Thirsty Dog and order a pint of Labrador Lager. You won’t be disappointed. When you walk through the doors at Hoppin’ Frog you can literally order any beer from their menu and you won’t be disappointed. If you follow their Facebook page you can keep up to date on their special releases. Their shandy release is amazing, and if you’re lucky they will be serving their unbelievable beer shakes. I once had the blueberry shandy/birthday cake shake and it was Paradise. You may experience a little sticker shock at the Frog, but you will most likely agree that the beer was worth the price of admission.
This is really the meat and potatoes of this list. The members of the tour that reside here include R. Shea Brewing, Royal Docks Brewing Company, Canton Brewing Company, Magic City Brewing Company, and Wadsworth Brewing Company. You won’t be disappointed in any of the breweries listed in this category. Ron Shea is shaking things up in Akron with his small brew pub in the Merriman valley, while preparing to begin construction on his ultimate brew pub near downtown at Canal place. R Shea is one of those breweries very similar to Hoppin’ Frog and Thirsty Dog in that you can order almost anything from the beer list and be completely satisfied.
Royal Docks and Canton Brewing provide a great reason to head south to Stark County. Canton Brewing has a great speak easy that puts off a killer vibe and makes sampling a flight that much more enjoyable. Royal Docks is putting out great beer after great beer and it won’t be long until they join the Powerhouse category. If its on tap when you are there I would highly suggest Vlad the Impaler which is a 13% Imperial Russian Stout. Just make sure you have a driver if you do order it, because it will render your brain inoperable for a period of time.
Magic City and Wadsworth Brewing have progressed rapidly up the list. Both of these breweries are very young, and both are turning out some great beer. Both places have a really cool vibe and both places have very attentive staffs. At Magic City I would strongly suggest A Stout Has No Name and Unholy Grounds, which is a coffee blonde ale that is simply amazing. Wadsworth has a variety of good beer on tap, but my favorite is the beer floats that they offer throughout the summer. I have had a milk chocolate stout float and my wife had an apple pie a ’la mode float. Both were absolutely amazing.
The great potential category has some really good members that I can’t wait to see what they do in the future. Hop Tree Brewing, Head Trip Brewing, Two Monks Brewing Company, HiHo Brewing Company, McArthur’s Brew House, Mucky Duck Brewery, and Ignite Brewing Company all have the potential to be great breweries.
Hop Tree offers great beer, possibly the friendliest staff on the tour (next to Ignite), very affordable growler pricing, and some fantastic food. I would highly recommend trying the pulled pork sliders and the brew pub pretzel to go along with the fantastic beer. Head Trip is a very new brewery in the Stow area. It’s a smaller venue with high quality beer. They aren’t currently filling growlers and that is a bit of a bummer, but I imagine once they get their feet under them they will eventually.
McArthur’s is a small Nano brewery in Cuyahoga Falls that offers some darn good beer. Don’t let their size fool you, these guys make some good stuff including a Cherry Sour and a S’mores Coffee Porter. Mucky Duck has a pretty decent amount of their products being distributed throughout Northeast Ohio. I’m a big fan of their Mutha Mucka, a chocolate cherry porter, and Blue which is their Blueberry Ale. Their growler fills are a little pricey, and their service is a little slow, but if they can keep putting out quality products then they will be just fine.
This brings me to Two Monks and HiHo. While they aren’t at the top of the list yet I see good things coming for them. HiHo didn’t have one beer that blew me away, but they did have several drinkable quality beers. They also have one impeccable location overlooking the Cuyahoga River. Two Monks puts out some really good stouts, and in the opinion of my wife they have one of the best Radlers you will ever find. Both times we have been here we have gotten wrapped up in a few board games while enjoying our suds. It also helps a great deal that they have an extremely friendly staff.
Finally, in this category is perhaps my favorite up and coming brewery, Ignite. Don’t let the size of their current tasting room fool you, these guys are doing some good things. They are currently brewing on a 10-gallon system while they are awaiting the installation of their new brew house, but you would never be able to tell their system was so small based on the amount of beer they have on tap. The owners are extremely friendly and very engaging. I have been there three times and every time I am more and more impressed. Watch out because Ignite Brewing Co. is going to be doing some pretty awesome things in the future.
Ironically one of the breweries on the tour that I find Adequate is Aqueduct. Let me be clear that Aqueduct has some good beer on tap. I’ve had a few sours of theirs that I found to be very drinkable. They also make a good Pineapple Pils and a nice Lemon Shandy. The biggest problem in my opinion is space. The tasting room location is not very easy to locate, it’s a little rough on the eyes, and it’s a but tiny. I think the people that run the brewery are super friendly, and I think they have a passion for beer, but I think there are some extenuating circumstances currently making things a little difficult. I think this place has potential, but only time will tell.
I don’t have much to say on Mad Cap only because I have visited just one time and we didn’t stay very long. I had a coffee porter that was pretty good and the staff was very friendly. They do have a spacious facility that looks like it would accommodate growth so we will see what comes of them. I’m going out there this Saturday, so I’ll get to re-evaluate them.
Does Not Belong
There is only one brewery that is not equipped to be a part of this tour and that is The Brick Oven. I don’t want to attack or knock any of the participants of the brew tour, but the only positive thing I can say about Brick Oven is I have heard their deep dish is really good.
I have never been to the new Brew Kettle so I cannot give an accurate summation, but I have been to their Strongsville brewery and the beer there is pretty good so I would expect the same from the Brew Kettle Hudson.
Despite my ranking system I would highly recommend going on the Summit Brew Path tour in 2018. There is pretty cool 32oz. glass growler waiting for you at the completion. Doing this tour is also another way to get out and see some of the really cool things happening in this part of Northeast Ohio. The SBPH proves that all the good beer in Ohio isn’t coming strictly from Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Summit, Medina, and Stark county are significant contributors as well. Until next time, cheers!