The Cleveland Craft Beer Report

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A major expansion is underway at The Brew Kettle (TBK). On September 9th, the Strongsville production facility added five more 40-barrel fermenters, effectively doubling brewing capacity from 5,000 barrels of beer in 2012 to 10,000 in 2014. Installation is in progress and the tanks should be up and running by the end of September. The expansion tops off a year marked by big changes for TBK, including changes in ownership, operations and talk of additional brewpub locations.

Head Brewer Jack Kephart has been an integral force behind The Brew Kettle for more than four years and is excited to be a part of its the future. Kephart says that the added capacity could lead to distribution in a second state. “Our plan is to better cover Ohio and add distribution to Kentucky for any excess production,” he notes. Another new development is a plan for quarterly variety 12-packs. “In addition to our mainstay brands and seasonals, we will sweeten the package with a few brews previously unreleased in bottles.” Possibilities include customer favorites like Jackhammer Barleywine, Tunguska Imperial Stout, Strangeville Pumpkin Ale, Kitka Milk Stout, Black Rajah Black IPA, Mac Daddy Scotch Ale and maybe even some barrel-aged beers and sour ales down the road. “This will enable us to get some of our big beers out in the marketplace without fighting for added shelf space.” Kephart says the first variety box should see a February or March release.

The Brew Kettle is one of 19 Ohio breweries participating in the 2013 Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the country’s most prestigious beer competition. Eight Northeast Ohio breweries will attend: TBK, Fat Head’s, Hoppin’ Frog, Great Lakes, Willoughby, JAFB Wooster, Market Garden and Lager Heads. Breweries scurry in early September to submit their entries by the 9-13 deadline. What local beers will win this year? Nobody knows for sure, but that’s part of the fun. While most breweries never announce what beers they enter into the competition, several locals have brought home medals in years past with proven winners. Hoppin’ Frog BORIS the Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout (Gold: 2011 and 2008) and Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA (Bronze: 2011, Silver: 2010) are Northeast Ohio’s most decorated. Fat Head's also won Silver for Alpenglow Weizenbock in 2012, Gold for Battle Axe Baltic Porter in 2011 and Silver for Up in Smoke Porter in 2009. Hoppin’ Frog won Bronze for Naked Evil in 2011 and Gold for Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin in 2010. The Brew Kettle won Silver for Red Eye PA and Bronze for Jack Hammer in 2010.

A win at GABF can have a huge impact for any brewery, but regional outfits often benefit the most from the national spotlight. Such was the case for Cisco Brewers of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Cisco took the top spot in the 2012 Wood and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer category with Lady of the Woods, an oak-aged American Wild Ale. Lady of the Woods has great integration of flavor; a mild brettanomyces funk complements hints of tropical fruit and a tart finish to create a satisfyingly sour delight. The brewery has been working hard to increase distribution, and Ohio will be the next state. Not only is Lady of the Woods on Ohio's list of products approved for sale, but two beers from the limited Island Reserve series are also destined for the Buckeye State. Pumple Drumkin and Saison Farm House will accompany Winter Shredder, Sumer of Lager and Gose to complete a nice specialty line-up. Year-rounders Grey Lady Witbier, Sankaty Light Lager, Indie Pale Ale and Whales Tale Pale Ale should also appear on local shelves soon!

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