Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thirsty Dog Brewing Company

Photos by OHventures

529 Grant Street
Akron, OH 44311
(330) 252-BREW

I like dogs. I like beer. I like Ohio. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for me to like Ohio-made beer with a dog theme, right?

Enter Thirsty Dog Brewing Company. They've been concocting tasty beers since 1997. But only recently have they opened their very own Tasting Room, located right on site in the room next to where the stuff is brewed! It's in a nondescript building near downtown Akron and the University of Akron, with an entrance hidden away in an alley (come in groups, to be safe).

Inside, you'll immediately notice the alluring smell of freshly brewed hops as you make your way past the massive stainless steel vats and equipment. Be on the lookout for a beeping forklift driving throughout the warehouse, transporting hops to and fro. 

Turn to the right, and you've arrived at the tasting room - essentially a bar with high tops and every Thirsty Dog Brewing Company beer you can think of.

If you live in Ohio and pay attention to local craft beer even in the slightest, odds are you can name at least a couple of the Thirsty Dog varieties. Not only are the names super catchy and the labels really recognizable, the tastes are superb. In my opinion, they outshine other local favorites, including (dare I say?) Great Lakes (both are great, of course)

Most samples are just $1 a pop, so you can try out the flavors you might not be familiar with so you can find your favorites. Some specialty brews are $3 each (such as the sours, which are SUPER strong and, you guessed it, SUPER sour).
Here are some of my suggestions:
  • Labrador Lager: A classic. A staple. A safe bet. A winner.
  • Ol' Leghumper: Points for the crass name. More points for the chocolatey, toasty flavors.
  • Citra Dog: Hoppy + Citrusy = a perfect combo. Light & summery!
  • 12 Dogs Of Christmas: The best Christmas ale I've had (yes, I said it). And quite a strong one.
  • Barktoberfest: A great seasonal brew that will make you bark at the moon (not really I hope).
  • Raspberry Ale: No mistaking the raspberry-ness in this one! Try mixing w/ Leghumper for a chocolate covered raspberry delight!
  • Whippet Wheat: One of my all-time favorites. Goes down smooth. I can have a few of these.
  • Hoppus Maximus: You can deduce what this one will bring to the table based on the name.
  • Irish Setter Red: Another one of my top picks. Slight caramel undertones. 
  • Pumpkin Ale: I have not had this one personally, but no doubt it is delicious.
  • Cerberus: Named after the dog from hell, probably because it's 10% alc./vol.!
  • Ankle Biter: I love me a good IPA. And I own an "ankle biter" for a dog, so I enjoy this one.
  • Rail Dog: Lagers aren't my favorite, but this one is complex, smokey, strong, and unique.
  • Siberian Night: Bourbon barrel aged. Rich in flavor!
As you can see, there are plenty of tastes for every palate and every kind of beer drinker (if you have a friend who doesn't like beer, give them the raspberry ale or pumpkin ale, trust me). This list doesn;t even include all of your options.

A couple of pro-tips: prepare with a good base of food, since there are no menu options available at Thirsty Dog. Also, wear warm clothing in the winter, since it is a giant warehouse and it can get chilly inside. 

The bar is CASH ONLY (including the t-shirts and merchandise for sale) so, BRING CASH! Lastly, you can check out Aqueduct Brewing located within the same building on the other side (not affiliated with Thirsty Dog). Aqueduct is extremely new to the scene (opened in 2014) and still finding its way. But, I always encourage people to give local breweries a try!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kosicek Vineyards

Photos by OHventures

Kosicek Vineyards
636 Ohio 534
Harpersfield, OH 44041
(440) 361-4573

The newest winery in Ohio's "wine capital" of Ashtabula County is Kosicek Vineyards, located in Harpersfield (and pronounced ka-see-check). In an area where there is - almost literally - a winery found on every turn, it takes high quality vino to make one stand out from the rest. Kosicek, even in its infancy, most definitely delivers.

On a recent wine shuttle tour I took while staying at the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, our driver Don insisted that our first stop be Kosicek. He said that it is a fantastic up-and-coming winery that people HAVE to check out. Since it's not as well known as some of the bigger-name wineries (yet), he said he wants to expose as many people as possible to this great new spot.

The winery can be found on a beautiful estate, and is set far back from the main road, with lush vineyards going on for what seems like forever. The interior includes a striking brick fireplace, with high tops, bar seating, and even an inviting couch made out of re-purposed wine barrels.

Odds are, you will run into the owner of the winery, Tony Kosicek (who is a 3rd generation grape farmer), or his wife, Mauri (she served us at the bar on my visit). If so, be sure to ask if you can see the cellar. This is where the magic happens! Tony obliged when we visited and gave us a quick tour downstairs where the wine is made. It never gets old to see this process in action, and it is pretty cool that the Kosiceks let their customers get a peek behind the scenes. If you get the chance, do it (it is best to call ahead for a tour to guarantee a slot).

With $1 samples at Kosicek Vineyards, you can easily hone in on what your new favorites are! My personal favorite was the Pinot Noir, which was spicy with notes of black tea. For white wine fans, the Traminette is a winner with sweet honey and floral tones. The most popular seller at Kosicek is the Riesling, which is crisp and summery with flavors of peach, mint and citrus.

In the summer months, nothing beats coming here to sit out on the deck under the green and yellow canopy, overlooking the vineyards (they have live music and even yoga classes on the deck in warm months). But, in the winter, it's great to cozy up by the fireplace and sip on some juice.

Winter hours for January, February and March are: Thursday 12-6; Friday 12-9; Saturday 12-9; and Sunday 12-7.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Great New Year's Eve Race Recap

Photo by OHventures

"What are ya doin' New Year's Eve?"

This question, appearing as a lyric in a popular song of the same name, often has an answer involving parties, confetti and booze. Of course, all of those things were a part of my New Year's Eve 2014-2015 celebration, but what if I told you that I also incorporated a 5K into the mix?

It's probably not surprising to most people that know me or follow my blog that I managed to find a 5K on New Year's Eve - of all days! However, the fact that I was able to actually find a race that took place on NYE in the area was a testament to just how popular the running craze has become in Ohio! I wouldn't even call it a "fad" anymore, folks. Running and 5Ks are here to stay - every day of the year, even holidays. We don't take breaks!

The event I signed up and showed up for was the Great New Year's Eve Race, a 5K that takes place in Stow in Summit County (the same city where the Birthday Bash Dash took place) and is organized and hosted by the Summit Athletic Running Club (SARC), of which I am now an official dues-paying member!

My great friend Anna from undergrad at OSU flew in ALL the way from Colorado to ring in the new year, and it was actually HER idea to do a 5K race on NYE (I may have a reputation for running races, but I suppose it's rubbing off on my friends). 

Given that the race was to take place at 4PM, it meant that it would be done and over with early enough that it would not interfere with our celebratory plans later that evening in Canton. It also meant that the sun was out in full force (maybe that's a bit of a hyperbole). It was indeed warmer at 4PM than it would have been if the race was early in the morning, but it was still frigid as F!

Photo by SARC

The course was an "out-and-back" design, which I have not seen too often nor run much. But, I found that I actually really enjoy that type of run. The course was also really hilly. It's nice that we ran DOWN the hills on the first half, but became treacherous and grueling when we had to run UP the same hills on the second half (when we had less energy).

We did choose to walk a couple of times on the course. One reason for this was because the extreme cold was affecting our breathing! Secondly, those damn hills. 

There was no shame in walking at portions of the race and thus clocking in at just over 30 minutes. It was nice to be active and cap off a fantastic 2014 with a 5K. I think it made the midnight champagne taste THAT much better!