A Beer-y Good Story: Akron, Ohio

Courtesy Akron Beacon Journal

R. Shea, 1662 Merriman Rd, Akron, OH 44313
Missing Falls, 540 S Main St, Suite 112, Akron, OH 44311
Hoppin Frog 680 E Waterloo Rd, Akron, OH 44306
Akronym Brewing, 58 E. Market Street, Akron, OH 44308

 So I was in the Adirondacks, Millie was in Nashville. This tradition started over 30 years ago, only I was in a different town every week or two, depending on bookings. We’re planning on retiring in the Adirondacks so I needed a small trailer I used to use on the road. It will help build a small storage area and take generators and a bike off to be service.
 We met close to mid-August. What do two married beer judges and craft beer fans do? Look to see what new brews are available via the web and sail forth to explore!
 We decided on four places. Of course NO WAY am I going to Akron and missing Hoppin Frog, the only curse being I couldn’t harass my friend, and owner, Fred Karm. Hoppin does a lot of extreme beers. Maybe it’s more what he brews? I mean I’m the guy who started and runs a BIG and Odd beer competition. You know we’re of a similar mindset when once we were talking about a low gravity, standard style, brew and Fred said, “Hoppin Frog just doesn’t swing that way.”
 Our first visit was to Akronym Brewing in downtown Akron. Luckily the parking garage has free parking Saturdays. Giant entrance with probably 20 offerings on a huge electronic sign. There were 15 listed on the website. I didn’t count but I’d bet there were more, close to 20.

Shawn Adams: head brewer. Courtesy Times Reporter
 There was little here not to like. OK, I liked the Scottish Heavy, I even complimented the brewer via the serving staff because, “Many Jim Beam brews end up more Jim than anything else. This is excellent: it’s subtle.” But Heavy Rubber? REALLY? He or she who named this, do you understand that’s not something you want in your beer? That a judge might give any brew with that sense a minus 14? OK, I jest: generally we stay 14 or above. But not something anyone wants in their beer. Some quaffers might avoid due to the name. I pray to the beer deities they don’t: it’s bloody good, minus actual blood… of course.
  According to the servers they have a 10 barrel system. The brewer is Shawn Adams. We sampled their English Barleywine: BBA Pervasive. Very appropriate caramel nose, not as much to the taste, a tad sweet and just a hint of higher alcohols: 11%. Their Proving Ground was exactly as advertized: hint hazy with stone fruit in background but a firm bitter It’s supposed to be a mix between west coast and NEIPA. Stout Summer was not all that sweet (Should be some: tropical stout), no vanilla bean sense but it did have the cocoa nibs sense and background of expresso. Except the sweet, well balanced. Awkward Handshakes was just a plain, well done, Double NEIPA; more hazy, more fruity, less bitter but still enough.
Courtesy cleveland.com
 The next stop was right around the corner: Missing Falls. It’s in an old brick industrial building among many industrial brick buildings, so it’s very easy to miss. We went around the block twice. They had as game on (soccer) so, for us, too %$#! NOISY! Big warehouse environment, hard walls, NOT for those with sensitive hearing.
Mango Rehab: very mango-y with a slight hint of habanera; a red quaff. Medium body and malty. Someone might think the habanera is the hop bitter. It’s not, dive in deeper your tastebuds will go into pepper tingle mode . I’ve brew a lot of hot pepper braggots and, I promise, slight is a GOOD thing. I’ve had too many, “That’s enough of that,” hot pepper brews. Abbey Robe: definitely had a clove character, also red. A little too clove: made you miss the rest of the brew. It’s there, just a tad too subtle, IMO. So the yeast is right, just a tad out of balance. There Be Dragons: just a simple red ale, only a tad darker. Waterfall: quintessential American IPA, west coast but on the lower side of the style bitter-wise. Despite the description which was filled with lots of hop-driven fruit sense. Udder Darkness: just a nice stout. Supposed to be “milk stout.” Not that sweet, or lasctose-y or… Waterfall was a classic IPA. Neither amazing nor problematic.
 Head brewer Mark D. Crnjak
Courtesy beeradvocate.com
R. Shea:: of the 3 new breweries we tried this one blew us away, except one very minor factor I will get to for a moment. It was a tad of a drive and you SWEAR you’re headed the wrong way to get there: very residential/suburbia-ish. It’s in a little strip mall-like building and I mean TINY, for that type of building.
 The only thing we didn’t like was some of the names. One was named after an element you add to tires for color: Carbon Black … really? I understand Akron is/was rubber city. However, offering no actual description of the beer style? What you have left makes the quaffs sound like they have bad defects. No one wants rubber in their beer.
 That annoyance spoiled NONE of R. Shea’s amazing brews. Peachy very peachy, Orange Mango Shandy perfect balance; not too much of any one sensation, Twitchy Bitch: great stout though not much peanut butter sense. Cocoa up front. What blew us away was Death by Milkshake Blueberry. WOW! The name says it all.
 Akron quaffers: be grateful! They’re only 8 barrels for now, but 20 barrels is on the way.
 A lot more breweries since last time I was in Akron, a great sign. But unless we wanted to get in trouble we had to go to our go to and then back to motel-ing.

 Akron icon: Hoppin Frog never disappoints. Of course Fred was probably off experimenting on aliens from the planet Watsawa: his treasured hobby… yeah I made that up. Saturday late afternoon and I expect the boss to be in? Silly me.
Tai One On was incredibly good. I had Toris which makes Boris and Doris seem almost like lite beer, in comparison. And they’re NOT. This is their
Fred Karm, after a successful day of brewing and alien experimentation. No, just the first.
hefty brew/Russian Imperial series. I love RIS. This is a triple oatmeal stout. They did have a barreled Scotch Ale but this was the only miss among hits. I thought I was picking pieces of barrel out from between my teeth. Balance is the issue, IMO.
 The room was around the corner and we left. I even bought a hefty porter… (Plum Tuckered Out Double Double Porter 16.8!) …to take with us and and Mango Turbo Shandy we were suitably impressed with for my beer tasting in Beaver River in a few weeks. Unlike most shandys that are very lemonade-based, this was more mango.
 We bought Mexican food for dinner and had the Plum Tucker-ed Out: true to its name we both fell asleep. Gee, wonder why?
 Akron has become yet another beer Mecca.
Courtesy R. Shea’s site. I think the servers were the same on our visit, except the long hair guy. He’s the brewer, I believe. Can’t wait for HIS yeast/hair concoction, ala’ Rogue’s beard Hair brew. Yeah, I’m joking, and his first name is Ron.

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A Beer-y Good Story is one of many Ken Carman columns. Ken Carman is a beer judge and home brewer who has been writing columns since 1972, about beer since the 90s, and interviewed many great brewers all over the east coast.