From the state that brought the world the light bulb, the airplane, the pop-top can, and Life Savers, Ohio’s knack for fostering creativity finds its way into the many dimensions of craft beer brewing. The Buckeye State is also home to the world’s first craft beer hotel, the nation’s only production brewery housed in a museum, a brewery that sells cask beers in a box, and another that brews with the most fruit in the U.S.
Ohio offers beermakers an advantage: It’s one of the states that can brew with fresh hops, grains, produce, and spices grown within its borders. The 250-mile Ohio Brew Trail stretches from the Ohio River to Lake Erie and includes hundreds of craft breweries. Craft beer enthusiasts can soak up the unpretentious Midwest brewery vibes and discover unexpected surprises, from tasty tweaks of traditional styles and brilliant brewery collaborations to experimental brews that push the envelope on tradition.
Here are eight of our favorite stops along the Ohio Brew Trail.
1. Rhinegeist Brewery
Embracing the beloved beer making tradition brought to Cincinnati by German immigrants in the 1800s, Rhinegeist Brewery launched in 2013. Helping to spark the renaissance of the city’s now-hip, historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and Brewery District, Rhinegeist expertly bridges the gap between traditional and trendy. Available year-round, the brewery’s Cheetah Lager and Whiffle Witbier honor time-tested European styles. Meanwhile, the top-selling flagship Truth IPA delivers on the brilliance of four hop varieties. The lineup rounds out with the Cidergeist line as well as fruited sour ales (many on the lighter side of the alcohol-per-volume scale) as well as more muscular, award-winning, barrel-aged ales. For something different, schedule a Brewing Heritage Trail tour to experience nearby breweries, underground lager cellars, and more.
2. Urban Artifact
Located in the historic Saint Patrick’s Church in Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood, Urban Artifact is a brewery, taproom, dog-friendly courtyard, pizza kitchen, music venue, and radio station. Not your grandfather’s pub, Urban Artifact crafts beers with a focus on locally caught wild yeast and bacteria, and sour tart beers, each made with loads of fruit sourced from near and far: Vietnamese lychee, Brazilian yellow mombin, Pacific Northwest berries, Michigan cherries and blueberries, and Florida citrus. In fact, Urban Artifact uses more fruit than any other brewery in the country. Choose from offerings that range from its 5-percent ABV fruit tart seltzers up to and including Astronaut Food, an explosion of blueberries that packs a punch at 15 percent ABV. Stop in to quench your thirst and listen to live music almost every night.
3. Carillon Brewing Company
Located on the Carillon Historical Park campus in Dayton, Carillon Brewing Company is the only licensed brewery in the U.S. owned by a museum that sells its product to the public—and the only U.S. brewery replicating the brewing process of the American frontier. Engage with brewers as they recreate the beers favored by the European immigrants who settled in Dayton in the 1850s. With wood as the only fuel, the period-attired brewmaster and crew expertly operate the multi-tiered, gravity-fed brewing system with no automation, using recipes found in old homemaking guides and cookbooks. Look for seasonal flavors, such as squash or spruce ales, alongside coriander ale and porter, available year-round. The food menu includes European and American fare. Admission to the brewery is free.
4. Branch & Bone Artisan Ales
When Branch & Bone announces a new beer release, Dayton beer enthusiasts mark their calendars and schedule pickups. It’s what you’d expect from a brewery named one of the 10 Best New Breweries in America by USA Today in 2020. In the taproom, you’ll find creative versions of go-to styles, such as the Campfire Candle, an 11-percent imperial milk stout described as “S’mores in a glass.” But the brewers’ ultimate passion is for the funky stuff—sours, saisons, mixed-fermentation, and alternative-fermentation beers. Indulge in something like Seasonal Friend, a carrot cake Berliner Weisse brewed with carrot juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, lactose, vanilla, and cream cheese. When suitable beer styles are available, Branch & Bone offers cask beer in a box for purchase.
5. Yellow Springs Brewery
Tucked away in the quaint and colorful village of Yellow Springs, Yellow Springs Brewery offers a different kind of taproom vibe. Here, area artists’ work decorates the space, but you won’t find a television—all the better for lively conversation and watching bicyclists rolling past the beer deck on the adjacent Little Miami Trail. Try year-round favorites such as the Boat Show India Pale Ale, featuring tropical fruit and citrus hop notes, or Captain Stardust, an eminently drinkable saison. Or look for something exotic, such as Between the Shadows, a black IPA collaboration with Branch & Bone Artisan Ales featuring rosemary and black pepper. Yellow Springs Brewery also serves wines and beermosas—a beer-based twist on the traditional brunch favorite.
6. Columbus Brewing Company
One of Ohio’s largest and oldest breweries, Columbus Brewing Company (CBC) was founded in 1988 and is known for testing the bounds of IPAs. From among the 24 taps, a good bet is the classic flagship IPA with notes of grapefruit, pine, and tropical fruit. For more hoppiness, move on to the award-winning Bodhi double IPA, which highlights Citra among a unique blend of hops. Despite its longevity, CBC isn’t resting on its laurels, but instead continues to innovate. Check out the Insane Wanderer series, a rotating experimental IPA that explores the wide spectrum of hops and what each variety brings to the flavor profile. The end goal, Volume 10 in the series, is history, but the brew master promises to continue with exciting new series developments.
7. Fat Head’s Brewery
Fat Head’s Brewery in Middleburg Heights gives beer lovers 33 great reasons to visit—one for each of the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup medals the brewery has garnered since its founding in 2008. Start with the award-winning flagship, Head Hunter, an aggressively dry-hopped, West Coast-style IPA with flavors of pine, grapefruit, citrus, and pineapple. Or sip on Bumble Berry, the state’s number one fruit beer, for the taste of spring honey and fresh blueberries. Master brewer and co-owner Matt Cole is known for churning out batches of beer experiments with interesting new twists on hazy IPAs, barrel-aged brews, hard smoothie seltzers, European lagers, and more. Hold out for Fat Head’s if you need more than liquid nutrition. Oversized smokehouse sandwiches are the headliners, with appetizers, burgers, soups, and non-meat options as the supporting cast.
8. Great Lakes Brewing Co.
When brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway established Great Lakes Brewing Co. in 1988, they blazed a trail for dozens more craft breweries and boosted the revitalization of Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. Start your brewery exploration with the original brews, including the 16-time medal winner Dortmunder Gold, an easy-drinking, sweet-malt and dry-hopped lager. The malty Elliott Ness amber lager was named for the Cleveland prohibition agent who became the city’s safety director. Waistline watchers will appreciate a newer release, the 105-calorie Crushworthy Lo-Cal citrus wheat ale. In season, try a Christmas Ale, an Ohio tradition with warm ginger, cinnamon, and honey flavors. Much of the produce Great Lakes uses in the brewery and restaurant comes from its plot at Pint Size Farm, an historic farm located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.