Fat Head’s Keeps Serving Up Award-Winning Craft Beer
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By Jim Cyphert, Mahoning Valley Flight Crew
A little quality time at Youngstown’s OH WOW! Children’s Museum resulted in something the Mahoning Valley Flight Crew truly cherishes: A personalized tour of one of Northeast Ohio’s most popular breweries.
Roger Gillespie, Brian Long and I volunteered at OH WOW!’s Science of Brewing event last month. I was fortunate enough to be teamed with Fat Head’s Head Hop Dealer Jay Maratta.
Jay brought the brewery’s two most popular brews — Head Hunter IPA (one of my all-time favorite IPAs) and Bumble Berry blueberry honey ale. Both beers were a big hit and both are big sellers here in the Mahoning Valley and across Ohio.
Not many people realize just how many craft beer honors Fat Head’s has achieved. The tally is nearly three-dozen awards at events like the World Beer Cup, the Great American Beer Festival, the National IPA Challenge and the West Coast IPA Fest. We’re not talking about participation trophies here — many of the awards are Grand Champion and Gold. And the competition is some of the best beers in the world.
When Jay asked if we’d be interested in stopping by the production brewery in Middleburg Heights for a visit, we said yes before he even finished the question.
When we arrived, we chewed the fat with Jay and Head of Beer Strategery Bill Wetmore. Bill said that Fat Head’s puts its focus on extraordinary beer, and the brand is intentionally not pretentious — after all, that wouldn’t be what craft beer is all about.
Bill said Fat Head’s produces most of its beer at the production brewery in Middleburg Heights. The 35,000-square-foot brewery produced about 25,000 barrels of beer last year, most of which was Head Hunter and Bumble Berry.
In 2018, Fat Head’s will move to a new brewing location in Middleburg Heights – a $12 million, 125,000-square-foot facility capable of producing as much as 60,000 barrels of beer annually. The brewery projects sales of about 32,000 barrels of beer this year, and will be poised for future growth.
Fat Head’s Saloon opened in Pittsburgh in 1992 and is known for its selection of craft beer and large sandwiches. In 2009, Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon opened in North Olmstead.
Fat Head’s opened the current Middleburg Heights brewery in 2012. It supplies beer for the restaurants, and has bottling and kegging operations for widespread distribution. Fat Head’s opened a brewpub in Portland, Ore., in 2014.
The brewery will open a brewpub in Canton later this year, and there are plans for another brewpub in Charlotte, N.C.
The new brewery in Middleburg Heights will feature a 250-seat bar and restaurant, and a new pilot brewery, bottling and packaging equipment, and a distribution center.
During our visit to Middleburg Heights, we had plenty of choices. But these are the beers that made the greatest impact on us:
Sunshine Daydream Session Ale (4.9% ABV, 60 IBU)**
“The days are shorter, and the outside air is noticeably cooler, which is Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that summer is slipping away. It won’t be long before residents of Northeast Ohio will start daydreaming of sunshine. Thanks to Fat Head’s, we can enjoy sunshine all year long, with the award-winning Sunshine Daydream Session Ale.
“This session IPA poured out golden clear in color and popped with fruitiness ...with tastes of both orange and lemon present. The hop aroma and crispness of its finish, makes this the type of IPA that you can consume one after another. And with a relatively low ABV of 4.9%, by craft beer standards, I think you’ll find that you can’t have just one...which is why this session ale can also be referred to as an ‘obsession’ ale. Enjoy!”
Black Knight Schwarzbier (5.3% ABV, 22 IBU)
“Three of my all-time favorite beers are brewed by Fat Head’s — Head Hunter, Hop JuJu and Super Juicy Hop Juju. These guys really know what they’re doing when it comes to IPAs. But in tasting Black Knight, it’s clear that Fat Head’s gets it when it comes to black beers, too. This one’s a two-time silver medalist at the Great American Beer Festival.
“Black Knight has a lighter body than traditional black beers, with a great hop finish. Lighter than one would expect but deep in flavor, notes of coffee and chocolate are detected in this sweet, dark malt. This is a well-balanced beer. I — and the judges from the Great American Beer Festival — recommend you give it a try.”
Tweaked Out Hippy Sippy Imperial Stout (9.9% ABV 59 IBU)
Spooky Tooth Imperial Pumpkin Ale (9% ABV, 22 IBU)
“As the Flight Crew member who will drink stouts year round, getting ahold of these two gems in August was exciting. For those of you who love them when the chill starts to hit, get them while you can.
“The Tweaked Out Hippy Sippy is a fantastically flavorful stout made with Cleveland Rising Star Roastery Sumatran coffee beans, Madagascar vanilla and cocoa nibs. The result is a smooth-drinking stout that’s creamy with no bitterness. The higher ABV will definitely warm you up.
“Spooky Tooth is one of my favorite fall pumpkin beers. It’s basically grandma’s pumpkin pie in your mouth. All the great spice flavors and sweet pumpkin hit your palate first, followed by that great malty finishes that leave hints of pie crust in your mouth.
“As we start to raise the thermostat in the evenings or sit out by a fire, either of these beers will help to take the chill off.”
Head Hunter IPA (7.5% ABV, 87 IBU)
“Head Hunter IPA is a real treat for hop heads throughout the land. It carries 87 IBUs with an ABV of 7.5%, which offers a nice little hop slap for the IPA purist. This truly is one of my favorites. This beer is also among the favorites of many craft beer lovers, judging from the numerous awards it’s won over the years.”
Goggle Fogger German-Style Hefeweizen (5.5% ABV, 18 IBU)
“I’ve found myself favoring Hefeweizens, since they seem to be on the lighter side of things. The Goggle Fogger is one of the better Hefeweizens I’ve had. With an IBU of 18 and ABV of 5.5%, it has a very subtle sweet and yeast aroma, followed by a clean, fruity and light spice finish.”
Sunshine Daydream Session Ale (4.9% ABV, 60 IBU)
“Summer may be just about over, but lucky for us, this session IPA will continue on. Sunshine Daydream is one of many you can find year-round from Fat Head’s. It’s a very refreshing beer, with a nice mix of tropical fruit flavors and a smooth hoppy finish. This one checks in at 5% ABV with an IBU of 60. Sunshine Daydream is the fastest-growing Fat Head’s offering. It was crowned Grand Champion at the National Session IPA Challenge.”
Our bottom line: Fat Head’s gets twelve thumbs up from the Flight Crew. Plus, we got an invitation from Jay to tour the new brewery when it opens. You know we’ll be there!