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The Cleveland Craft Beer Report

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Alchemy Hour is over. Great Lakes Brewing Company has officially renamed its successful seasonal from Alchemy Hour to Chillwave Double IPA. In February, shortly after the beer debuted, Great Lakes was contacted regarding a naming conflict between Alchemy Hour and Widmer Brothers Alchemy Pale Ale. The two parties reached an agreement and Great Lakes promised to rebrand the offending beer for any future releases. While the name has changed, the recipe will remain the same and the juicy flavor from the blend of Mosaic, Nugget and Cascade hops will continue Alchemy's legacy. Chillwave will be released in March 2014. Around the same time, Fat Heads will release bottles of its Great American Beer Festival gold medal winning Hop JuJu Imperial IPA for the first time. Between these two highly anticipated releases, late winter is looking like a hop lover's dream!

In the meantime, cold weather calls for stouts and strong ales, especially those aged in bourbon barrels. There's something special about the way the bourbon and oaky, vanilla flavors pair with higher ABV beers to create a flavorful, highly nuanced delicacy. Great Lakes will release its critically acclaimed Barrel Aged Blackout Stout on Monday, Jan. 20, at a ticketed event in its production brewery. Barrel Aged Rackhouse Ale also will be flowing from the taps, alongside other vintage and specialty offerings. Twelve-ounce bottles of Barrel Aged Blackout will be available to ticketholders that evening, while remaining bottles will be released to the public in the Great Lakes gift shop the following morning. The beer used to sell out in a day but production increases have led to a longer window of availability.

Akron's biggest breweries also have embraced the barrel. Hoppin' Frog recently released two special versions of its most popular beers aged in rare bourbon barrels. BORIS Van Wink and Frosted Frog Van Wink both spent a few months in what owner Fred Karm calls "the most special barrels we've ever received." While the exact brand isn't disclosed, bourbon aficionados doubtless will pick up on the conspicuous clue in the brew's name. Thirsty Dog also just re-released a barrel-aged beer that garnered national attention when it first hit shelves in May. Barrel Aged Siberian Night Stout is available in four-packs while supplies last. The brewery also recently packaged special 1.5-liter "magnum" bottles of barrel aged 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale. Only 999 bottles were released and each is hand-numbered. Look for a barrel aged saison and some sour wood-aged offerings from Thirsty Dog in the upcoming months.

Alongside an exceptional selection of local beers, Ohio continues to attract the best breweries in the country, including Deschutes. Official details finally have emerged about the upcoming Ohio launch for the Bend, Ore., based brewery. Deschutes is the nation's fifth largest craft brewery, having produced more than 250,000 barrels of beer in 2012. A recently completed expansion almost doubled the brewery's capacity. Deschutes officially will enter Ohio on Jan. 24, but Winking Lizard will have two beers available on its World Tour starting Jan. 2. Rampant Brands, the craft beer division of Heidelberg Distributing Company, will handle distribution duties. Initially, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Inversion IPA, and Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale will be available in six-packs and draft. However, a slew of products were approved for sale in the state, including Chasin' Freshies IPA, Hop Trip Pale Ale, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Hop Henge IPA, Black Butte XXV Anniversary Imperial Porter, The Abyss, The Dissident, Obsidian Stout and Chainbreaker White IPA. These mostly seasonal specialty beers could appear on draft during the brand's launch or in packaged form in the future. 2014 looks to be another stellar year for Ohio craft beer!

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