Willoughby Brewing keeps climbing towards the top of the list of the best breweries in Northeast Ohio. Since new ownership took over in January 2011, quality and consistency have skyrocketed. Willoughby's latest beers are among their best. Supernova Double IPA debuted in February to celebrate the brewery's 15th anniversary. This 10-percent ABV monster is loaded with Centennial, Columbus, Simcoe and Cascade hops and a complementary (but not too substantial) malt base. Their latest offering, Perfidia Pale Ale, was just tapped. Perfidia features Ahtanum hops, a Yakima Valley variant that lends floral and piney notes to the beer's medium bitterness and clean finish.
In addition to crafting tasty new brews, Willoughby was the only Ohio brewery selected for Savor 2013, the Brewers Association's annual "craft beer and food experience." Savor will be held on June 14-15 in New York City. Two hundred breweries entered a lottery to participate. Only 60 (including Willoughby) won the chance to pour two beers. Each beer will be paired with a sweet or savory appetizer selected by culinary heavyweights with extensive beer-pairing knowledge. Willoughby is bringing their Cosmic IPA and Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter. Rick Seibt, director of brewing operations reported "We didn't think we could bring Cosmic IPA until Oskar Blues sold us a box of hops for it. Since they are Southern Hemisphere hops, our contracted amount won't arrive until June." Cosmic IPA is brewed with Australian Galaxy hops, known for intense citrus and passion fruit aromas. With great beers and national exposure, Willoughby's star will continue to rise.
Fat Heads is closer to opening a tasting room at their Middleburg Heights production brewery. Head brewer Matt Cole was kind enough to offer a quick preview of the 22,000-square-foot facility. Upon entering the building, guests are instantly enveloped by the sounds, sights and smells of a working brewery. Several tables line the wall while a waist-high railing defines the public space and serves as a nice place to set down a beer and observe the operation. A giant mural spans the entire north wall, connecting the public and production spaces and warming the warehouse. The bar has a "jungle meets industrial" vibe complete with decorative spears and hop vines. Guests will enjoy views of the bottling area, the rows of 130-barrel brite tanks and even the BrauKon brewing system Fat Heads purchased from Tröegs Brewing. The air is filled with the smell of hops and barley, especially when Head Hunter IPA is brewing. Look for an opening date announcement soon.
Athens-based Jackie O's is distributing beer to draft accounts in the Northeast Ohio area. Head brewer Brad Clark first fired up the 20-barrel brewhouse in Jackie O's brand-new production facility in early February. After a little fine-tuning, the beer was deemed ready to fill pint glasses and beer bellies all around the state. So far, Mystic Mama IPA, Firefly Amber, Razz Wheat and Chomo-lung-ma have appeared in Cleveland-area taprooms and growler fill stations. Clark and owner Art Oestrike plan to distribute their beer in cans in 2013, but it may be a while before you see anything other than draft in the Cleveland area. Jackie O's is best known for their small-batch beers and beer release parties, which routinely feature up to 30 different house-made, barrel-aged, sour and experimental brews. Their seven-barrel brewpub opened in 2005 in downtown Athens, and then expanded in 2008 to include a restaurant.