The launch of NALDO (Nick and Llalan Drink Ohio: A Beer Escapade) was not an auspicious one. Our quite randomly-chosen first brewery, Royal Docks Brewing Co. in Canton, is nestled snugly in a strip mall. I realize there are plenty of great breweries located such, but I can’t help but feel weird enjoying a fine beer with Famous Footwear in spitting distance. Second strike against them: super bad music piped outside. Another strike: the super bad music is super loud inside. (You get a lot of strikes in this game.)
We quickly gave up trying to speak and gestured at each other futilely like angry, thirsty mimes. Fortunately our flight of six appeared quickly. The Tanglefoot IPA, the Her Majesty Sour, and the Baba Yaga Coffee Porter all got vigorous thumbs up.
Canton, Ohio, has a surprising number of breweries; like, more than one. In my home town of Mansfield, a town about an hour west and of comparable size, we are trained to lay scorn on Canton, which we know only as the home to the Football Hall of Fame. In Mansfield, we have the one brewery and zero Halls of Fame.
Nick and I headed toward the next Canton brewery. We made it to Scenic Brewing Co. quickly and safely, albeit a little sketched out by driving through an area of mining or drilling or something that looked ominous in the night.
At the brewery. we were two of five customers. Again we ordered a flight…and shortly we flew. Nick looked at me after tasting all the beers and whispered, “I don’t think I’ve had beers this bad at a brewery before.” This is big, an unprecedented statement. I opined they tasted smoky or perhaps chemically. Then I noticed the thin head on each was dark brown. We laid money on the counter and walked out as casually as we could in our haste.
In the car we both tried not to feel queasy and both chided the other for being overly dramatic. Later I gasped, remembering the sketchy zone we drove through — I could swear there were signs about the water, but maybe I’ve just watched too many X-files episodes. What is almost otherworldly and unnatural is that we both walked out on beers.
In my notes for the Canton Brewing Company it says, “hard as fuck to find.” This means 1) I was getting a little tight and 2) we managed to ask only really drunk people how to find the place. We eventually stumbled around a corner in the Canton Arts District — dotted with cute shops, bars, and even ice sculptures — and saw a block-long building with the words “Canton Brewing” emblazoned across its entirety. Ah.
Nearly frostbitten by this point, we walked in the door to expressions ranging from dread to outright hatred from the waitresses who wanted to start closing up. We promised to get our two flights of four and finish them by 10pm. And we finished with seven minutes to spare. Their Cascade Pale Ale and the Carpe Noctem Coffee Porter stand out, as did the humor and positive attitudes of the workers, who weren’t, in fact, ready to murder us and hide our bodies in the mash tun.
On the floor below, the Speakeasy Tap Room stayed open later. Nick and I sat at the bar, brewing equipment behind bars to our backs. The brewery has been operating since the 1880s and many of the beer names and decor reflect their history — including their wooden Indian-style tap handles. But that’s all right, because it’s history, right? (Go Tribe!) The large, brick-walled room was full of people and there were games to be played, including the ubiquitous Giant Jenga and the ubiquitous giant urge to topple it and run. But instead of playing games, Nick and I went through a flight of four new Canton beers and fell into the kind of intense discussion about the past tense that one can only have while on your fourth flight of the night.
Take-aways from NALDO Part 1:
1) Don’t judge a brewery on its location or on their music’s potentially injurious volume
2) There’s no shame in walking away
3) You will be generously rewarded for your persistence in reaching your goal
4) Canton’s not nearly as bad as we’ve all been led to believe