Nick & Llalan Drink Ohio, Part 1: Canton

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.)


Loudest Beers I’ve Ever Had

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. Continue reading

Hoof Hearted Brewing: Artisan Immaturity


Let me tell you about my Inflatable Time Machine

For my father’s birthday, we gave him essentially what every 21-year-old wants: his own pub crawl. I don’t mean to speak poorly of my father’s maturity, but he was thrilled. Because I was put in charge of planning this event — wisely or not — we went to a bunch of places in Columbus, Ohio, whose beer I dig. I almost got us all cheap matching Ts to have the bartenders sign at each stop, but in the end, saved us that embarrassment. Our first stop was the Hoof Hearted Brewing pub. (Go ahead, say it a few times.)

My friend Kate joined us again, and it probably goes without saying that my mother was the stoic, only occasionally disdainful designated driver.

so11We heard the brewpub long before spotting it. The thumping noise outside was incongruous with the generic architecture that seems to speak to whatever the newest batch of yuppies is called. Inside, the four-on-the-floor beat faded under dozens of ironic conversations between bearded and bespectacled hipsters. My clan slunk in, squarely, and wove our way amidst the crowd of afternoon drinkers, which was clothed entirely in thrift store T-shirts printed with slogans the wearers didn’t believe.

Phasion Phil

Phashion Phil, our waiter

We found a table outside where we could watch silly people exercising through the windows of the gym next door. We conferred about which beers to taste, trying to nonchalantly throw around names like Wet When Slippery, Mom Jeans, and Bulgin Musk. Then our adorable and slightly stoned waiter arrived and I tripped over Kill Wai-iti (say: KILL WHITEY!), a Belgian IPA and also ordered an Inflatable Time Machine, a sour. Kate was admirably adroit, ordering her Sidepipin, a farmhouse ale. My father, unsurprisingly, chose the DIPA, South of Eleven. Continue reading

Drink Local Ohio: Yellow Springs

My father, who fits in remarkably well in Yellow Springs

My father, whose long white hair is a kind of camouflage in Yellow Springs, Ohio

Spring has finally arrived in Ohio. I’m sitting in my bookstore with the door and windows open wide. Aretha plays on the stereo. Tiny white petals float in on the breeze and polka-dot the welcome mat. I can hear the voices of under-dressed Ohioans who walk down the street and fan themselves in the 60-degree heatwave. All this scene needs is a cold Ohio beer in my hand!

Recently I’ve decided to apply my big talk about buying local to my beer drinking and to take this hobby of mine more seriously. Time to really explore craft beers in my area. My little heart-shaped state is tiny, but Ohio has at least 109 craft breweries, which ought to keep me busy for a while.

On a recent brilliant blue day I drove down to Yellow Springs, Ohio, which is where Antioch College is, which is code for Warning: high hippy concentration (any way you read it). This blue dot in Ohio’s sea of red is packed with little shops — clothing, jewelry, and every form of currently trending anachronistic media (which is, of course, where I spent most of my time). All the stores had cats.

In the air is the smell of locally grown everything wafting from the cozy restaurants, freshly bloomed spring flowers, and patchouli. Creative, empowering graffiti covers any surface not painted in murals or pasted over with creative, empowering bumper stickers. Continue reading

For the Love of Ramen in South Dakota


An Ohioan would never search for how to make buckeyes, because it’s an inborn skill.

Okay, so things have been slow here on the blog lately, and I sat down today with a pure intention to write something serious, namely a rant about this article on school lunches that annoyed me greatly, blah, blah, blah. But when I went onto Huffington Post to find the article again, I stumbled upon this one, which is approximately eighty times funnier, and so I’m going to write about that instead and save the rant for some future day, possible a day when I have a school-aged child who eats lunch.

The second article was about what recipe, according to Google Trends, each state searches for the most frequently. It’s not very scientific, to be sure, but it does provide plenty of food for thought. What is Connecticut’s obsession with Moroccan chicken thighs, for instance? Are there really that many lobsters in Wyoming, or are Wyomans just so confused by them when they do show up that they have to Google what to do with them? Would Thomas Jefferson be proud that his fellow Virginians are searching for ways to make paneer above all else? I like to think so.

I was also a little surprised that cooks in my home state of Ohio are supposedly looking for recipes for spaghetti. You’ve got this, Ohio! Continue reading

Strip Clubs & Craft Beer: Keep It Classy, Ohio!

John Glenn, First Hunk in Space

John Glenn, Ohioan & First Hunk in Space

By now you know I’m pretty proud of my little heart-shaped state. Ohio has a long list of firsts that contributes to my high opinion. I mean, we invented the hot dog, for goodness sake! (And many of us use the phrase for goodness sake often and without irony.) We also claim first in flight, which is hotly contested by those who actually give a hoot. We definitely were first to orbit the earth with John Glenn, who was also, much later, the oldest person in space — and this neatly conforms to my cartoon image of Ohio as a cantankerous old man who still won’t let anyone else shovel his damn driveway and always wears black knee socks, even in summer.

We recently earned another achievement: first state to have a combined microbrewery and strip club. Yeah, I know, right?! I made that face too! Though to be honest, strip clubs always make me more than a little squeamish, and it isn’t because they don’t characteristically have great beer selections, or even the nearness of naked bodies to open drink containers. But the issues I have with patriarchy and the commercialization of the female body can wait for another column, another day. Until then: what if someone looked at your sister like that?

Oops! I dropped my dignity in this giant mug of beer!

Oops! I dropped my dignity in this giant mug of beer!

The Pinups & Pints gentleman’s club features one beer brewed there plus, “Daytons [sic] hottest entertainers.” Their logo is a cute pinup girl in a Air Force uniform of sorts — heralding back to Dayton’s history in flight — holding a frothy mug of beer. According to a column on The Beer Blog, a daily-updated blog about Ohio beer, the business started brewing out of necessity. The owner was getting a liquor license to save the floundering club, but wanted to stand out from the crowd — watching gyrating nudes while drunk on Bud Light just ain’t gonna cut it any more, I guess. Continue reading

The Phoenix Rises: Proud and a Little Tipsy

Liquid Mansfield

Liquid Mansfield

Something wonderful has happened! Something amazing for my little Ohio town, in fact. Something that will bring people to the area and that will change people’s attitude toward our city. Something for all of us to be proud of. And yes, of course beer is involved: a brewery has opened in Mansfield!

Last Wednesday was a bright and giddy spring day. My skin was buzzing with the forgotten touch of sunshine and the promise of a good beer after work. At 5pm Ben and I took our tickets for the brewery’s soft opening and crossed the small brick parking lot that separates my bookstore from the dangerously close by brewery.

The Phoenix Brewing Company is located in a brick building built in 1914 that was originally a mortuary. Rather than ignore what could be taken as a morbid history, they have embraced it. When my sampler of their five beers arrived, it came on a coffin-shaped, wooden flight. The names of their beers, too, riff on the theme: Redemption IPA, Ferryman’s Stout, etc. (When they were first brainstorming names, “Embalming Fluid IPA” was bandied about. Apparently clearer heads and weaker stomachs prevailed.) Continue reading

April is Beer Kicks Ass Month!


The Heart of it All!

As I’m sure you all know, April is National Pecan Month. Tuesday was April Fool’s Day, tomorrow is Tell a Lie Day–I’m sure there’s a story there–and most importantly, the first week in April is National Read a Road Map Week. This is all according to a highly reputable website built in, like, 1998 that also advertises garden equipment.

But this whole map thing got me to thinking…about beer, mostly. I recently found a map that identifies all 101 currently operating breweries in Ohio. Despite the fact that I have spent 24 of my 32 years somewhere in Ohio, I am pretty miserable with Ohio geography. In my dotterage I’ve begun to study the map to stop confusing Mt. Gilead with Mt. Vernon. It makes me happy in that same old person way in which I enjoy the way a glass of red wine looks sitting next to a crusty boule of bread. Imagining the possibilities. So when I saw 101 dots on my little heart-shaped state, I started imagining.

Vandalia, Middle Bass, Hide-A-Way Hills. Kelleys Island, Buckeye Lake, Catawba Island. Where are these places and why haven’t I been there yet? (Perhaps because the first 18 years of being an Ohioan were spent plotting an escape. I’ve since gotten a tattoo that says “If found, please return to Ohio.) I recently discovered that Catawba Island, a place at which many inlanders vacation, is not an island at all! Oh the mysteries you hold from me, my sweet Heart of It All! Continue reading

Funny T-Shirts & Beer Festivals: Two of My Favorite Things

Four hours and, like, 50 samples later...

There is always a time-lapse between the beginning of a beer festival and the point when people react to my T-shirt; that is, people have to have enough samples in their bellies before they’re willing to point at my chest and say, “Huh. That’s funny.” The shirt appears to be designed after an Arm & Hammer box, but instead of the usual logo the arm holds a gun and the seal reads, “Armed & Hammered.” In that I have arms, by this late point in the afternoon at the beer festival my T-shirt had a perfectly truthful statement. And yes, those are two unhappily sober policemen behind me, perhaps wishing we weren’t all so goddamn goofy and nonviolent.

"I'm a Cleveland Fan"

Last Saturday I went to what was billed as the World Beer Festival, though in reality it was primarily US breweries, heavy on the Ohio-end of things. But that’s fine by me, given that Ohio makes some pretty rockin’ beer.  It took place on the harbor in Cleveland under tents, inside a huge open warehouse, and beneath a brilliantly blue sky. Its proximity to the lake made it easily the coolest location I’d ever been to for a beer fest. The first funny T-shirt — spotted walking in before we even arrived at the entrance — epitomized the city and its love/hate relationship with sports and its reputation for rampant alcoholism. I laughed, but maybe just because I’m an Ohioan. (Click on the images to see them larger.)

Everything's better in stick figure

This is the next funny shirt I saw, while standing behind the guy in line for the ever-amazing Rockmill Brewery stand. I hadn’t had enough beer yet to tell him I thought it was funny, so Ben and I snickered behind his back and snuck a picture while he pretended not to notice us. If it had been later in the day I would have said “HA!” and pointed, but as it was I thought I should probably be feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Continue reading

Grocery Shopping for Good Fortune

black-eyed peasHere we are, staring down the barrel of a new year, a suspended moment that can feel both hopeful and intimidating. Luckily, our forefathers have left us traditions of “lucky food” to bolster our fortune for the coming year and to give us something to chew on besides our fingernails as we contemplate the uncertain future. And so, a rundown of some essentials for this weekend’s grocery list:

Sauerkraut: I thought everyone ate pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, but when I Googled it to find the backstory, the first thing to pop up was an article called, “Why do Ohioans eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day?” So maybe it was just us, all along. Even so, Tuesday’s feast wouldn’t be complete without a healthy dose of the German cabbage staple. Roots of this tradition are vague, at best, though I think I was told as a child that cabbage is green and represents wealth. I also have a sneaking suspicion that all those Cleveland Germans were probably just tossing together what they had left in the pantry after Christmas. By far the most creative answer, though, was one I found on Yahoo Answers that posited that people eat pork because a pig roots forward with its nose similar to the way we forge into the new year. Even if it’s not true, I like the idea, so I’m going to get some soy sausage to complement my kraut.

Black-eyed peas: While I was munching sauerkraut in Ohio, Jason spent the New Year’s Days of his childhood eating black-eyed peas with stewed tomatoes. This is typically considered “a Southern thing,” and there’s a Civil War story that goes along with it, in which the modest pea was the only thing left in the fields after Sherman’s notorious march to the sea, and the Confederate soldiers felt lucky to have them that winter. True? Well, maybe. Continue reading