Tackle the taps

Pies and Pints pregame pits pigskin rivals

By Kevin J. Gray

Photo: The Ohio vs. Michigan Tap Takeover starts at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 26 at Pies & Pints

At the time this article was written, Ohio State was poised to take on Michigan State, hoping to regain respect after their 2013 fourth-and-2 Spartan disaster. The University of Michigan, on the other hand, was, well, hoping to defeat Northwestern to maybe break even this year?

But regardless of the outcome of those games, true Buckeye and Wolverine fans know there’s really only one game each year that either team has to win – the head-to-head matchup that takes place in Columbus on Nov. 29, the Saturday after Thanksgiving: the Big Game. Michigan can reclaim an otherwise lousy season (and decade) by beating the Bucks, or the Buckeyes can steamroll over Michigan yet again, claiming their ninth victory in ten years.

The rivalry between the states isn’t just limited to the gridiron, though. For years, Michigan has dominated the craft beer game. Brewpub-friendly licensing laws, a strong brewer’s guild and a determined spirit put Michigan on the board early, with craft beer favorites such as Founders, Bell’s, Short’s, New Holland and Dark Horse. Today our neighbor to the north boasts 138 breweries.

Ohio had a few early staples, most notably Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company, but thanks to much less generous licensing laws and having a weaker brewer’s association for most of the first part of this century, growth stagnated in Ohio. With recent legislative changes, Ohio is finally catching up. Dayton alone has seen nearly a dozen breweries pop up in the Miami Valley in the last two years, and growth in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati has been similar. As of this writing, the number of Ohio breweries is at 103.

Pies and Pints, known for craft beer and gourmet pizza, will be hosting a tap showdown between the two craft giants in preparation for the Big Game. On Wednesday, Nov. 26, the restaurant will pregame by pouring a selection of Michigan and Ohio craft brews. Josh Hurst, the regional chain’s beverage manager, explained the idea behind the tap takeover. “We thought it would be fun to have Michigan and Ohio beers, since both states are leading the way, next to places like California and Oregon, in making really great beer.”

Hurst has worked with local distributors such as Premium Beverage Supply, Bonbright Distributors and Heidelberg Distributing, as well as multiple self-distributing local brands, to showcase what each state has to offer. Hurst promises a fair playing field: “We’ll have 33 taps, which we’ll split equally between the two states.” But expect a hometown advantage: a slant toward local, smaller breweries on the Ohio side. “Since we live in the state,” Hurst explains, “we have a lot of options available to us locally.”

The beer roster is still taking shape, so check Pies and Pints’ website closer to game day for the full line-up. Below are a few star players that are sure to make an appearance.

Visiting team

Bell’s Brewery is one of Michigan’s oldest breweries. Founder Larry Bell sold his first commercial beer in 1985, and today his company has the capacity to produce more than 500,000 barrels annually. Look for the hoppy Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and the Kal-Haven, a Brett-fermented rye ale.

The beer geeks at Founders Brewing Company are unapologetic about their big and interesting beers, noting, “we make beer for people like us.” Their Backwoods Bastard and Breakfast Stout are perennial cold weather favorites, while their All Day IPA and Harvest Ale will satisfy hopheads in the group.

For a different take on fermentation, try a cider. The crew at Vander Mill has moved beyond the sickly-sweet ciders most of us remember from our college days, instead brewing artisanal ciders that rival some of the world’s best beers and wines. The aptly named Blue Gold is an apple and blueberry cider, while Totally Roasted is infused with candied pecans.

Home Team

The Brew Kettle started in 1995 as Ohio’s first Brew-On-Premise microbrewery and taproom before, several years later, introducing their own beers into the market. Their White Rajah IPA is likely to go toe-to-toe with Bell’s Two Hearted.

Elevator Brewing Company is a Columbus favorite and an anchor in the city’s brewing scene. Elevator stands out as one of the few craft breweries that offer lagers as a mainstay. Try their Xtra, a light, German-style beer, or their Dark Horse, a dark lager.

Both Yellow Springs Brewery and Warped Wing Brewing Company give a local flavor to the Ohio line-up. Yellow Springs’ Captain Stardust is a spicy Saison with a citrus hop bite. Warped Wing’s Ermals is a brewery mainstay, while their Whiskey Rebellion, a giant imperial stout brewed in collaboration with The Century Bar, will satisfy beer geeks with a taste for something new and exciting.

The Ohio vs. Michigan Tap Takeover starts at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 26 at Pies & Pints, 52 Plum St. in Beavercreek (in The Greene). Columbus-based readers: the store’s Worthington location is also featuring a similar event on the same day. Look for more details and a full tap list online at piesandpints.net. Still have questions? Call the restaurant at 937.429.7437.

Kevin J. Gray is Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geek. A firm believer in all things balanced, when Kevin isn’t drinking craft beer, he’s hiking or biking to keep his beer belly in optimal shape. Reach Kevin J. Gray at Page KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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