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Love Ohio Craft Beer? FeBREWary at The Rail is Back, Bigger and Better Than Ever

If you’ve visited It’s Always Ohio before, you’d know that we aren’t shy about how much we like The Rail.  Their burgers are ridiculously tasty.  Their beers are ridiculously tasty.  And as if that wasn’t enough, it’s all OHIO!  So when we got word about them bringing back FeBREWary, we had to share. Check out the deets below.

  • FeBREWary has been expanded to include all of Mike Mariola’s concepts —All four Rail locations, Ohio Beer Garden and City Square Steakhouse in Wooster, Ohio.
  • Month-long event will comprise of a variety of draft beers not available anywhere else in Ohio.
  • Featured breweries include Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, Warped Wing Brewing and Zaftig Brewing.

New year, new beer.  The Rail, one of northeast Ohio’s staple craft beer and burger bars, is bringing back beer-centric FeBREWary for a second straight year.

The Rail Akron Ohio

While the exciting event will once again feature rare Ohio craft brews that can’t be found anywhere else, The Rail has stepped up their game by expanding the map and featuring a lot more beer.  Restauranteur Mike Mariola’s other two creations, Ohio Beer Garden in North Olmsted and City Square Steakhouse in Wooster, Ohio, will also be taking part in the fun.

The Rail’s affinity for everything Ohio is already well known amongst northeast Ohioans, evident by their use of local ingredients and Ohio only brews. 2017’s FeBREWary however, will up the ante by offering rare, delicious craft beers that won’t be available at any other space in Ohio.

“We’ve always known Ohio is on the forefront of the craft beer scene,” says Mike Mariola, award-winning chef turned restauranteur and craft beer aficionado. “That’s why we created FeBREWary.  It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase some of our favorite Ohio beer and have other local fellow beer lovers join us.”

Mariola’s deep involvement in the event even has him driving a U-Haul across the state to pick up these highly coveted kegs.

Beer Flight The Rail Ohio

These scarce brews will spread across the style board and include Driftwood IPA, Daybreak Clear Sky Cream Ale and Hop Smoothie IPA from the Columbus-based Wolf’s Ridge Brewing.  Gamma Bomb IPA, Trotwood Lager and Jolly Tar Dark Brown Ale from Dayton’s Warped Wing Brewery as well as A-Crop Blacklight Stout and Wee Heavy Scotch Ale from Zaftig Brewing in Columbus.

Follow the FeBREWary journey on The Rail Burger Blog and on social media at The Rail’s Facebook page and on Twitter @TheRailBurger.

8 Places in Cleveland Where We Love Drinking Beer

It’s pretty evident nowadays that Cleveland, Ohio is pretty much the LeBron James of beer towns.  I mean this place has deep, deep roots when it comes to concocting the nectar of the gods and has truly been an integral cog in the wheel of the craft beer revolution.  Every neighborhood you walk into and seemingly every street you walk down has a great place to sit down and sip.

So we thought it’d be useful if we pointed out some of our favorites.  Now with that in mind, let it be known that this list could’ve just as easily run 50 deep because let’s face it, Cleveland has more worthy beer joints than the Browns have injured quarterbacks…for the last ten years.

The Bottlehouse Brewing Company — Their motto is “Good beer for good people.” Simple, but right on.  While this spot is certainly considered a craft brewery, it’s really so much more.  In addition to the eight house beers on tap, they always feature six house meads as well (Our favorite is the City Mead).  Go on the right night and you’ll most likely see a food truck serving up local grub too.  Be sure to try out Trivia night and bingo night — Oh yes, and they have pinball.

Bottlehouse Brewery Facebook Page
Bottlehouse Brewery Facebook

The Rail (Various locations) — We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again.  The Rail is awesome.  Locally sourced, tastebud-melting burgers at a place that takes great pride in everything Ohio.  And if you couldn’t tell, we love Ohio.  If you haven’t already, check out their Beer Exploration Society — Monthly events held at various Rail locations where studious, hop-minded folks get together and chat beer.

The Rail Facebook
The Rail Facebook

Tremont Tap House — This bustling beer bar located on Cleveland’s Southside of historic Tremont boasts more than 100 craft brews, 48 of which you can get on draft.  Let’s say that again.  100 beers with 48 on draft.  That’s an insane amount of beer.  You won’t feel overwhelmed though, because every person that works there can give you cliff notes on every one.  Just one thing to remember, the place is always busy and for good reason.  Get there early and stake your claim because if you don’t, you’ll be standing and drinking beer.  Which now that we think about it, is perfectly fine too.

Dolph M. - Yelp
Dolph M. – Yelp

Great Lakes Brewing Company — If you’re talking beer and you’re talking Cleveland, you have to be talking Great Lakes.  While the entire brewpub is a wonderful place, the basement beer cellar is our favorite.  If you can snag it, grab the standing barrel table that’s perched above the room in the back left corner.  The perfect spot for surveying the scene and sipping one of the coveted pub exclusives.  Last time we had the chance to sample the crazy delicious Belgian Stout called Dark Stone Waters…and by sample, we mean polishing off four to five beers.

La Cave Du Vin — When you’re rolling with a group of friends, some may be dastardly wine drinkers and for them, you have a solution — La Cave Du Vin.  If you’ve ever caught a show at The Grog Shop, than you’ve undoubtedly stopped into this small, almost secretive basement gem.  As you might’ve guessed by the name, La Cave is all about wine, however, it’s huge selection of bottled beers says otherwise.  So much so that I can almost guarantee they’ll have a bottle of something that will surprise the most seasoned hop head.

Hofbräuhaus Cleveland — If swinging around a Bier Stein the size of your head filled with glorious Bavarian brew while munching on schnitzel sounds like a good time, then this place is for you.  Seriously though, this place is unbelievably awesome.  Recreated to look exactly like the original establishment in Munich, Germany, Hofbräuhaus is like a vacation.  I mean c’mon, their beer has to follow the 500 year old Bavarian Beer Purity Law, so you know it’s good.  Bottom line: Some of the most fun you can have in Cleveland.  Prost!

Hofbrauhaus Cleveland Facebook
Hofbrauhaus Cleveland Facebook

Happy Dog (Various locations) — First off, and this has nothing to do with beer, try to say “Happy Dog” without smiling.  You can’t do it.  Second, beer tastes so good with tubular meat and that’s why this place is so special.  Just imagine a topping for your hot dog and I can almost guarantee they have it — And they’re all made in house.  And on top of that, their beer selection is very good.  Combine that with the vintage neighborhood vibe, great live music and boom, you’re one happy, well fed pup.

Happy Dog Facebook
Happy Dog Facebook

Mcnulty’s Bier Markt — For the beer purists out there, there’s Mcnulty’s.  Easily one of Cleveland’s leaders in the craft beer revolution, this spot is serious about Belgian beer and you can tell from the litany of beer advice and info you’ll get.  Ohio’s only Belgian beer bar has more than 100 craft beers to choose from and 30+ rotating drafts, which means there is a zero percent chance you’ll walk out without finding something to tickle your fancy.  Plus, Mcnulty’s is dog friendly, so bring your best buddy along.

Mcnulty's Bier Markt Facebook
Mcnulty’s Bier Markt Facebook

Have another great spot that one of your favorites? Let us know!

Sandusky, Ohio is Shedding the Rust and Quietly Becoming Awesome

Perhaps you may already know what usually comes up first when someone starts talking about OutTheWindow1Sandusky, Ohio — Cedar Point!  Exclamation points normally aren’t my thing, but roller coaster enthusiasts seem to always broach the subject with such fervor.  And while the best amusement park in the world is certainly full of high-speed thrills and worthy of such high praise, the conversation in this port town is starting to change a bit.

Once chock full of manufacturing jobs and assembly lines like so many midwest towns, MarketSunsetSandusky has had to evolve with the times to stand on its own two feet without falling over.  I’m very happy to report that not only is this unique town standing up, but starting to run.

It’s hard to not talk about the great location because this coastal Ohio town has it in spades.  Sandusky Bay provides a nice, neat natural harbor perfect for pleasure boaters looking to spend a weekend or kayakers looking to paddle around exploring.  If you’re lucky enough to be or know a knowledgable mariner with a boat, make sure to head to the Sand Bar — A natural pier-like beach only accessible by floatable transportation.

KayakSandBar

Oh yes, and there are sunsets like these all the time.

BatteryParkSunset

Hanging around such natural beauty is bound to stir up some hunger, which luckily is very easy to take care of here.  Let’s start with a few old staples.  The New Sandusky Fish Company as the name would imply, is all about fresh fish, particularly perch and walleye which are the two most prominent Lake Erie species.  With little to no seating in the establishment itself, diners are relegated to the bayside benches outside which is quite perfect for this hole-in-wall fish NewSandFishCojoint.  Make sure to try a perch sandwich with tartar and I promise it’ll be the best perch sandwich you’ve ever had, hands down.  One other suggestion: fried okra.

Then there’s Daly’s Irish Pub.  A quirky tavern that’s been around since the early days of Sandusky’s rebuilding process and sneakily boasts incredible comfort food.  Fantastic homemade soups are offered everyday and if you’re lucky to be around on a Thursday, the pot roast is melt-in-your-mouth good.

Dalys

Can you have a great town without great pizza?  Well, no.  That’s where Cameo Pizza comes in.  Albeit a little further walk from downtown, it’s very much worth the stroll.  This old school pizza joint has been around since 1936, which means they’ve had plenty of time to hone their craft and that’s evident as soon as you take a bite.  A new, outdoor patio has recently been added for those looking to munch in nature.

Maybe you’ll need a coffee before exploring the streets and bayshore of Sandusky and for that there’s Mr. Smiths Coffee House.  Laid-back, cozy and perfect for what ales you in the morning, this local beanery offers up great breakfast snacks and brews all their coffee in-house.  If you’re visiting in the summer, try one of the cafe-style street side seats.  Act fast though, there’s only four and seagulls aren’t the only ones up early in the morning. Inside_MrSmiths

Of course coffee is usually best in the morning, but what about nighttime libations?  Enter the new crowd: Volstead Bar.  Their cocktail game, along with the strength of most of the drinks here, is strong.  It’s unusual to find an old-school speakeasy like this in a town smaller than the size of Cleveland, but lucky for residents of Sandusky it’s indeed here.  Like bourbon? Try the Sazerac.  Like Gin?  Try the French 75.  Knowledgeable bar staff coupled with a simply downright cool atmosphere — Al Capone would be proud.

BikeVstead

Just down the street you’ll find ZINC Brasserie and hearth tavern conveniently under the same roof.  While ZINC focuses on French-inspired cuisine in a classic atmosphere, hearth creates delicious wood-fired pizzas in a more casual tavern setting.  Though everything here is fantastic, ZINC has a tremendous greek beet salad and filet trio and if you’re in the mood for a hearthpizza at hearth, try the Farmstead.  Grilled pork belly topped off with a hen egg…don’t let the egg scare you, it’s wonderful.

Next, hang a left off of Water St. onto Columbus Ave. and you’ll soon find Small City Tap House, a craft beer lover’s paradise.  Boasting 44 brews on tap, Small City regularly brings in ‘Tap Takeovers,’ in which breweries from around the country bring in a huge variety of their best beer for a day.  However it’s not just about the hops and barley.  Specializing in Vietnamese food, this unique establishment also combos that with beautifully crafted sushi rolls and sashimi.  That being said, if you have a question about beer make sure to ask Kha, the proprietor of said restaurant.  SmallCityHis answer will not only be informative, but most likely hilarious.

Walk out of the door at Small City and you’ll be staring down Market St. towards another Sandusky culinary gem, J Bistro.  Chilean Sea Bass, that’s all I’m going to say.  Seriously though, Chef Jessie Harris self describes his style as “old school meets new school.”  Not entirely sure what that means because I’m not skilled in the culinary arts, but one thing’s for certain, he’s doing it right.

ChileanSeaBass
Photo Courtesy of J Bistro

Resembling more of a snack stand, Dockside Cafe sits perched on the pier end of the Paper District Marina and located entirely outside under the sun . Serving up house specialties that include walleye tacos, perch tacos and quesadillas, it’s quickly become a fan favorite. Those in the know look for freighters passing by in Sandusky Bay, as this signifies an impromptu happy hour that features $5 rum punch buckets.

Dockside

Sandusky really is reinventing itself and there’s more coming.  Vogontz Bike Share, something that’s usually reserved for larger cities is slated to debut in the spring of 2016, as is Amusement Ales, a production brewery with plans for a brew pub.  There’s also the Leaking Boot coming to town, a public house and gastropub.  And perhaps the largest and most ambitious upcoming project shows exactly where this renaissance-minded town is headed.  Hotel Kilbourne, a 9-room boutique hotel, has plans to open spring of 2016 and will be the first of its kind in downtown Sandusky since the 1970’s.

PDMarina

Though not in the immediate downtown region of Sandusky, there’s a few other must-stops that are easily worth driving a few minutes too.  Berardi’s Family Kitchen has long been an iconic Sandusky dining establishment and is responsible for creating the legendary Cedar Point french fries.  Make sure to also save room for dessert, as all their tasty baked good are made in-house.  Mekong specializes in authentic Vietnamese cuisine, like pho and clay pot dishes, right alongside an impressive array of craft brews.  For you craft beer junkies, Chucky is the man see to here — His extensive knowledge of craft beers knows no bounds and has a memory that’s just as good as the food.

Mekong

In the warmer months there’s also access to the gorgeous Lake Erie islands.  The Jet Express departs from Jackson Street Pier en route to Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay, however if you’re looking to take a vehicle over you can take the short trip across the Edison Bridge to the Miller Ferry (Put-in-Bay) in Catawba or the Kelleys Island Ferry (Kelleys Island) in Marblehead.

There’s no doubt it would take a much longer article to cover everything Sandusky has to offer and I must admit, all of this positivity is coming from a native who left for a long time and came back.  But I think that says it all right there, I came back.  People are starting to come back and for good reason.  Something is happening in Sandusky.  Something good.

MarketSunset

Have something to add about Sandusky, please share below or on Twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

Going Back to Athens, Ohio 10 Years Later: It’s Still That Great

You don’t even need to say it, I already know.  As a graduate of Ohio University it’s absolutely, positively despicable that I haven’t spent the night in Athens for 10 years.  A place that’s affected me in such a wonderful way.  A place that’s given me so many memories it’s hard to conjure up every one lucidly.  A place that’s just magical, there’s no other way to put it.  All that being said, I finally made my way back and here’s some of what I found.

Courthouse

The brick streets still just feel right.  Of course this isn’t a revelation, like I somehow expected them to be gone, but there’s just something about the old-school feeling they give uptown Athens.  Something about the way they feel on the bottoms of your shoes.  I wish every town had brick streets…wait, no I don’t.  Save it for here.

SteetViewAthens

On to my favorite lunch spot and quite possibly my favorite in the state of Ohio — Bagel Street Deli.  Everything felt exactly the same, albeit a little bit busier.  Classic rock bellowed from the kitchen, this particular time I think I heard some Zombies and Zeppelin.

BagelStreet

A perfectly straight single file line stretched down the narrow corridor filled with hungry college students debating which one of the 50 or so sandwiches they’re going to choose.  Will it be the simply Tom’s Turkey with sprouts on a pretzel bagel (my favorite), or the veggie-centric Kimmie Gibbler.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter, they’re all fantastic and so are the names that describe them.

TurkeyTom

Bringing back even more nostalgia, I had to take my finely crafted sandwich across to College Green and sit indian-style in the grass.  Much to my dismay, there wasn’t anyone else taking advantage of the green space although it’s fair to point out no one expected a sunny 70-degree day in mid-November.  Nonetheless it was fantastic, view of the Burrito Buggy and all.

CollegeGreen

Right down the street is the new Jackie O’s Brew Pub, which for me will always be O’Hooley’s, but that’s okay because there’s enough of the old staple inside to make an alumni feel at home. I’ve had plenty of Jackie O’s brew in the past, but these guys really are making some seriously great beer.  Beers like the Paw Paw Wheat and Mystic Mama IPA are solid, but if you get the chance, score one of their Bourbon Barrel Stouts which are ridiculously good.

JackieO's

Now it wouldn’t be a return visit without a night at the bars and by all means this is debatable among the OU elite, but Cat’s Eye is still my favorite.  That’s not to say other taverns aren’t great or even close to top of the list for that matter, but there’s no replacing an old personal staple.  And I’m happy to report nothing has changed, not a single thing at least as far as I could tell.  Beers are outrageously cheap, the two front window seats are still highly coveted perfect for people watching and speed quarters (not ashamed), and the bartenders still have that like-it-or-not-I’m-going-at-my-own-pace attitude which in my opinion, is perfect.  Bottom line: the Cat’s Eye is timeless.

CatsEyeShuffle

While I certainly could talk about more of my favorite tavern experiences, like Hot Nut shots at Tony’s and the fact that the Court Street Shuffle is still going strong, I’ll skip to the late-night food scene which any Athens dignitary knows is strong.

Souvlakis

Souvlaki’s is just like I remembered, uptown’s oldest eatery and still killing the gyro game.  A souvlaki and seasoned fries is really all you’ll need here, although you can certainly add grape leaves for a little extra Mediterranean flare.  But make sure to strike up a conversation with the owners because they’re just as nice and relatable as I recall.  Also, if it’s Friday or Saturday night skip eating inside where it’s too busy to move and opt for a curb outside, nobody’s judging.

Goodfellas

Then there’s the old pizza staple, Goodfellas, where you can still get a slice of cheese pizza for $1.50.  Thick, doughy and delicious, one slice will usually do it, even for the most hearty of appetite.  I say that not owning up to the fact that I always and just recently bought two in one sitting.

I could go on and on about all the good places to eat, about how dive bars only get better with time and can’t be made, but that could take eons.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s just something magical about Athens.  Maybe it’s because I’m from northern Ohio or that I’m simply an Ohio University Alumni reflecting on the past, but even the air smells different down here.  A funky little college town whose character rivals most large cities, Athens is a town for me that will never get stale.

DeerAthens

Oh yeah, we came across a deer roaming around downtown — Only in Athens.

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