Small breweries bubble up in small towns

Published: Jan. 16, 2017 at 5:03 PM EST
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Craft beer continues its rise up bar menus. This weekend, 2,000 people came out to sample local brews. There are at least five brewers around Toledo but now the little guys are joining in.

You no longer need a major city like Toledo to support a craft beer scene. North River in Wauseon has been at it for 15

months. What separates them from big city brewhouses? Customers get to drink where the beer is made.

"Specialty works anywhere," Mel Michelson said. Mel is a co-owner of North River Brewing. "If it's sized right, what works in Ann Arbor, Michigan, works in Wauseon, Ohio, just maybe on a smaller scale."

In a strip mall, inside what used to be a K-Mart stock room, you'll discover cream ales and stouts. It's the area's first micro-brewery and its winning fans.

"People in this area were about quantity, not quality, and we just thought that wasn't true," Michelson said.

North River shares its space - and bar - with Red Rambler Coffees. People come for an espresso, then come back for a hand-crafted pint.

"A certain number of our customers wanted that very thing, but there was nothing here," Michelson said. "You had to go to Toledo."

Both brewers at North River still have other full time jobs. It started the same way down Highway 108 at Napoleon's Flatrock Brewing.

"I mean I left Campbell's Soup to come here. I mean this is more of a labor of love for me, because I gave up quite a bit of money to come here," Elliot Nickels said.

Assistant brewer Elliot says it was a challenge to convert some customers to try new tastes.

"It's hard to do what we're doing with so little," Nickels says of Flatrock's small four-barrel brewing operation.

Nickels starts customers off with a beer made from local sweet corn.

"That's kind of like a foot in the door. For them to try other things," Nickels said.

There's so much demand from distributors, that the bar has even run low on suds.

We're getting through it. It's a good problem to have.

There are several other craft breweries outside of Toledo, including the new one, 4KD Crick in Defiance, Bowling Green Beer Works, Sugar Ridge, and Catawba Island In Port Clinton.