Bogrolls & Barley Wines
A Pint at the Lake - Kelleys Island Brewery 2010
If you get in your motor and drive north of Columbus, after a couple of hours you'll come to Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and the 12th largest
freshwater lake in the world. Less than 4,000 years old and formed by the retreating Wisconsin Glacier, the lake hosts 24 Islands, two of the more famous
being South Bass Island and Kelleys Island.
South Bass Island is particularly well known for hosting The Battle of Lake Erie on September 10th 1813, when the British Navy -- under attack from
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry -- made what we at Roberts Manor call a "strategic withdrawal". The fact that the Royal Navy gave up six ships in the
process is clearly a sign of British goodwill!
Kelleys Island is known for it's geological wonders (notably, what's known as the Glacial Grooves), a rather dodgy winery, and a most excellent local brewing
It was on a hot, humid Saturday in August 2010 that myself and an old comrade from my Merck days, Lord Siddle, rode our motorcycles up to Lake Erie,
taking the bikes across on the ferry to Kelleys Island to seek out the aforementioned Kelleys Island Brewing Company.
About half-a-mile away from the tourist packed "downtown" area, we found the modest, unimposing buildings that make up the brewery and the
accompanying restaurant. They looked like two white ranch houses glued together, but once we stepped inside and saw a list of five craft-brewed beers on
tap (a sixth was added while we were there), we knew we were in a very special place.
The owners of Kelleys Island Brewery are Doug & Patti Muranyi. Doug is the brewmaster (of Hungarian descent), while Patti runs the restaurant. They are
both wonderful and engaging people, who think nothing of sitting down and chatting with their customers. You can see the look on their faces; they are
terribly proud of what the brewpub has achieved. Indeed, Doug is really, REALLY proud of his beers and will look at you straight in the face and ask for your
opinion of his brews.
Six beers were on tap, and thus six were tasted.
1) Kelley's Gold (4.5%)
A summer refresher to be sure, Gold is made with white wheat and lightly roasted malt which produces an intriguing cross between a Kolsch and a wheat
beer. Light bodied, there's a faint fruitiness in the aroma, with a crisp flowery, hoppy finish. Perfect for those 95-degree temperatures. 8/10
2) Lake Erie Lager (5.5%)
Described by Doug as a "German classic", the Lake Erie Lager is based on the Munich Helles style. There's a noticeably malty sweetness with a delicate
balance of spicy hops, making this lager less bitter than a pilsner. Another tasty offering to fight off the Ohio heatwave. A bit malty for my tastes, but
nonetheless a finely crafted lager of its type. 7/10
3) Angler's Ale Bitter (5.5%)
This is Doug's version of an English Bitter (a style yet to be truly adopted in the U.S) and for no extra charge, I can tell you that he hit this one right on the
button! At 5.5%, this actually qualifies as an Extra Strong Bitter (most "session" Bitters in the UK rove around the 3.6% region) with an incredible juicy malt
and fruit balance in its character. Angler's Ale is dry-hopped, although the hops don't take over the flavour, mainly appearing in the aroma. A classic in its
own lifetime, I went back for a second pint. As Steve Irwin would have said "What a little beauty!" 11/10
4) Galeforce IPA (8.5%)
Other members of the Royal Family are well aware of my love for American IPAs, but this one falls somewhat short of the mark. An ABV of 8.5% makes it true
to the classic IPA style, but there's a rather unpleasant bitterness that appears to have no connection to any hop bitterness. It's as if the hops were
"beamed up" from the glass. I mentioned this to Doug, who then took off and reappeared a few minutes later with a glass of the same IPA -- this time a
cloudy version drawn straight from the barrel.
It was a totally different taste -- lots of hop character and hoppy bitterness. Beautiful. But what does this tell us? It tells us that brewmasters have the ability
to change and vary a particular style in order to reflect culture, climate, geography etc. Doug has produced his own version of an IPA. It might not be my
cup of Earl Grey but you have to take your hat off to a bloke that's willing to push the boat out with his own innovative brewing. The grade is based on my
own personal reaction to the initial IPA. 2/10
5) Dawg Bizkit Brown (5.5%)
Well, of course, I'm not a fan of English or American Brown ales, but like his Angler's Ale Bitter, Doug has hit the nail right on the head with this one. Brown
Ales are under appreciated in the western hemisphere, but if enough beer lovers taste Dawg Bizkit Brown, then this issue can soon be remedied. This beer
is described as "A full body taste, thick head and lightly hopped for a smooth semi-dry finish. A unique combination of roasted barley, chocolate, and crystal
malts. Our most requested ale. It ain't for poodles!!" Need I say more, except that unlike many brewers, Doug resisted over-hopping this ale, which allows
the malty character to shine through. A classic American ale. 9/10
6) Island Devil (8.5%)
Oh, yes please! A cross between a Belgian Double and Belgian Tripel -- thus, not overly sweet -- this glorious ale is an extra-strong, aromatic, hoppy
copper ale, using German hops and Trappist yeast. The fermentation of strong beers can create fruity flavours and one can certainly find a pruney, almost
brandyish character to this superb, luscious, flavorsome ale. One to be sipped and enjoyed -- Where's that bloody Hamlet cigar! A highly impressive 10/10
Finally, here's a paragraph taken from an article written by erstwhile CAMRA writer Jeff Evans, which appeared in the July 2007 issue of Beer, the CAMRA
newsletter: "...the USA is the most exciting brewing country in the world at the moment. We just need major retailers (in the UK) to recognise that and stop
perpetuating the myth that American beer is only about Bud, Miller and Coors". The Kelleys Island Brewery bears complete testimony to this statement!
And there we have it -- a thoroughly satisfying visit to Kelley's Island Brewing Company, not least in part to the hospitality offered by Doug & Patti Muranyi.
Of course, on the way back to Columbus there was still time for a quick glass of Merlot at Hermes Winery, although I would rather have had another pint of
Angler's Ale Bitter!
A proud brewmaster at work, Doug Muranyi's handcrafted beers are made 200 gallons at a time.
Fresh yeast, hops and grains are used to make his extremely fine ales.