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Don't Throw This One Back: Little Fish Brewing Company (Athens, OH)

On the outskirts of Athens, Little Fish Brewing is easy to drive past on
State Route 682, but may well be an easy place to bike to in the near future.
The name recognition and success of Jackie O's Pub and Brewery almost made it a given that the craft beverage business would grow in its surround climes of Athens, Ohio. Indeed, West End Cider, focusing on the cider and mead side of the ledger, opened their doors to the public in May of 2014. On the craft beer side, Devil's Kettle Brewing set up shop in the north side of this college town with the debut of their taproom this June. Shortly after Devil's Kettle's opening, fellow microbrewer Little Fish Brewing Company opened their doors to craft beer lovers in July, and we were able to check their facility during their recent first-ever bottle release.

Started by local Athens' residents Sean White and Jimmy Stockwell, Little Fish Brewing occupies a warehouse type building out on Armitage Road on the outskirts of Athens near the University Estates subdivision. This location lends something of a clue about one of the main points of focus for this brewery - sustainability with a local focus. While the brewery may not be the easiest to get to by car (in fact, you can easily drive right by it if you're not paying attention), a planned extension of a nearby bike path (set to end on the grounds of the brewery) provides incentive for those within biking distance to use pedal power for a visit. In fact, their menu sports a "Bike Beer" red ale, a nicely drinkable, gluten-reduced(!) quaff brewed to celebrate the new bike spur.

One need not fret if you do have to drive here, like us Columbus-based visitors: Little Fish sports a fairly large parking lot, with additional off-facility parking located within easy walking distance.

Little Fish's sports a wide-ranging beer list in the taproom portion of
its production space; food is provided by a rotating fleet of food trucks
Other hints of this same focus are seen on that very same beer menu: the brewery's branded hoodies and other clothing are touted as organic, various brews are brewed with locally-based producers such as the pilsner (corn from local organic producer Shagbark Seed and Mill) and Poisson Grand (a saison using honey from Faller Foods.)  In the back, a garden with a variety of fruit and berry trees and bushes are evident: plans are to use the fruit in future brewing ventures. This locally-oriented focus gets down to the bare basics of brewing: as noted in this article posted in relation to the Tenth Annual Ohio Brew Week in Athens, Stockwell's microbiology background will be put to good use to cultivate their own "bacteria and wild yeast to put in their...beers."

This garden also adds a family-friendly aspect to the facility, with lots of space for the kids to run and romp, benches for seating, a BBQ grill, and games (including perhaps the biggest-sized Jenga game I've ever seen in person.)  While at least half of the interior is devoted to the production-side of the equation, more seating is available inside. as well both adult- and kid-oriented games and toys. Using a model seen with a lot of Columbus-area breweries, Little Fish sports a rotating group of food trucks to provide grub for patrons (on the day of our visit, Cajun and Creole was the order of the day via the Cajun Clucker.)  In general, the whole vibe of this space is relaxed and geared toward person-to-person interaction.

Little Fish Brewing's bottle-released ales were the focus of our first visit
While Little Fish sports the gamut of beer styles, we as newcomers were interested in the tart and farmhouse ale styles being bottle-released that day in special barrel-aged versions and comparing it to their original renditions. In each instance, the aging from either cabernet and chardonnay barrels gave what we thought were already very solid renditions of a saison, berliner weisse and biere de garde much more complex and appealing taste profiles, and enough so to take home a bottle of each style. In addition, we sampled the previously mentioned Bike Beer as well as a tasty pawpaw rendition of a finalist for the our favorite-named beer of the year, the Reinheitsgewhat!? (a playful stab at the Reinheitsgebot, a Bavarian purity law that states beer can only be brewed with malt, hops, yeast and water.)

Little Fish may be relatively small in size; however, the brews we sampled this day and the family-friendly, relaxed atmosphere makes us think that this catch is a keeper for the longer term.

Little Fish Brewing Company
8675 Armitage Road
Athens, OH 45701
740-589-7364
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