Who Let The Dogs Out: Thirsty Dog Brewing (Akron, OH)/Brewdog USA(Canal Winchester, OH)

Having your business go to the dogs is hardly a bad thing if you're in the brewing world; in fact, it may actually be a boon to the bottom line. 

Recent travels to the Sacramento area brought me in contact with two very dog-friendly venues; my return to Buckeye State put my spouse and I firmly into the canine world with a trek up to Akron's Thirsty Dog Brewing and the debut event for Scottish-import Brewdog, who are setting up their distribution and taproom facilities in the southern portion of the Columbus metro.

First Impressions: "Looks like a pretty neat red-brick industrial facility."

Reality: Established in 1997, Akron's Thirsty Dog has some serious history embedded within its production facility, lying within the historic Burkhardt Brewery facility. Founded by Wilhelm Burkhardt in the 1870s, his wife Magaretha broke convention and guided the brewery after her husband's death in 1881 well into Prohibition. 

After surviving Prohibition through a combination of their soda pop, real estate, and commodities business lines, the company returned to brew its beer for another two decades under the Burkhardt name and for a few more years under the ownership of Cincinnati's Burger Brewing. In 1964, Burger closed the Akron facility, which sat idle until Thirsty Dog set up shop in the existing space.

A nod to the pioneering members of the Burkhardt brewing legacy on the doors leading to the bathrooms - replacing the standard men and women placards are portraits of Wilhelm and Magaretha themselves.

Burgers and Beer Week, Traveler's Edition - Part 2: In-N-Out Burger, and Twinburger MSP

With (614) Magazine's Burger & Brew Week starting to wind down for folks in the Central Ohio area (you have until the Saturday the 24th to enjoy this event), we heartily finish off this national hamburger mini-series with a West Coast staple and a regional variation on the burger.

For almost all my visits, I stuck to the basics - burger and a fries and a beverage, with little in the way of enhancements for either of those two items.

In-N-Out Burger
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First Opened: 1948 (Headquarters: Irvine, CA)
Number of Franchises: in-N-Out features 300+ locations in six southwestern states (AZ, CA, NV, OR, TX, UT)
Branches Visited: 8202 N. IH-35, Windcrest, TX/1364 Holiday Ln, Fairfield, CA

Initial Reason for the Visit: Not my first visits by any means, but the visits are getting fewer and farther between.

General Feel: I doubt someone walking uninitiated into the tiled, red and white trimmed interiors of this eatery for the first time, watching the nattily uniformed workers scurry behind the counter to knock out orders, would necessarily suspect the almost cult-like adoration for this eatery, save perhaps for the long queues that are generally the norm.

In fact, I doubt the founders of the eatery in the Snyder family would've themselves suspected their first modest stand established in Baldwin Park, CA would garner praise from numerous culinary celebrities, including but not exclusive to Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, and Julia Child.

Burgers and Beer Week, Traveler's Edition - Part 1: Five Guys and Whataburger

With (614) Magazine's Burger & Brew Week whetting Central Ohioans' appetites, as well as the arrival of National Cheeseburger Day this weekend, hamburgers will be on the forefront of many people's minds this week, including ours.

My recent travels back to the West Coast reminded me that I had stumbled into an unintended nationwide mini-sampling of some of the country's burger purveyors during this year's travels, with all but one being a first-time experience. If any week was the perfect time to flame-broil these mental tidbits back to the forefront, this was the week for certain

For almost all my visits, I stuck to the basics - burger and a fries and a beverage, with little in the way of enhancements for either of those two items.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
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First Opened: 1986 (Washington, DC)
Number of Franchises: According to their website, Five Guys has 1,000 locations in 47 states and 6 Canadian Provinces (including 50+ in OH and 110+ in CA)
Branch Visited: 4116 Summit Plaza Drive, Louisville, KY

Initial Reason for the Visit: There simply ain't much open on certain holiday weekends.

Brews Cruising (California Edition): The Yogi Berra Conundrum

A decision between these two Russian River sours may not be as tough as
figuring out where else to go for craft beer in Santa Rosa
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post on one of craft beer's long time stalwarts in Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. One thing I noted then is that the throng of locals and out-of-towners that make getting into the brewpub a bit of a challenge, and this was no different on a my return to the brewery to pick up a couple bottles of their sour brews.

Thankfully for someone in my position, a second line strictly dedicated for bottle sales on particularly busy days makes things go a lot faster. For those dining in on these days, however, even an arrival a half-hour before opening is no guarantee that you'll get inside in short order. From where the picture was taken below, the waiting time was close to an hour.

This phenomenon may be eased a bit with Russian River's planned 15-acre brewpub facility in nearby Windsor (the current schedule slates an opening of Summer 2018, per this craftbeer.com article.) But until then, one may ponder the old Yogi Berra conundrum when seeing this queue.  Berra, long-time Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees and master of contorting the English language into a confusing understandability, is often credited with saying, ""Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

So where does one go for craft beer in Santa Rosa other than Russian River? My spouse and I had been to downtown neighbor Third Street Aleworks previously and found it a decent enough place, but I was itching to try something new. Based on a tip from a Cleveland area ex-pat now enjoying the Sonoma County life craft beer loving friend, Cooperage Brewing was the place I needed to visit.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 3): A Truly Holey Alliance

The marriage of classic sweet treats (donuts and ice cream) is alive and
well in the Sacramento area, as evidenced by this food truck from The Parlor
For this ice cream encounter, we need to focus briefly on a country almost 8,000 miles from California's capital city. As detailed in this Sacramento Bee article, Cambodian refugees fleeing to the United States from the horrors of genocide in their homeland in the 1970s ended up discovering donut shops as a way to earn money despite limited work-skills and education. As noted in this same story, unofficial estimates show that roughly 90% of the independent donut shops in California are now owned by families of Cambodian descent.

Fast forward to 2013 to the Cambodian-owned Baker's Donuts in South Sacramento, which has been frying up dough for its customers since 1985. Siblings Douglas and Stephanie Hem, who grew up working in their family's donut business, persuaded their elders/business owners that both social media interaction and more unique creations were the key to keeping up with recently arrived corporate competitors like Krispy Kreme.

As it turned out, one of their menu additions, ice cream filled donuts (often sporting tropically-flavored ice creams like ube and mango), proved to be a runaway hit, sparking an eventual niche market in the region for this "holey" alliance of these two classic sweet treat favorites.

Alas, a trip to the originating source wasn't going to work with my itinerary on this quick jaunt out west, so I went with a slightly more convenient yet still highly-regarded purveyor in this sweet combination in The Parlor Ice Cream Puffs shop.

Brews Cruising (California Edition): Sac-Town Sipping

Sacramento's State Capitol Building, whose construction was completed in 1874
Having lived in the both the Columbus, Ohio, and Sacramento, California areas for a few years of my life, I have found quite a few parallels beyond their capital city status. These parallels range from geography (mostly flat land at the junction of two rivers) to population (roughly 2 million people in their respective Metropolitan Statistical Areas to their quests to gain more prominence on the world stage) and even extend to pop culture. As hipster as Columbus can be, Sacramento is apparently more so, if you believe the folks behind infogroup.com, which rated this Central Valley city 4th on its Most Hipster City in the U.S. list (FWIW, Columbus didn't do too badly by its own man-bun, coming in at 20th.)

Not surprisingly, the craft beer scenes in both cities have also seen parallel, big-time growth. Starting in the single digits prior to 2010 like Columbus, Sacramento's brewery count now hovers in the mid-forties. A brief jaunt to the West Coast recently allowed me to dip into Sactown's beer scene with visits to West Sacramento's Bike Dog, and the Natomas-area production facility for Track 7 Brewing.

Food Truck Dossier: Horn OK Please

Food Truck: Horn OK Please

My First Thought: "Hey, that food truck kind of looks like a Jeepney!"

Reality:  Actually, this food truck is about as rare as a Filipino Jeepney in the Columbus area, though one would think it shouldn't be. Columbus has a fairly large number of residents from India within the region, and a corresponding fair number of brick-and-mortar restaurants as a result. One would think there would be a few Indian-food-related food trucks out there as well, but as far as I know, Horn OK Please (which debuted in the summer months of 2015) is pretty much it.

A fun little factoid lies in the food truck's name itself: Horn OK Please is a traditional phrase found on many commercial vehicles within India, indicating a request that the driver behind honk prior to passing the vehicle in front.

OH Beer Travels: Roll Out The Barrel

Our third stop on our recent mini-venture into Northeast Ohio brought us into metro Cleveland to kept us in the ever-growing craft beer destination that the Ohio City neighborhood has become, where we got to sample the small batch creations of Nano Brew.

First Impressions: "Now that looks like a nice patio area!"

Reality: Rated as the Best Bar Patio by Cleveland Scene magazine, this space sure looked like a great place to enjoy a beer in the sunshine. However, Mother Nature had turned up the heat and humidity to unbearable levels on the day of our visit, forcing all bar patrons into the air-conditioned comfort of the brick-lined interior.

Nano Brew's initial space had been that of the former Garage Bar, but more space to hunker down within was happily accepted by owner Sam McNulty when their former neighbor The Black Pig restaurant relocated just up the road. The existing bar now curls around into both spaces and the added kitchen capacity helps Nano Brew handle those who are there for some beer and grub.

One thing that did not change was the presence of Nano Brew's signature moose head, which stood steadfastly perched on the northern wall. In addition, the bicycle portrayed in Nano Brew's logo is no accident - through collaboration with the nearby Joy Machines Bike Shop, the brewery houses a bicycle tune-up box with all the requisite tools (and brews) you could need inside.