In beer border battle, Ohio named top brew over Michigan

Wild Side Brewing from Grand Rapids, Ohio, tapped as best beer of inaugural competition

Ohio vs. Michigan craft beer competition

TOLEDO (WTOL) - As the Ohio State and Michigan State football game played in the background, Nick Scott, the owner of Wild Side Brewing in Grand Rapids, Ohio, celebrated winning the inaugural Ohio vs. Michigan craft beer competition at Toledo’s Casual Pint on Saturday afternoon.

"It's always good to beat anyone from Michigan," Scott said, chuckling.

A combined 21 breweries from Ohio and Michigan competed in the contest, which was timed to coincide with the Ohio State and Michigan game but also as a warmup for the Ohio State and University of Michigan showdown on Nov. 24. Breweries were asked to enter either a porter, stout, or brown beer.

Wild Side's Tenebrae, an imperial stout, won top beer in the Ohio vs. Michigan craft beer contest, held Saturday at Casual Pint. Wild Side is located in Grand Rapids, Ohio.
Wild Side's Tenebrae, an imperial stout, won top beer in the Ohio vs. Michigan craft beer contest, held Saturday at Casual Pint. Wild Side is located in Grand Rapids, Ohio. (SOURCE: WTOL)
It’s always good to beat anyone from Michigan.
Nick Scott, Wild Side Brewing, whose Tenebrae beer won the inaugural Ohio vs. Michigan craft beer competition

Scott’s Tenebrae, a rum and bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, prevailed. Another Ohio brewery, Bowling Green Beer Works, finished second with its Teleporter porter, followed by Adrian, Michigan’s Cotton Brewing, which entered its Putin on a Pony, a Russian imperial stout. Ann Arbor’s Wolverine State took home fourth place with its Massacre, an imperial dark lager.

Ohio's craft beer industry has experienced rapid growth in recent years, growing to nearly 300 craft breweries currently in the state. For Jon Sicotte, the president of Toledo's Glass City Mashers homebrewing club, the top two finish for local brewers was a positive sign for the state's brewers.

Glass City Mashers President Jon Sicotte quaffs a brew during the final round of judging of the Ohio vs. Michigan craft beer competition at Casual Pint in Toledo.
Glass City Mashers President Jon Sicotte quaffs a brew during the final round of judging of the Ohio vs. Michigan craft beer competition at Casual Pint in Toledo. (SOURCE: WTOL)

"It says that the industry is finally maturing. We're getting guys who have some experience, and they are turning out some great beer," Sicotte said.

The contest was broken into an Ohio and Michigan division. Then the top two from those divisions competed in the final round, judged by Sicotte, local beer columnist Brian Dugger, and Akron Beacon Journal beer writer Rick Armon.

Ohio's craft beer industry, particularly in northwest Ohio, has operated to some degree in the shadow of Michigan's national giants Founders Brewing Company, Bell's Brewery, and New Holland. But Kristi Smith, a sales rep for Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, Michigan, was a judge of the Ohio beers, and she said Ohio should be proud of its progress.

"It's been six years since I have done judging, and the beer was just fantastic," she said. "Being at the Ohio table, I was so impressed by the quality."

It’s been six years since I have done judging, and the beer was just fantastic. Being at the Ohio table, I was so impressed by the quality.
Kristi Smith, sales rep with Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, Michigan

And after a little more than two hours, Wild Side’s Tenebrae, Latin for “darkness,” was judged to be the best. Scott brewed the beer in 2017 and let it sit for nearly a year to allow the booziness to fade. It was released in May and will be available again in March. Wild Side has built a reputation for its unique fruit ales and sours, but Scott was excited to show the depth and variety of his beer lineup.

“About 70 percent of our beer is our sours and most people think of us as a sour brewery, but that’s not true,” Scott said.

Beers are lined up and ready to be served for competition at Casual Pint in Toledo.
Beers are lined up and ready to be served for competition at Casual Pint in Toledo. (SOURCE: WTOL)

Ohio breweries and their entries (click on the brewery name to learn more about each brewery):

Scot Yarnell, co-owner of Earnest Brew Works, and Nick Dallas, owner of Upside Brewing, judge Michigan beers with Chris Harris, owner of Black Frog brewing, at Casual Pint in Toledo on Saturday.
Scot Yarnell, co-owner of Earnest Brew Works, and Nick Dallas, owner of Upside Brewing, judge Michigan beers with Chris Harris, owner of Black Frog brewing, at Casual Pint in Toledo on Saturday. (SOURCE: WTOL)

Michigan breweries and their entries (click on the brewery name to learn more about each brewery):

Area beer aficionados gather to taste the Ohio and Michigan beers that competed Saturday for top beer.
Area beer aficionados gather to taste the Ohio and Michigan beers that competed Saturday for top beer. (SOURCE: WTOL)

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