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Oct 31, 2014

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Maumee Bay Brewing Company

June, 1999

By Bobby Bush

Although I was in the state for only one night, I was not about to miss an opportunity to visit my first Ohio brewpub. Toledo sits right at the western tip of Lake Erie, not far by water from Detroit. Unfortunately we were staying near the airport on the far western side of town. After what seemed an eternity, our taxi arrived for this night’s excursion. Following one failed attempt to find a new, nearby brewpub that had not yet opened its doors for business, we headed downtown. Thirty-some dollars later, we disembarked in front of a vintage 1859 brick structure known as the Oliver House. A small portion of this former grand hotel, not far from the Maumee River, has served as home to Maumee Bay Brewing Company since early ‘96.

Though the upstairs dining rooms, richly paneled in dark oak, were closed on this late Monday night, Major Oliver’s Pub was active downstairs. We hurriedly sampled all seven of Maumee’s brews. All American Gold, a lager, had a surprisingly fruity body, finishing with tartness. The thin Glass City Pale Ale, was nicely balanced, effectively (and disappointingly) hiding any hops character. Lost Peninsula Pilsner was done in proper Czech-style. Named for Peter Lenk, the immigrant owner of the original turn-of-the-century Toledo Brewing & Malting Company, Lenk’s Hill Hefeweizen was German-style, full of banana and clove nose.

Maumee’s 500 gallon brewhouse was handcrafted in Budapest, Hungary. It occupies a room on the second floor and can be viewed through large windows under the high ceilings of the former hotel ballroom. Fallen Timbers Red Ale was supposed to be “well hopped,” but the identifiable taste of crystal malt was all there was. The Willamette hops of Boyer Brown were detectable against a grain bill of roasted and chocolate malts. A dark lager, Wee Bock, was slightly sweet, finishing nicely dry. The complex flavor constituents of Java Stout -caramel, roasted barley, black patent malts -were made creamily delicious by a nitrogen infusion. All in all, Maumee’s brews were pretty darn good, though under-hopped. And they’re also available locally in bottles.

A good, old building is a terrible thing to waste? Just add beer and life begins again. It did for the Oliver House and Maumee Bay Brewing Company.

By now, this night was old and yawning. The taxi we called never arrived and the brewpub doors were locked behind us. Strolling to an all-night restaurant, we finally attracted the attention of a soon to be rich cabby and headed for a needed night’s sleep. Although we’d missed Toledo’s other brewpub, all was not lost. While awaiting our flights the following day, I tried a pint of Mosquito Red Ale, a non-descript red-tinted brew from Nick & Jimmy’s Bar & Grill/Black Swamp Microbrewery that sort of told me we had had the best Toledo beer the night before. But you never know. If I ever head toward the great Lake Erie, I’ll stop in Nick & Jimmy’s just to give them a fair chance.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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