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Bowling Green vs. Wisconsin: Let's talk Ohio beer

After a week off, I hope your livers are ready for another home football Saturday. This time, we've got some fine beer from Ohio for you to sample with breakfast.


I don't know about you guys, but I was extremely confused when I woke up this past Saturday. Early-season bye weeks will do that to a person. I mean, my first beer didn't even happen until, like, 6 p.m. Weird, wild stuff.

Anyways, Wisconsin football is back this weekend with an 11 a.m. kickoff against defending MAC champion Bowling Green. That's about as much football analysis as I can handle for a beer post, so let's get down to the good stuff.

I've got two different beer options for you this weekend: one brewery that will be easy for you to get in Madison and one brewery that you should ask your BGSU friends to bring with them. You have BGSU friends, right? Ones that are coming to the game? Shoot. Maybe just keep the second brewery in mind the next time you swing by Toledo, then.

Ohio is known for a lot of things: the ability to trade wares for tattoos, criminal activity on par with Florida (the Australia to USA's England), astronauts and a burgeoning beer scene. The first craft brewery in Ohio (founded in 1988 by the brothers Conway) and probably still the best is Great Lakes Brewing out of Cleveland. One of the first craft beers I remember trying, and enjoying, was their Burning River Pale Ale. Well-hopped, but not tongue-scorchingly so, and clocking in at 6 percent ABV, Burning River is named for the actual burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969. I'm proud to say I only had to look up how to spell Cuyahoga twice.

It has won seven gold medals at the World Beer Championships, and they are all deserved. As the weather slowly (or quickly) dips into fall temperatures, a porter is often more desirable to drink in the early-morning hours. The roasty, coffee, chocolate notes are great with a breakfast brat. Luckily, Great Lakes makes an excellent one: the Edmund Fitgerald Porter. At 5.8 percent ABV and lightly hopped, this porter goes well with grilled meats. If you'll indulge me for a moment, as I learned something new the other week, the style of beer known as "porter" gets its name from the English dudes who hauled luggage and goods to open air markets and hotels. They liked to drink this style of beer, and so the style took its name directly from its top consumers.

I will lastly mention the Great Lakes Christmas Ale. You won't be able to buy this until November, but this is my favorite beer they make. It sells out quickly, but is worth the search. They brew it with cinnamon, fresh ginger and honey and they only thing more Christmas-y to drink is eggnog and brandy (because, you know, Wisconsin).

My second brewery that you should check out is Maumee Bay Brewing out of Toledo, a mere 25 miles north of BGSU. They do not distribute much out of northeast Ohio, but do growler fills if you know someone coming into Madison for the weekend. My wife's glamorous job often finds her in Toledo for work. Not only has this gotten me one Toledo Mud Hens t-shirt, it has allowed her to try this fine brewery on a couple of occasions. Her favorite is their double IPA, Amarillo Brillo. It is available at various times throughout the year -- unfortunately not right now according to their website -- and is 8.4 percent ABV with a whopping 101 IBU (international bittering units, or how hoppy the beer is with the higher the number, the hoppier the beer). This beer is also rated a 93 on Beer Advocate, but anything with "double" or "imperial" in the name automatically is rated about a 90 there. It's the law.

After a quick perusal of the rest of Maumee's lineup, the two beers I recommend trying for this weekend if you can are their Oktoberfest and the Buckeye Beer. The Oktoberfest is a classic Märzen-style that you've probably tried at any number of breweries, with roasted Munich malts and a caramel sweetness to it. The Buckeye Beer is a Czech-style pilsener that has a long and storied history in the city of Toledo. I suggest checking out this article from from a few years ago that delves into why this particular name and beer style is so important to the city. While many people compare light, straw-yellow colored beers to the Miller Lites of the world, a good pilsener-style beer is quite different. A solid pilsener will have a brightness and a crispness to it, that macro-lagers can not compete with. I've never tried Buckeye Beer, but if it is similar to the original recipe, I can only assume that it has these qualities.

Enjoy your weekend, y'all, and enjoy some good beers, too. I'll be at work the entire time, so please have one for me.