The last show of the August run of Ohio breweries was back in Mason, Ohio, at the Common Beer Company. Mason is the Cincinnati suburb that is also home to Sonder Brewing, which the tour played a couple of weeks ago. Both breweries opened within the last year, and both create some very tasty beers, but beyond that their approaches to the craft brewery and taproom experiences are pretty wildly different... and that's a good thing. Vive la différence!
Sonder is a rather huge space with a sort of industrial chic feel and a taproom with massive ceilings, set in a business park with corporate giants as neighbors. Common is up the road a bit in “old” Mason's picturesque downtown area, which has a classic Americana Main Street USA sort of feel, and the neighbors are other mom-and-pop restaurants, ice cream shops, and boutiques... with residential neighborhoods just around any corner. Right next door to Common is a local pizza shop, which you can order into the brewery.
The taproom is cozy yet open... you can sit out on the front patio, and they have open windows so you can still partake in what's going on inside. Inside the taproom is welcoming, and feels like a neighborhood hang... more friendly and brighter than a bar. As you walk towards the back you pass the brewing operation, and come to the beer garden, which features a fire pit, a variety of outdoor games, and numerous groups of Adirondack chairs creating a setting that feels like someone's nice sized backyard.
The Common Beer Company – Mason, OH (Cincinnati area)
The beer is available at the taproom, and at select eating and drinking establishments in the local area.
Common opened almost a year ago (Oct '18). Owner/brewer Mark Lortz had been perfecting his home brewing for nearly 10 years, and his wife (and co-owner) Amy has a local consulting business that has her working with many other Mason businesses. With their home walking distance from the brewery they aim very much to be a neighborhood-focused small-batch business, with no plans to distribute (a solid plan in a world where craft breweries battle for shelf space and tight margins in a “flavor of the week” environment), and based on their crowd on Saturday it seems like they are attracting a healthy mix of regulars and locals visiting based on word-of-mouth recommendations.
Live music is featured each week, sometimes inside, sometimes out back. On this night (my first time here) I played inside, where the music could be heard in the taproom and front patio, but probably not so much out back. The setting was intimate enough to have a fun banter with various people between songs, which created some funny moments.
My first beer of the night was The Hops Make Me Hazy (8.9%) New England IPA. As the name would indicate, the pour was a hazy yellow with a white head, a nice medium body, and perhaps a little more flavorful than many NEIPAs. The hops were bold enough to deliver a nice variety of tropical floral and fruity overtones, without being overhopped or too piney. Smooth and easy to drink, the first one went down rather quickly!
Sticking with IPAs (for the moment, anyway) I then switched to the Lortz Prayer (5.5%), the flagship's name being a play off the owners' surname. A well balanced IPA that again was crisp and smooth, hopped but not overly hopped, with a somewhat bready finish and only a slight trace of bitter on the back end. Another easy drinker, enough hoppy flavor and body to make it a nice sipper, but smooth enough to make it rather crushable.
For my set break I switched to the Angry Naked (5.5%) Gose, a lighter gose with sour apple overtones (I'm not sure whether that was implied, or actually infused with apple). I enjoyed this one (in fact, I ordered a second one to sip during my 2nd set), as I enjoy sours and goses that aren't obnoxiously sour (or what I call Sour Patch beers). I don't need a beer that puckers my face, or tastes like I'm drinking some sort of sour concentrate mix. Angry Naked was sour enough to keep in interesting, I loved the unusual hint of apple for a change (it seems brewers usually go to either citrus fruits or berries), but crisp and smooth enough to make it crushable. And like I said, I crushed two of 'em ;-) If you like ridiculously sour beers, this one might be a little tame to you, but I'd bet that overall it's a crowd pleaser.
As usual, I saved the darker beer for last, and I closed the night out with Burdicks Brown (6.8%), which is their Walk Around Town (6.9%) brown ale brewed with 20 pounds of Cocoa Puffs. Yep, Cocoa Puffs. I love a little chocolate in my darker beers, but I was a little concerned about how this one would taste due to a) the additional sugar, and b) the fact that it is artificial chocolate flavoring, as opposed to real chocolate. I sampled the Walk Around Town first to get a feel for what sort of brown ale base they were using for a foundation, and it was a nice nutty medium-to-light bodied brown ale. So far so good. I then moved to a pint of the Burdicks, and was pleasantly surprised. First, it wasn't nearly as sweet as I feared it might be... in fact it wasn't particularly sweet at all. Second, the chocolate flavor came through just fine, and I'm not sure if it was an illusion or if perhaps a little lactose was also added, but the Burdicks seemed to have a bit more creaminess than the Walk Around Town. While sipping this one I recommended it to another customer, who at first looked at me like I was crazy when I mentioned the Cocoa Puffs, but after sampling it was quite pleased and ordered a pint. So another winner for Common!
The Common Beer Company is a great little brewery, and beyond the home of good beer, a fun, friendly place to hang. I had numerous interesting conversations throughout the evening with various customers, the crowd seemed appreciative of the music, and Amy and Mark and their crew were very friendly and fantastic conversationalists. The vibe of the taproom was very open and welcoming, so if you're not from the neighborhood it's worth the drive, and you'll likely feel just as welcomed as if you had walked in from down the street.
This was the last Ohio brewery on the schedule for some time. Next we head east for the Labor Day Weekend Roadtrip (NoDa/Charlotte, Sierra Nevada/Asheville, Grumpy Old Men/Blue Ridge, GA) and then an end-of-summer run of beach breweries in the Carolinas and Virginia....
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