The Winter Tour kicked off last night at Dalton Union Winery & Brewery near Marysville, Ohio. I say "near" because I never actually saw Marysville, which is a small town NW of Columbus. The brewery is outside of town, surrounded by beautiful farm land, and it was far enough away from the major highways that after going down several small farm roads I was pretty sure my GPS was lying to me (you have to admit, she doesn't sound very trustworthy). In fact it was remote enough that after the show it was so dark that I pulled off one of the farm roads to get out and admire the magnificent view of the stars (it was perfectly clear out, and due to the lack of city effect was so dark that I enjoyed the best view of the stars that I had seen in years).
Dalton Union Winery & Brewery - Marysville, OH
Beers are sold on tap at the taproom, and via keg to area establishments.
The star gazing was a perfect way to cap off an otherwise great evening. Dalton Union, which is owned and run by the married team of Dale and Tonya, launched almost four years ago as a winery, and started making beer with the help of their brewmaster Bob a year ago. The brewery became so popular that they are already going through a major expansion, which will allow them to keep up with production and distribute further into the region (they currently distribute kegs to local restaurants and taprooms). The taproom is adjacent to the brewing facility, and also includes a party room and patio. Food is provided via a rotation of food trucks. The taproom, which is rather sizable, is cozy and comforting, with a big stone fireplace, and in addition to plenty of tables also some large leather couches surrounding the fireplace. As a special treat for me, the room also featured a very nice sound system which Dale could run via iPad from the bar... so the sound was great all night and I didn't have to do a thing other than plug in and play!
Dalton Union makes wine, ciders, and beers... but I stuck to the beers, of which there were 7 or 8 to choose from. I started off with DUB Smash, which is a hoppy amber (5.38%). Golden and clear in color with a light white head, this was a very refreshing pint of medium/light body... delivering on flavor while being thirst quenching and not too heavy. It reminded me of a session ale, with a slight piney and citrus undertone, and only a hint of bitter on the back end. A nice way to start, and was quite refreshing after the long drive in.
During my first set I sipped on the Big Buck Brown (5.1%), a delightful brown ale that is crisp and toasty, a little malty, and again with a medium body and carbonation that allowed it to be flavorful and crisp and refreshing. A very nice ale for this time of year, when you want something a little more robust and dark in flavor, but want it to cure your thirst and not leave you feeling heavy and bloated. I could have had a few more of these...
For the set break I stayed with the darker theme and switched to the Gilley Chocolate Porter (6.3%). Almost crisp black in color with a light brown head, and a light aroma hinting at coffee. Nice overtones of chocolate and a hint of coffee, but the coffee wasn't as dominant as with a true coffee-infused brew (which is fine, as it's not billed as a coffee brew anyway!). I was a little surprised that the body wasn't as heavy as I had expected, which for my purposes was fine (I don't want anything real heavy while I'm singing), but others might find it a little light. For me, I enjoyed the complexities of the flavor coupled with a somewhat lighter body, so I'd recommend it as a fine option.
For my final set I sipped on the brand new Fireside Winter Wheat (5.9%), which had just been tapped for the first time. The pour reminded me of an Eastern IPA, a little cloudy deep golden hue, it again was a particularly satisfying, smooth drink that left me wanting another.
For those following my tour blog, you might notice that one of the trends that seems to be emerging as the journey continues is that often the real hidden gems of breweries are found in rural towns far off the beaten path. Wooly Pig Farm (on the other side of Ohio) comes to mind... Crafty Ales & Lagers in New York's Finger Lakes region is another... and I'd put Dalton Union on the list as well. Fantastic beers coupled with the friendliest of people, comfortable surroundings, great scenery, and a real enthusiasm for both the beer and the music make these places a real joy to visit and among my favorite stops. I can't encourage people enough to take the time to exit the highway, head out into the hills, search these places down, and get in on the secret. And if you do so on a starry night, all the better!
Thanks to Tonya and Dale for hosting me! From here I turn south, heading to Tennessee and a couple of nights in Georgia...