Athens Brews Rock It in Rick Armon’s ’50 Must-Try Craft Beers of Ohio’

It turns out the name of my favorite Athens beer was inspired by the lyrics of my favorite manic musician — Frank Zappa.

“With the oil of aphrodite, and the dust of the grand wazoo …”

That line from “Cosmik Debris” inspired the name of Oil of Aphrodite (Jackie O’s American double stout brewed with Integration Acres black walnuts), which earned a spot on Rick Armon’s “50 Must-Try Craft Beers of Ohio.”

After drinking more than my share of Oil of Aphrodite since I moved to Athens in 2015, I now know its backstory thanks to Armon’s newly published book.

Overall, Athens brew culture fares well in the guide.

Jackie O’s placed two beers on the list of 50 (the sublime Berliner Weisse sour beer being the other.) For each must-try beer, Armon lists several similar beers that also are worth checking out. Those honorable mentions include the following 13 Athens-brewed beers:

  • Jackie O’s: Dark Apparition (twice), Cool Beans, Razz Wheat, Brick Kiln Barley Wine, Funky South Paw, Mystic Mama, Paw Paw Wheat, RIcky, Java the Stout, and Bourbon Barrel Brick Kiln
  • Little Fish: Woodthrush and Sunfish
  • Devil’s Kettle: Devil’s Paw

But wait. There’s more: Jackie O’s brewmaster Brad Clark is listed among 10 influential people in Ohio brewing, and Devil’s Kettle gets a nod as one of the “10 Coolest Brewery Names.”

Bottles of Jackie O’s Berliner Weisse and Oil of Aphrodite, two of Ohio’s “must-try” beers.

This performance by Athens breweries is no small feat. As Armon notes, these are boom times for beer in Ohio, with more than 200 breweries operating in 2012 (up from 49 a mere two years earlier). And that includes the big guys like Anheuser-Busch.

I approached this book with trepidation, fearful of beer snobbery that I generally don’t have much use for. Armon has no patience for that. His book is filled with enough fascinating anecdotes and beer geek talk to sate the casual tippler and the beer guru. The Akron Beacon-Journal reporter has been writing about beer since 1999, and it shows.

“The beers showcased here are not necessarily the best in the Buckeye State,” Armon cautions. “The best beer is whatever you think it is.”

I love that. If Bud is your thing, cool. More power to you. This tone permeates the book. He’s not deifying 50 beers. Rather, he hopes to suggest beers that will “spark debate and, perhaps, give you a reason to sample something you have never tried before.”

The book features beautiful photos, plenty of details and writing that amuses without meandering. No Cosmik Debris here. Just plenty of fascinating tidbits that will make you want to rediscover our local breweries and strike out across the state to sample a wide variety of brews.

Most of us don’t write about beer for a living and haven’t had the luxury of trying dozens, even hundreds, of Ohio beers. But we can claim some level of expertise as far as Athens beers are concerned. So what is your “must-try” craft beer at Athens breweries? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

50 Must-Try Craft Beers of Ohio
Rick Armon
238 pages
2017, Ohio University Press

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