The Craft Beer Industry
“A good brewery is a social nexus of a community,” said Mark Young, who co-owns Two Bandits Brewing Co. in HIcksville, Ohio with brewmaster Bob Garza. “A 100 years ago, every community had a brewery and then Prohibition happened. Pub, in fact, is short for public house. That's what it is -- a place for people to come together. It’s some place to get a beer and take a break from a hectic life.”
Brewmaster Ozzy Finnegan at 4KD Crick Brewery in Defiance said a local brewery helps the community. “Beer to me is more than just a beverage, way more than a good time, to me brewing beer helps me support local farmers, bar, and patrons,” he said. “It’s very community-based in its ingredients, creating of the beers, to musicians and mug makers and especially our events. To me, craft beer brings a greater sense of community which I think is very important in these times.”
Defiance County offers two separate breweries -- Two Bandits and 4KD Crick Brewery. It also has the Iron Horse Brews in Sherwood, which offers a variety of local Ohio craft beers and wines on tap. At the Iron Horse, which is owned by the Schwarzbek family, the family wanted to showcase craft wines with their delicious food. “As a family, we have taken many day trips all over Ohio trying the many varieties of craft beer,” said Anita Schwarzbek. “We also love to see the different atmospheres and decor at each microbrewery. They are all different, just like their craft beer. About half our taps are reserved for our local Northwest Ohio microbreweries. The rest of our taps are a variety of beers from all over the state.”
One of the greatest things about craft beer, Finnegan said is the camaraderie it creates.
“From customers to crafters, it seems beer brings us all together,” he said. “There is nearly no negative competition in the brewing industry because we can all just have a beer and get along. We share information with each other and tell stories about our learning experiences with each other. All of our customers support other breweries too. We are just all in this boat together flowing down a stream of good times.” The local breweries have been around for several years. 4KD Crick opened in 2016. Two Bandits opened in 2017 (and will be opening a Coldwater, Mich., location this year). Iron Horse Brews opened in 2019. Each business actual started long before its opening. Garza made beer at his home and Young’s wife would exchange cookies for a six-back of beer. Young described the beer as “very refined and had flavor properties on point.” Young attended a party at the Garza house and the next day called Garza to ask him about a possible business venture. Young said they never thought their business would grow as it has.
“We are constantly pinching ourselves,” he said. “I thank God every moment. The brewhouse was part of a five-year plan and we did it in two. The brewery in Coldwater wasn’t even on the radar. … The first week we (were open) we went through 24 half barrels of beer and we only had 26 to begin with. That told us our situation.”
Finnegan first became interested in craft beer while living out in Denver. He had a friend that worked for the Great Divide Brewing Co. who would show him “all the cool things” about his job. “That began my love for craft beer,” he said. “ I moved back to Ohio in 2013 and started working at Sweetwater where Chef Aaron (Weible) also developed a love for craft beer. We began chatting and one thing led to another. We began brewing in his garage and basement for fun and that led into a full-scale brewery.”
The Schwarzbek family meanwhile was taking many day trips all over Ohio trying different varieties of craft beer. “Before the Iron Horse opened, we knew we wanted to promote Ohio in every way we could,” Schwarzbek said. “We knew that the people in our local communities would love being able to come to one place and try wines and craft beers from all over Ohio without the travel. Sherwood and the surrounding communities have been very supportive of the Iron Horse, and we want to spread that love to other small businesses in Ohio.” Those craft beers do travel too. Outside of the brewery, 4KD Crick brews can be found at Defiance Beverage Center, Ensigns Pub and a few other places from Defiance to Toledo.
Two Bandits have 52 distribution partners and can be found from Fort Loramie to Fort Wayne. “Our goal is to get our beer in all different places so people can enjoy our beer two hours from here and don’t necessarily have to drive (to Hicksville) to get it,” Young said. The brews are worth the drive, however. While each patron has his or her own favorites, there are a wide variety of great craft beers at each local brewery. At Two Bandits, some of the best sellers are the Killer
Bee IPA (a gold-rod honey IPA that Young describes as a “decadent beer even people who don’t like beer drink”); the Dead Frog IPA (a potent IPA that with citrus); and their various wheats such as the Razzmanian Devil. There are also seasonal beers that people come in to enjoy like the PB Gorilla Stout (a chocolate peanut butter stout). At 4KD Crick, patrons can enjoy the citrus infused East Coat style Green Mountain IPA, or the tropical fruit New England IPA Instant Snowman. There is also the bitter East Coast style IPA known as Defiance and the light-bodied blond ale of Turkey Crick. Those looking for more malt can try the Hog Wild (“perfect for summer and fall sipping,” Finnegan said).
While it takes on average, two weeks from birth to tap to brew a beer. Creating a new one can be both challenging and fun. Young said while he relies a lot on Garza to come up with ideas for a new craft beer some come from employees as well. A new banana-flavored wheat currently is being brewed -- that idea coming from an employee. “We always try to come up with a good, fun name,” he said, adding that the decision to make a new craft beer is part want, part need and part marketability. Finnegan said the idea for a new beer come from everywhere from drinking another beer that just needs something” or from a name. “Sometimes it starts with a great name like "’Nuclear Coleslaw’ and a story is born that leads to a beer,” he said. “ Sometimes customers challenge me with flavor profiles that I then try to turn into beer. I made a honey bacon beer a few times for the Beer and Bacon fest in Toledo. The ideas of a new beer really comes from all sources of inspiration.”
Every Defiance County brew house also offers food for individuals to pair with the brews. At Iron Horse, the smoked brisket and pulled pork are favorites, but there are a number of delicious other items as well as its “cheesecake of the week.” At Two Bandits and 4KD Crick, patrons can try a craft brew with any number of delicious dishes.