By Day Bracey
Pittsburgh Current Craft Beer Writer
July 7, 2:30 p.m.: I’m at Birdfish Brewing in Columbiana, Ohio. There is never really a good reason to be in Ohio unless you’re buying beer, driving to Chicago, or wanting to show your ungrateful children how good they’ve got it at home. After being introduced to a few cans of Super Galactic Expialidocious double dry-hopped milkshake IPA with pink guava, I decided it was worth the trip, which is only an hour NW of Pittsburgh. By comparison, it takes about that long to get from Downtown to East Liberty in rush hour traffic. The brewery has two locations, Up Top and Down Low, more on that later. We start Down Low, where there seems to be a biker gang bachelorette party going on in the parking lot. It’s one of those things that you know exists, but until you see it, it never crosses your mind. Biker babes become biker brides and book biker bachelorette bashes. Beautiful.
The space has a cool vibe, picnic tables, pinball machines, coloring books, and a gift shop with a stained glass entrance. Steve Lenhart, Taptender, joins me at the bar.
Me: How long have you folks been here?
SL: We first opened Up Top in 2015. We started out small with a one-barrel system. We do a lot of experimental beers up there now. It’s only open Friday and Saturday, and we bring in good live music. When live music isn’t playing, we have an impressive vinyl collection that we spin. We host record swaps, and people have donated some as well. Down Low is a seven-barrel system, and we opened this up in December of 2017. A big thing about us is trying to keep as much of what we do as local as possible. You see the Ohio logos on the taps? Those are beers that are completely locally sourced. Our growlers come from a local guy, the art, merch, all local. We have food trucks come by to serve food, and R’s Pizza delivers here.
Me: What’s a Birdfish?
SL: It’s a penguin. Youngstown State’s mascot is a penguin. Back in the garage days of brewing, the motto was “Drink like a fish, fly like a bird.”
Me: What are some of the collabs you’ve done with breweries in the area?
SL: We’ve collaborated with Noble Creature out of Youngstown. Downtown there is a restaurant that has been there forever called the MVR. The brewery is right by there in an old church they renovated. They’re fantastic. Modern Methods is another brewery we’ve done work with. Both are very good and within reasonable distance.
Me: Tell me about the pinball machines.
SL: It’s a pretty big deal. We partnered with A Pirate’s Life Pinball. They rotate the games in and out. We have a league and hold tournaments on Tuesdays. It’s a dollar a game. You and I will spend that dollar in about two or three minutes. But some of these kids will come in here and keep that thing going for an hour. It’s amazing to watch.
July 7, 4 p.m.: After showing me the brewery side and the Christopher Walken cooler, we head Up Top to do another flight. It’s within walking distance, but I’m lazy and have a designated driver. The place is located on the main street in the middle of a quaint town with a roundabout and antique shops. I can smell the Amish nearby. The place is tiny, but homey. The draft list is short, but wild. The Pineapple Shandy and Lavender Ale are superb. To top it all off, I got a hot dog from Josie’s down the street topped with pulled pork, cheese, and perfectly crisp bacon.
There is never really a good reason to come to Ohio. Today, I found a few great ones. Hell, I might fuck around and buy a Cavs jersey.