The casual atmosphere of Maumee Bay Brew Pub is a comfortable place to hang out and decide which of the Maumee Bay Brewing Co.'s nine beers to order.
"It's a great gathering place," said Neal Kovacik, general manager of Oliver House, where the brewery and pub is located. "A place for a family meal or to meet before a Mud Hens (baseball) game."
Patrons can choose from among seven beers on tap; some are sold year round, while others are seasonal.
Choices range from Buckeye Beer's historical label to Glass City Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Total Eclipse Breakfast Stout, Amarillo Brillo, Irish Red Ale and Dry Irish Stout. Coming soon are Strawberry Kolsch and Buckeye Amber.
There's even a root beer made at the brewery for people with a sweet tooth.
If you can't decide, you can order a sampler, which provides a good-size taste of six beers - three classics, Buckeye Beer, Glass City Pale Ale and India Pale Ale, as well as three rotating releases such as Fallen Timbers Red Ale, Very Special Bitter and Dry Irish Stout.
"We're the only brew pub in northwest Ohio," Kovacik said. "We brew nine different beers from scratch."
The pub has food, too. Among the menu choices are soups, salads, burgers and other sandwiches, as well as pizza from a wood-fired oven, steaks and pasta dishes. Prices range from $8 for a burger to $17 for a steak.
Established in 1995, brewing takes place at the Maumee Bay Brewing Co., which brews the 173-year-old Buckeye Beer.
The beer was brewed in Toledo from 1838 until the 1970s when the label was purchased by Miller Brewing Co. of Milwaukee, Wisc. In the mid-1990s, Oliver House owners Jim and Pat Appold purchased the rights back from Miller and began brewing it again in Toledo.
A microbrewery is defined as a small commercial brewery that brews no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per year. Brewed and distributed on a regional basis, some microbrews are known as craft beers as well.
Microbreweries emphasize the craftsmanship that goes into making beer instead of mass production, and often sell beer produced in limited quantities on the premises.
"Using the traditional brewing process, a microbrew or craft beer, starts with the sugars from a form of malted grain, either barley or wheat, added to hop flowers and water," according to the brewery's website. "The mixture is aged and generally not pasteurized. The difference in the process occurs after the initial fermentation.
"Instead of filtering and heating, the process used for bottled beer, cask ale is placed directly into a cask where it continues to develop. However, some craft beers are filtered. The microbrew is often carbonated by live yeast that ferments in the container. Darker beers age longer, and light ales must be used more quickly."
Micro-beers usually include specialty malt and hop ingredients, which gives beer variety in aroma and flavor. Often micro-beers have more complex flavor than commercial brews. The hop flower can cause the microbrew to have a flowery, fruity or sweet-smelling aroma. Craft beers often are sold in individual bottles, and might contain natural ingredients as varied as coriander and lavender, but most likely do not contain artificial flavorings, fillers or thickeners.
Pub patrons can view a couple 500-gallon tanks used to make the crafted brews. More tanks and the bottling operation is across the street in another old building.
The pub also features a small beer museum featuring the history of Buckeye Beer and other beer memorabilia.
Every spring, the Oliver House hosts the Buckeye Beer Collectors Society meeting. Collectors get together to buy, sell and reminisce about the brand.
The brewery is working to expand the region where Buckeye Beer is sold. It now can be found on tap at some Toledo area restaurants and is spreading throughout Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.
In the Columbus area, especially on Ohio State University's campus, the brand has become popular.
The pub is one of six food and beverage establishments located in Oliver House, which was Toledo's first grand hotel 152 years ago. The pub can be found on the second floor in what once was the main ballroom.
Today, Oliver House is the oldest commercial building in Toledo still being used.
When the hotel opened in 1859, it boasted 171 rooms, each with running water, gaslights, fireplaces and other posh amenities. Guests enjoyed the finest luxuries, including a high-quality menu. The hotel overlooked a park and offered private rooms with a view of the Maumee River.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Oliver House has a historical marker outside. When you walk through, you find a taste of the original building's old brick walls and wood floors, combined with a modern feel in the restaurants.
Also housed in Oliver House are Rockwell's Steakhouse; Pettit Fours patisserie and The Caf; Mutz, a casual bar that features an outdoor courtyard, pool tables and a game room; and Rockwell's Lounge, which features a more sophisticated atmosphere. The beers of Maumee Bay Brewing Co. can be purchased at any of the locations.