Newsworthy Brews at Old Bridge Brewing Co.
In June of 2020, a new venture began for the Ponchak family of McConnelsville. Opening a business that many people from the area had never seen was an exciting yet nerve wracking task, but the driven, hard working family was thrilled to take on this next part of their life. After years of renovations and remodeling, Old Bridge Brewing Company opened its doors to the public at 281 West Main Street in the Village of McConnelsville.
Fast forward to October of 2020, Dean Ponchak, or Brewer Dean as the regulars call him, was working with Brewer Doug, a Brewmaster that travels to and works with many breweries, to compile a list of some of their personal favorite brews, as well as some of the favorites of those who frequently visited the microbrewery, to submit to the Ohio Craft Brewers Cup. The Ohio-based competition has been attracting many of the thriving breweries throughout the state to showcase some of the best brews throughout the area. Eager to impress the exquisite panel of judges, Old Bridge Brewing Company submitted a total of four brews.
On the list of craft beers that Brewer Dean and Brewer Doug submitted were a range of brews that were beloved by locals and travelers alike. Among the four submissions were The IPA, Beernormous, Bourbonormous and Red as Reba Red Rye. To some, a few of these names may sound like made up silly words, but Brewer Dean explained what each brew was and offered the opportunity to taste each of the aforementioned concoctions in a flight, (a tasting of four beers, served in 5oz glasses.)
The first brew on the flight was The IPA. While tasting brew number one, Brewer Dean explained how this India Pale Ale contains three of his favorite varieties of hops. Included in the variety are Huell Melon, Citra and Amarillo. Combining these hops creates “flavors of honeydew melon, grapefruit, line and papaya” he explained. Between the hops and the many tastes experienced, this brew has a very juicy and refreshing taste that will leave both your taste buds and sense of smell wanting more. The IPA carries a 5.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is relatively light in color compared to the three other brews.
Next up on the flight was the ever-loved Red as Reba Red Rye. Brewer Dean took a second to share where this name came from, explaining one of his son’s admiration of the red-headed country singer Reba McEntire. This brew was a red ale described on the menu as “smooooth”, with four “O’s” if you were counting. Made by adding rye to the ale, this red liquid takes on a bit of rye spiciness and leaves notes of caramel dancing across your tongue. Old Bridge Brewing Company had one chance with this one, and they surely didn’t let anyone down. Becoming a crowd pleaser, this brew holds a 5.5% ABV and frequently leaves Old Bridge Brewing Co. in of their 64oz to-go growlers.
The next 5oz glass on the flight was filled with a dark, heavy looking brew. Beernormous, a fitting name for this imperial stout, was described as “maltnormous, hopnormous & alcoholnormous.” Brewer Dean went on to reassure me that the tastes of coffee, chocolate and raisin was exactly what he was going for when brewing this tasty beer. He also made sure to point out that the description on the menu saying “Tastes so good, you’ll want to keep drinking it even though you won’t be able to handle it” is surely the truth on this award winner. This brew sits at a 10% ABV and is surely going to keep you coming back for more.
The fourth and final brew on the flight was a second rendition of the aforementioned creation. Bourbonormous was created from Beernormous. The process for this barrel-aged brew is done by taking Beernormous and placing it in New Riff Bourbon Barrels and letting it sit for a few weeks as it ages. Taking on tastes of oak and vanilla while also becoming creamy and chocolatey, Beernormous truly takes on a new form through this aging process. Bourbonormous shares a 10% ABV, just like its predecessor.
Of the four brews submitted, the three that placed were the following: Beernnormous in the Imperial Stout/Porter category, Bourbonormous in the Wood Barrel Aged over 8% ABV category and the Red as Reba in the Amber/Red Ale or Lager category. Out of the 49 breweries, 335 entries and 24 categories in the coveted competition, both the Red as Reba and Beernormous placed with a bronze medal while the Bourbonourmous impressed the judges and brought home a silver medal. Brewer Dean jokingly gave the idea of wearing the medals around his neck almost like an Olympian would, but most likely will display them in the Taproom for all to see.
Before heading back to the brewing area, Dean explained how he was excited for next year’s competition. He gave some insight into the fact that he has many brews that he is eager to perfect throughout next year to submit to the 2021 competition. Dean also took this chance to give a word of advice to those worried that they may not like craft beer, saying that “We brew so many different types of beers here to ensure that there is something for everyone to enjoy, no matter your taste buds. We’ve worked hard to create a place that all feel comfortable in and can be a learning environment for those just getting into the craft beer experience, while also being a fun environment for the pros.”