Maumee Bay Brewing Company part of Oliver House historyWritten by Brian Malkowski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1859 Toledo was 22 years young, had a population of just over 10,000 people and brewing beer was one of the city’s biggest industries. That same year, commissioned by Maj. William Oliver, architect Isaiah Rogers completed and opened the doors of The Oliver House Hotel.
Designed to be a first-class modern hotel with fireplaces and running water in all 170 rooms, the building was built with 1.25 million bricks and was one of Toledo’s finest hotels for more than 30 years. As newer and more modern hotels were being built toward the heart of Downtown Toledo, The Oliver House was nearing its end. In the 1900s, the hotel would be converted into Industrial and manufacturing space.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that The Oliver House would be bought and renovated for public use, making it the oldest working commercial building in Toledo. The building now houses numerous townhouse apartments, bars and restaurants, art galleries, Toledo’s Brewing Hall of Fame & Museum and The Maumee Bay Brewing Company (MBBC).
The microbrewery is located on the second floor along with the Maumee Bay Brew Pub. Microbreweries brew no more than 15,000 barrels a year, concentrating more on quality rather than output. On the way upstairs you will notice the hall of fame and museum, which takes you back to a time when there was no glass or manufacturing industry yet in Toledo. In the pub you can enjoy food, multiple craft beers and a view of the brewery.
The brewery is glass-enclosed and tile-floored with numerous drains, making clean up as easy as possible. It is a 15-barrel system, which makes about 465 gallons of beer in every brew. So how is the beer made? I shadowed master brewer John Koester and brewer Clint McLaughlin to see the process first-hand. The brew for the day would be Blitzen Christmas Ale.
I arrived at The Oliver House at 9 a.m. and the cracked grain had already been loaded into the mash tun and brought up to temperature. In this process, enzymes in the malt break down the gain’s starch into sugars, creating a malty liquid called wort. This process took about two hours. From there the wort would be transferred through the mash tun’s false bottom to the brew kettle to start the boiling process.
During the 90-minute boiling process, the hops are added to give the beer its bitterness, distinct aroma and wonderful flavor. This was my favorite part of the process because after seeing and smelling hops for the first time I had a different appreciation for beer. As the boiling process was coming to an end, Koester started to whirlpool the liquid inside the kettle to force any leftover solids to the center.
Before the liquid can be transferred to the fermentation chamber it must filter through a heat exchanger which actually chills the liquid after it leaves the hot brew kettle. Fermentation converts the carbohydrates into alcohols and about two weeks into this process the yeast will be added and finally the liquid can be called beer. The liquid will be stored in one of eight fermentation chambers, where it will remain for three to four weeks before it can be consumed.
Unfortunately my brewing experience was over for the day, but I wasn’t leaving the building anytime soon. McLaughlin had me take a seat at the bar where I would sample some of the beers the brewery had available. The brewery has what it calls a flight, a sample tray shaped like a wooden paddle that can be ordered in the pub so customers can experience their choice of six different MBBC craft brews. With names like Dortmunder, Hefeweizen and Sturgeon Ale, I didn’t know where to start. McLaughlin set them up light to dark and gave me a detailed description of each brew.
I started with legendary classic Buckeye Brew, a lighter and more common beer brewed year round and also available in bottles. Buckeye, which dates back to 1838, was brewed for more than 100 years at the former Buckeye Brewing Company located in Downtown Toledo. As I moved up the hop ladder I tried King’s Shilling Pale Ale, made with UK golding hops and, in my opinion, the perfect amount of hop flavor. Another ale favorite is the Fallen Timbers Red Ale, made from cascade hops and featuring a slight citrus flavor.
As I moved down the line, the beers got darker and it was my first time trying a stout. The Dry Irish Stout has a roasted malt flavor with a creamy texture. This particular stout is the most consumed dark beer in the world. The Total Eclipse Breakfast Stout is a high gravity stout made with mocha and locally sourced coffee beans by Flying Rhino. This higher alcohol content brew is loaded with flavor and is also available year round on draft.
The Oliver House is just another hidden gem in Toledo. From meeting a friend for a quick brew to sitting down in its fine dining restaurant Rockwells, The Oliver House covers it all under one roof. Mutz bartender Jessica Jackson said “the different venues at The Oliver House can accommodate everybody.” She also said she notices new customers every day, including tourists who make the stop to try one of the fresh brewed craft beers.
During the past three years, the nation’s beer sales have been in decline, but the craft beer market has been on the rise. The beer brewed at the MBBC is gaining momentum and is also available in other area restaurants and taverns. The brewery currently has distribution in several states. The MBBC has another brewery across the street from The Oliver House and this is also where the bottling line is set up. The craft beer industry was once a lost American tradition, but the MBBC is proof it is making a fast comeback.
For more information, visit www.theoliverhousetoledo.com.