A couple of summers ago, a group of friends made it a regular event to head north to the Debonne Vineyards and Winery for Sunday afternoons of live jazz sponsored by the radio station where my friend Sally works and the healthcare company where I’m in marketing. Debonne has been a favorite winemaker in Northeast Ohio since 1971. Winery founder Tony Debevc knows how to bring grapes, people, food and music together to offer unforgettable afternoons in the sun–those days are some of my favorite recent summer memories.
On one of our visits, we discovered that Tony’s operation had opened a small brewery called Cellar Rats–appropriately enough, in the cellar of the winery. Soon my friends and I were making our way to the back bar where the beer was served and working our way through all the different styles of beers–enjoying every one of them!
Last night the brewery debuted their expanded operation to a group of invited guests–and I was fortunate enough to be on the list. The first person I ran into was Tony Debevc, Jr., managing partner and head brewer. Tony’s enthusiasm for crossing over into brewing was, well…infectious. A fourth generation Debevc involved in the family business, Tony told me how much he enjoyed brewing beer in the heart of Ohio’s wine trail. The fact that the Cellar Rats brews are made with well-water from the property is something that both Tonys were proud to note–it makes for very controllable quality and unique flavor.
The first beer I sampled was one I had tried several times before, the Field Rat Wheat. This is a nice summer beer, and went perfectly with the warm temperatures we were experiencing on the first evening in September. I had the chance to sample another summer seasonal during a trip to the brewery bar with managing partner and director of sales and marketing , Joel Sandrey. Joel poured a Raspberry Porter noting it was one of his favorites, and not something most people expect to see on the summer seasonal list. The bright berry nose on the beer was strong–but with the first sip I noted the complex coffee and chocolate maltiness coming through–it finished with that raspberry flavor on my tongue. It was like eating a favorite piece of candy in a boxed chocolate sampler, but in a glass!
Also on tap was the Rat Tail Ale–now being bottled, and soon to be found on your local store shelves! The small bottling operation was recently added, and allows Cellar Rats to send six packs home with brewery guests, as well as offering some limited distribution. It’s great news for local fans. I had been fortunate enough to find Cellar Rats in growlers at my local beer and wine specialty store, Chuck’s Beverages–but this move allows many more people to enjoy a local beer even if they can’t make it to Madison.
So if you’re in one of those beer vs. wine relationships–you know, where one of you prefers beer and the other would rather spend time sipping Chardonney–Cellar Rats and Debonne Vineyard is the perfect getaway! If you’re that beer person-make a trip out this fall and taste for yourself–the InFESTation Oktoberfest is one you won’t want to miss!