#32 Dortmunder Gold, Great Lakes Brewing, Cleveland, Ohio
State: Ohio, the birthplace of hamburgers, rock and roll, airplanes, seven presidents, the first college to allow blacks and women, breakfast cereal, the first man to orbit the earth, the guy who invented the lightbulb and motion pictures, the first man to walk on the moon, traffic lights, school grades, professional baseball, the NFL, the nation’s largest union, Alcoholics Anonymous, yo-yos and the author of this piece. Were it not for Ohio this country would be living in candle-lit barns eating cornpone and betting nickels on cockfights before working a 16-hour shift in a coal mine.
Beer: Dortmunder Gold, a pale export-style lager. Like PBR, the brew takes half its name from an award, the Gold medal at the 1990 GABF. It’s not surprising that this lager doesn’t really stand out in a field of 50, labeled by tasters as “slightly above average” and “a good Pilsner,” but it’s unquestionably the flagship craft beer of the state of Ohio. It would have been easy—but monumentally unfair—for the architect of this series to sub in Edmund Fitzgerald Porter or Hoppin’ Frog’s B.O.R.I.S. and deliver his home state a top 10 finish. But hosting fair, although ultimately disappointing, Presidential elections is something that separates Ohio from other places.
Difficulty of obtaining in Oregon: Fairly difficult. Great Lakes only distributes in 13 states around the, umm, Great Lakes. Minnesota is the furthest west you’ll find it, though several of these states allow beer to be shipped.
Average score: 61.08
Ohio is the original California.
In our country’s early days, when the Middle West was the West West, this is where men went to convert their vision of the future into currency. It’s been argued that Ohioans essentially invented the modern world. Though I won’t venture that far in a blog post about beer, remember that before destiny pushed America to the Pacific, Ohio was the first frontier, the place for our just-born nation’s wild-eyed utopians and eagerest beavers. Abuzz with the excitement of shoving the Brits out of their treefort, they hotfooted it west into the woods of Marietta, pissing on fresh earth, shucking what nature left them and burying their dead next to mounds left by disappeared tribes.
That was over long before I was hatched into the freshly expired carcass of American industry, 32 years ago this week. Granted peerage, the most successful pioneers moved on. The tire-making Firestone family of Akron became the winemaking family of Santa Barbara and the beermaking family of Paso Robles.
But Ohioans remain a little more eccentric and intense than other Midwesterners. The realest Ohioans—and among the living I mean people like Dennis Kucinich, Dave Chappelle, Bill Watterson, Don King,
Paul Newman, Pete Rose,Toni Morrison and Bobby Knight—have an edge.
Yes, those years as the American frontier left a spiritual residue. But, like with the rest of the giant widget factory between Rochester and Duluth, there's a physical residue from the industrial years to follow.
Better than anything I know in the whole state, Great Lakes Brewing bridges Ohio’s frontier, factory and rust bucket eras. And Dortmunder Gold, the first craft beer in the state, a modern craft version of a working man’s largely-forgotten lager style from mid-19th century, is a perfect flagship beer.
As we’ve done this series, plenty of commentators have pointed out that their state’s loss was due to the beer sampled, which wasn’t as good as some other brew from the state. But, as we said from the start, the point of this series is to figure out what state has the best flagship beer. That’s something well-known and oft-drank which captures what the state is all about. The best of these beers gets the honor of being named President.
That will not be Ohio. Not to spoil anything, but it won’t be California, either.