Unfortunately, Dayton is devoid of breweries and brewpubs, so I went back to my roots and picked up a growler of Mt. Carmel's Blonde Ale. Mt. Carmel Brewing is a relative newcomer to the local scene, but is quickly becoming a favorite. The tiny brewery sits in the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati--only about 2-3 miles from my childhood home (and closer still to my old elementary school). This area is not known for beer (I always assumed it was a Budmillcoors stronghold), so I was shocked when my friend Shane asked me if I had ever tried this beer that was being brewed out of that area. And surprised again at how popular the beer had become--most of my beer-savvy friends have picked up a growler or two and have good things to say.
Husband and wife team Mike and Kathleen Dewey founded the brewery back in 2005 and have built their brewery from the ground up. The couple is continually expanding their distribution area and now distribute growlers to about 30 locations in Cincinnati, as well as more than a dozen combined locations in Dayton and Northern Kentucky. In addition, you can find their beers on tap in more than 20 area locations (including one of my favorite eateries, Dewey's Pizza). In what must have been a coup for the brewing couple, the beers are also available in two locations in The Great American Ballpark, home to the Cincinnati Reds.
They offer a handful of beer styles: a blonde, a copper ale, a nut brown, and a stout. There are no six-packs or single bottles--the beers are available either by the growler or draught. I've tried both the copper ale and the blonde and am partial to the blonde. For this tasting, I picked up a growler of the blonde. I was surprised, however, because the beer that I poured was more similar to the copper, not the pale blonde I had tried earlier (could the growler have been mislabeled?).
No matter, because regardless of the beer's intended style, it was highly drinkable. It had a smooth, round flavor, with a prickly bite at the swallow. The hops were mild and restrained, as were the malt flavors. I picked up faint caramel malt and a slight orange/tangerine flavor. My only critique is that the carbonation was relatively low, and lower as I moved through the growler.
Both of the Mt. Carmel beers I've tried make great session beers. Admittedly, the most recent growler I had wasn't the strongest I've had from the brewery (although I suspect that as a small brewery, they are still working through some occasional QC blips), but everything I've had has been solid. I happily support this small brewery and continue to recommend them to friends. (And I'll be happy when they start offering smaller bottles--a growler is more of a commitment than I'm usually willing to make in an evening!).