Originally begun in 1997 as a brewpub in Canton, Thirsty Dog Brewery has become a staple of the local beer scene in Ohio and beyond. Two years after establishing the Canton pub, Thirsty Dog expanded to Montrose and Dayton. With Hoppin’ Frog’s brewmaster Fred Karm behind the wheel, Canton became the company’s flagship location and in 2002, Thirsty Dog began work on the distribution of their award-winning beer. In 2004 and 2005, a change in partnership and lease issues in Canton led to the closing of the pubs. But 2006 was a landmark year: In December, they took possession of the old Burkhardt Brewery in Akron and opened both a new tasting room and brewing facilities. “It worked out great because I was born and raised in Akron. It’s a great location for distribution,” said John Najeway, co-owner of Thirsty Dog Brewing and president of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. “We now distribute our beer from Maine to South Carolina to Illinois.” According to Najeway, a dark brown, full-bodied robust porter called Old Leghumper, a traditional German lager entitled the Labrador Lager and a Scottish export ale named Twisted Kilt are among the company’s bestsellers. “We have quite a lineup of over 20 beers we make down at the brewery,” he said. “Ales, porters, stouts, lagers. We even have a few Belgium beers, including a saison, which is a Belgium farmhouse ale, we just put out.” Najeway is proud of his beers and especially enjoys the feedback from those who stop at by. “I love to hear from customers who come to our brewery to taste a dozen beers,” “he said. “All of our beers are clean beers and stick to the style we are trying to brew.” Even more intriguing is Thirsty Dog’s barrel-aging system, which they use to age beers in both bourbon and wine barrels to give them a distinct flavor. “The wine barrels have sour beers that sit for a minimum of a year. Our Siberian Nights imperial stout won at the Heavyweight Brewers Brawl last month and has a great following. It’s been rated one of the top 100 imperial stouts in the United States by Beer Advocate for a number of years,” he said. “We have won a number of medals at the Great American Beer Festival and we are proud of that beer and putting it in the bourbon barrels makes it that much better.” Among the other barrel-aged beers are a Wee Heavy, a Belgium beer and even their crowd-pleasing Twelve Dogs of Christmas ale, which they plan on bottling in October for a limited release. While the saison was a one-off release limited only to Thirsty Dog’s recent appearance at the International Beer Festival a few month ago at Cleveland’s IX Center, Najeway plans to release the sour beers at the beginning of next year, around January or February. Another limited release that’s been floating around throughout the year and can sometimes be found on draft at Winking Lizard is a fantastic imperial India pale ale entitled IIPPAA. “All the imperial IPAs out there are big citrus bombs with cascade hops; however, our IIPPAA was made with all English hops so it has a traditional English style,” said Najeway. “We used twice the hops and twice the malts so it balanced it out.” Also of note is a English pale ale, which Thirsty Dog created specifically to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the West Point Market in Akron. The commemorative beer can be purchased in a six-pack for $9.99. The beer is amber in color and was made exclusively with Kent Goldings hops from England, which provide a fruitier aroma and flavor than the citrus bitterness in most American pale ales. But when asked about his favorite beer in the Thirsty Dog collection, Najeway answered wisely. “Usually the one I am tasting at the time,” he said with a chuckle. Thirsty Dog’s tasting room is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m., Friday from 12 to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. Visit them at 529 Grant Street, Suite B in Akron, or visit thirstydog.com for more information.