Willoughby Brewing Makes Classic Styles With Modern Twists
One of the unsung breweries around these parts has to be the Willoughby Brewing Company. Located in a former railcar-repair building in downtown Willoughby, the brewery opened in 1998, the first brewpub in Lake County. In January 2011, new owners purchased the brewery, and brewmaster Rick Seibt came aboard as director of brewing operations.
Seibt’s love of craft beer started early. “Once I found out that you could brew beer at home, and brew the styles popular in England and Europe, I was hooked,” he said. “I loved to research the history of the styles and brewing methods. I’ve been brewing for 22 years, and I’ve never once been bored of it. There is always something more to learn. It’s a constant evolution.”
Though the brewery offers many different styles, one in particular stands out among all the others: Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter. This brew draws crowds — both beer aficionados and newbies — to Willoughby.
“Without a doubt, our flagship is the Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter,” Seibt said “It’s a robust porter to which we add coffee and peanut butter and chocolate. The combination results in a very flavorful beer, and it’s not a gimmick beer either. Both beer snobs and the casual craft-beer drinker love it. We have to bring larger amounts of this to every beer event, because we ultimately run out due to the demand.”
Seibt also loves creating his German Kölschstyle ale called Kaiserhof, a light-colored German ale. Brewed in the style of the famous beers of Cologne, this beer features a fruity aroma and clean taste with a light bitterness. When it comes to choosing his favorite style to drink, however, he finds the task a bit more challenging.
“I have no one favorite style, but I favor IPAs and anything German,” he said. “It’s probably due to my German heritage. I’ve gone to Germany a few times the past few years and every time I go, I discover wonderful beers you can’t find on your local store shelf.”
One beer style Seibt is eager to tackle is a German Pilsner. “They are very tough to brew on a brewpub system, especially one made for ale production,” he said. “It really taxes the brewer’s skills in all areas.”
Seibt values the supportive community among the many Ohio breweries like Willoughby. “Every brewer I’ve met is striving to make better beer. There is a great camaraderie among us, yet we also have a competitive streak that keeps us trying to improve our offerings,” he said. “We’re always out in the community doing festivals meeting and talking with the craft-beer lovers. They’ve supported local breweries and events with such fervor it drives us to keep them supplied with fresh, new beers.”