Dock the Boat and Grab a Post-Lake Brew

By Jason Jugenheimer & The Flight Crew 

LAKE MILTON, Ohio – When you ask an owner what inspired him to open a brewing company, you don’t expect, “Midlife crisis,” to be the answer. That’s how Lake Milton Brewing owner and brewer Donny Loveless describes it, though.

Donny, an avid mountain biker, and his wife, Lori, received the opportunity to open the Mahoning Valley’s newest brewery and bought the building from an acquaintance just before COVID hit. The brewery opened its doors in October 2020.

Donny and Lori are the whole operation and, according to Donny, they have one job: “Don’t run out of beer!”

The one advantage of starting a brewery during a pandemic is, Donny says, “I could work through the learning curve.”

The pandemic allowed him time to make the transition from a home brewer to brewing on a four-barrel system. It takes a while to get everything dialed in. But he’s getting there.

Still, everything doesn’t always run smoothly. “The No. 4 fermenter is a pain in the neck,” Loveless  says. Things have been hopping with lake season in full swing. “We are going through 13 to 15 kegs a weekend,” he says.

Being just up the road from a state park, it has created the perfect opportunity for boaters to unwind after they dock their boats or put them on trailers for the evening.

“About 7 to 8 p.m. and after 6 p.m. on Sundays, they begin to come in for a beer and whatever food truck we have,” Loveless says.

What they find is a wide variety of beers to choose among, 13 on tap, although you find that number is replaced by 14 on the draft board.

“Don’t like the number,” he says.

These are a few of the beers we enjoyed on our visit.

Trep’s Hef Razz 6.0% ABV

Joe Sanfilippo: Looking for that all-day potable adult beverage for these hot summer days and nights? Donny’s Trep’s Hef Razz is perfect. This American Hefeweizen packs a lot of wheat flavor with additions of natural raspberries. You get the malted wheat on the front end with the light and balanced take on the raspberries at the end, with plenty of raspberry on the nose. So sit back, relax and enjoy this delicious beer.

Seth’s Summer Shandy 4.1% ABV

Rob Tittel:  Running low on beer is both a good and a bad problem for a brewery to have. On one hand, it’s an indicator that you are doing something right and customers are drinking your libations faster than you can produce it.

But it’s bad to be out, especially when the craft consumer expects you to always have something new. While the term shandy has its origins in Britain in the 1850s, the “Radler,” as it is also called, is attributed to Bavarian tavern owner Franz Xaver Kugler, who invented it out of necessity in 1922 when his daily supply of beer ran low.

Lake Milton Brewing ran into the same problem. A regular patron (Seth) suggested that Loveless brew a shandy for summer to make his batches last a little longer. Their version uses their popular Loveless lager as its base and deftly blends it with an orange pineapple juice to create a light, crisp, slightly sweet, but crushable summer treat. Running low on beer never tasted so good!

Peach Cobbler Cream Ale 6.1% ABV

 Jason Jugenheimer: I’m a sucker for anything peach and this small batch cream ale was the perfect companion on a hot day. It’s extremely light and crisp. The addition of peach adds sweetness to the cream ale and the graham cracker complements the beer with hints of vanilla and honey on the palate. It’s a great beer to end a lake day with while sitting on the end of the dock dipping your toes in the water.

K.C. Power Porter 7.5% ABV

“What’s in a name?” This question from Shakespeare is profound in that it suggests that names themselves do not hold worth or meaning. That is not the case at Lake Milton Brewery where Donny handles the brewing chores and his wife, Lori, is heavily involved in the naming of each beer.

You get the sense that friends and family are important ingredients in the Loveless family because each beer is named after an important member of their extended family. Their flagship porter is called KC Power Porter.

The name suggests that this one might pack a punch. But the reality is that KC is simply the initials of Lori’s brother-in-law, Kenny Campbell, an electrician who supplied the electrical requirements of the brewery. This beer proved to be silky smooth, with notes of dark chocolate and coffee in its profile. To quote another more famous KC from the 1970s, “That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh I like it, uh-huh uh-huh!”

Loveless Lager 5.1% ABV

Roger Gillespie: Sometimes change is necessary. Not needed here. This gem was Donnie’s inaugural brewing effort. Using local West Branch malts, he created a mild, crisp, easy drinking treat that will satisfy even the most critical palate. At 5.1% ABV, it is a great beer to enjoy after a day at the lake. Or maybe I should just say anytime and anywhere. 

Merry Merry Milton 8.0% ABV

Brian Long: We the people of northeastern Ohio don’t want to be reminded of the weather Christmas brings to these parts. But this ale is a great Christmas in July beer. 

This beer pours reddish-brown and has an extremely well balanced, not overly spiced taste. Flavors of caramel, cinnamon, molasses and pine inspire a taste of Christmas but it’s smooth enough to drink year round. I also requested a half-sugared rim shout out to “Cinnarim Jim.”

I’m not normally a rimmed glass guy but it really added an extra festive flair to it. Merry Christmas in July!

Recommended Flight Pattern: Drop anchor and head over to Lake Milton Brewing and unwind.

PIctured at top: Donny Loveless transitioned from a home brewer to brewing on a four-barrel system.