By Jim Cyphert & The Flight Crew
CANFIELD – Reverberations from last spring’s restrictions placed on Ohio restaurants and bars are still felt throughout the Mahoning Valley.
One local hot spot feeling the impact is The Village Pump in Canfield.
“When the announcement came, it was a punch in the face,” says co-owner Celina Wolfe. “We worked hard since the day we opened. The thought of not going to work was something we never dreamed of.”
A big part of The Village Pump is its atmosphere and the closeness of its patrons enjoying their food and drinks.
COVID-19, combined with the death of Wolfe’s father, kept the Village Pump closed for nearly six months last year.
“The break got us to realize what’s really important,” Wolfe says. “We have awesome regulars who support us in any way they feel comfortable.”
That includes coming in more regularly, ordering takeout or just stopping by to get a growler filled now that the restaurant is open again.
One lesson the pandemic taught Wolfe, she says, was to adopt an even more uber local focus than The Village Pump’s original uber local focus.
Beers from Biker, Birdfish, Modern Methods, Noble Creature, Paladin and other local breweries are always on tap. Seven of the eight beers the evening we visited were brewed locally.
“Supporting local has always been a focus,” Wolfe says. “But now, more than ever.”
So hit The Village Pump for some of the best beers in the Valley. Here are the beers we enjoyed most.
Unhitched Brewing Sullen Arrow Corn Saison, 6.3% ABV
Jason Jugenheimer: Saisons are a favorite style of mine because there’s just so much variety in what a brewery can do with the style. Unhitched has quickly become known for its saison interpretations. This one’s no exception. Staying true to the farmhouse ale style, this beer emits hints of tree fruit and fresh hay in the aroma and pours a beautiful golden color. The flavor profile comprises a variety of experiences. The blood butcher corn brings out a rye whiskey front with an almost yeasty but sweet hint of corn cake, maple syrup and honey. The Zeus hops from Ohio’s Zachrich Hop Yard round out a delicious light-hop and spicy finish.
Modern Methods Swimmin’ Trunks Gose, 5.8% ABV
Dave Shively: When you live in northeastern Ohio, it’s not often you get to slip into a pair of Swimmin’ Trunks in January, especially when the mercury hits 29 degrees. But on this occasion, I was excited to take a dip. Swimmin’ Trunks is a gose-style beer handcrafted by our good friends at Modern Methods Brewing in Warren. This beer poured out an opaque light-orange color with a fruity aroma. The first sip immediately lets you know you’re drinking a gose because of the tart finish. I found lime to be the dominant flavor profile. The name of this beer would seem to suggest it should be enjoyed only during the summer. However, as I came to discover, one can enjoy Swimmin’ Trunks regardless of what the mercury registers on the outside thermometer.
Birdfish Brewing Cocoa Haze Porter, 6.0% ABV
Joe Sanfilippo: Great food and great beer are two things to look forward to in 2021. On this visit, we found both. What a lineup of local craft beer Celina had on the board. The menu is spectacular as well – from starters to sandwiches to salads to entrees.
OK, back to the beer. The one that grabbed my taste buds was a local from Columbiana — Birdfish Brewing’s Cocoa Haze Porter. This porter is dark brown and with tan head on the pour. Coming in at 6% ABV, there’s plenty on the nose and hints of cocoa and coffee on the palate.
Noble Creature Witchwood Amalgam III Farmhouse Ale Saison, 7.0% ABV
Brian Long: After having tried Witchwood III, I can’t say which Witch is my favorite, I, II or III. What I will say, yet again, is that farmhouse ales are always unusual and surprising from one brewery to the next. They’re also great beers to pair with any meal. The nose and color reminded me of a chardonnay, with the faint aroma of apples and vanilla.
This funky “sour,” if you will, has quite a singular mouthfeel with delicate notes of cask, vanilla and overripe peaches. It ends with a super solid, dry and lively finish.
Birdfish Brewing Park IPA, 5.8% ABV
Jim Cyphert: It’s never unusual to see Birdfish on tap at The Village Pump. In fact, four of the eight beers the evening we visited were from Birdfish. We’ve even run into the Birdfish boys there more than once.
The Village Pump was Birdfish’s first wholesale customer. Both establishments have consistently supported one another since they opened – a perfect example of local supporting local.
Park is an amazing IPA. Those who follow the Flight Crew know we love to support our community.
A percentage of Park IPA sales are donated to keep disc golf flying at Firestone Park in Columbiana. Park is a hazy session IPA that’s literally a hole in one.
You get a fragrant aroma and a lot of flavor. Yet it’s relatively light at just 5.8% ABV.
Avery Brewing Tweak Bourbon Barrel Aged Espresso Coffee Stout, 14.7% ABV
Roger Gillespie: Tweak is a bourbon barrel aged espresso coffee stout. It gets aged in barrels for four months and beats the drum at 14.7% ABV.
Tweak is an appropriate name for this beer because both the recipe and name have been tweaked over the years. The beer itself is awesome good and the name is so much better than the previous rather inappropriate monikers. It pours dark and looks heavy.
But the taste is smooth, full of flavor and much lighter than one might expect. I probably should have known not to sample this beer first. But I’m glad I did.
Pictured: Celina Wolfe is the co-owner of The Village Pump in Canfield. It has reopened followed a six-month shutdown.