‘Keep It Local’ More than a Catchphrase at Birdfish

By Jim Cyphert & The Flight Crew
COLUMBIANA, Ohio – Nov. 30, the 10th annual Small Business Saturday, will be special. The day will represent so much of what Columbiana’s Birdfish Brewing Co. is all about.

Since 2010, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has been set aside for the purpose of supporting community business. Birdfish – along with more than 7,000 independent breweries across the U.S. – appreciate customers who honor the day.

The brewery, celebrating its fourth anniversary this month, has even more love for those who shop local all year round. Best of all, the brewery practices what it preaches.

“We support local as much as possible,” says Josh Dunn, who owns Birdfish along with his brother, Jon, cousin, Jared Channell, and brother-in-law, Greg Snyder. “In return, we’ve gotten tremendous support from local businesses and the entire community.”

This neighbor-helping-neighbor philosophy is a prime example of what led Reader’s Digest to name Columbiana the nicest place in America recently.

Listing every local organization Birdfish partners with could take up this entire space in The Business Journal. Knucklehead Hop Farm, Yarian Malts, Lamppost Farms and Hogan’s Bakery are just a few, and more are mentioned in our beer reviews below.

In the back row are Birdfish Brewing Co. brewer Jared Channell, Flight Crew member Roger Gillespie, Birdfish’s Jared “Rooster” Oliver and Flight Crew’s Joe Sanfilippo and Jason Jugenheimer. In front are The Flight Crew’s Dave Shively, Brian Long and Jim Cyphert.

Birdfish’s definition of local keeps expanding. When the brewery opened in 2015, the only place to buy its beer was at the original location at 16 S. Main St., now known as The Up Top.

The brewery gradually began to self-distribute beer to local bars, restaurants and retail establishments. Last December, Birdfish opened a second location at 140 E. Park Ave., known as The Down Low, with expanded brewing and serving capacity.

This year will mark Birdfish’s most successful year to date.

“Our beer is now in more than 80 locations,” says Josh Dunn. “Production volume will be up about 60% and fermentation capacity is up about 50% from last year.”

Birdfish has more than 30 full- and part-time employees. The brewery will need to hire even more in 2020 as another expansion is in the planning stages.

Jared Channell, Birdfish’s brewer, has been busy as the brewery has increased production volume about 60% this year and fermentation capacity about 50%.

Clearly, “keep it local” is more of a business model than a catchphrase for Birdfish.

The Flight Crew does its part to support local businesses, too. We enjoyed every sip of our locally brewed Birdfish beers the mid-October evening we visited. 

These are the beers we liked best:

Scripted Hazy Imperial IPA (8.4% ABV)

Jason Jugenheimer – This is the ale for whatever ails you. A big, juicy and hazy imperial IPA, Scripted is the first beer brewed in collaboration with Austintown Pediatrics, with a portion of proceeds being donated to local charities. This “hopicilin” is jammed and dry hopped with Australian hops creating a low-IBU and big-flavored beer with terrific mouthfeel. Citrus flavors are pulled from the hops without the overpowering bitterness. We highly recommend you check yourself into Birdfish, pull up a stool and drink your medicine.

Knucklehead Fresh Hop IPA (7.2% ABV)

Joe Sanfilippo – When two locals team up for a collaboration beer, you get a win-win. And that’s exactly what happened for Birdfish and Knuckle-head Hop Farm. Owners Jon and Jenna Rydarowicz grew the hops on their farm in Leetonia, and Birdfish used them to brew this delicious IPA. So, the hops just don’t get much fresher than this. Knucklehead pours a bit hazy and the hops are not overpowering. Yet, a nice citrus flavor makes this a very easy-drinking IPA.

Too Hip to Sip New England-Style IPA (ABV 7.5%)

Dave Shively – You never forget your first. This popular catchphrase applies to many things in life. It also perfectly fits my first sip of a hazy IPA. Too Hip to Sip, Birdfish’s best-selling beer, is a dank, murky, unfiltered New England-style IPA. From my first sip, I was hooked. Over the years, Birdfish has carved out a niche for brewing some bodacious, funky, eclectic IPAs, but Too Hip to Sip still happens to be my favorite. Proof positive that you never forget your first.

To make its beers, Birdfish partners with a long list of local companies.

Pinball Porter (6.5% ABV)

Roger Gillespie – Pinball Porter was brewed as a tribute to Tilt’n Tuesdays and Pirates Life Pinball, which supplies the video and arcade games in Birdfish’s Down Low location. This dark, smoky brew offers everything I expect when I order a porter. The color is deep, the aroma is malty and it finishes with a soft, sweet lingering aftertaste. It comes with a modest 6.5% ABV. It’s truly one of the best I’ve had. You don’t need to be a pinball wizard to enjoy this one, but it might just help you start to feel like one.

Juice Box Double IPA (7.8% ABV)

Brian Long – You’re going to want to squeeze your hand around a pint of this unique double IPA. This one’s a great example of Birdfish doing what Birdfish does best – make great beers using locally sourced ingredients. Juice Box was brewed using 250 pounds of white grapes from the nearby Vineyards at Pine Lake that were squished into 27 gallons of white grape juice. This beer pours a great, cloudy yellow and has a super-smooth, tart grape finish. It’s simply a unique hybrid beer that I found extremely delicious.

Harvest Haze Fresh Hop Pale Ale (5.3% ABV)

Jim Cyphert – The guys at Birdfish never thought twice about supporting Second Harvest Food Bank’s mission of feeding hungry families here in the Mahoning Valley. Harvest Haze was a go from Day One. This pale ale, wet-hopped with Cascade hops from Wadsworth’s Barn Talk Hops, is hazy, fresh and tasty. Some proceeds from Harvest Haze were donated to Second Harvest. The Flight Crew also helped out with a Tips for a Cause event for the food bank. Give Harvest Haze a try the next time you get an opportunity, and you’ll be helping Mike Iberis, Becky Page and the Second Harvest team make a real difference in our community.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.