Flight Crew

Flight Crew Flashback: Small Batch System Makes Birdfish Valley’s Flexible Brewery

(We’re going old school … here’s the first-ever article published by The Flight Crew back in 2016. Oh, how Birdfish and the Flight Crew have grown. Cheers!)

If variety is the spice of life, Birdfish Brewing owner/operators Jared Channell, Josh Dunn and Greg Snyder live somewhere between a habanero and ghost pepper on the Scoville Scale.

Since opening last November at 16 South Main Street in Columbiana, Birdfish has brewed more than 60 varieties of craft beer. Before the brewery’s one-year anniversary next month, that number will reach 70.

Yes, even peppers have been used as an ingredient.

“Our one-barrel system makes us unique,” Dunn said. “We’re able to get more creative because we brew smaller quantities.”

A barrel is 31 gallons. While some barrels have turned out to be customer favorites, fortunately, not one has yet been a dud.

Not one of the Mahoning Valley Flight Crew members was disappointed when we landed at Birdfish. A colorful, friendly environment that smelled of fresh-brewed beer awaited.

We visited when the brewery wasn’t open to the public, because it gets packed on Friday and Saturday nights. We needed some space to get to know the brewers and the brews.

R Pizza Place provided the fare – from Greek to meat-lover’s pizzas. Being just one block away from Birdfish makes it easy to grab a pie and walk to the brewery.

Each crew member sampled a flight of all five beers on tap. Each then selected one for a “full-pint” experience.

 

David Anderson
The Indian IPA (6.7% ABV, 72 IBU)

American IPA with Junga, Equinox, TNT and Ariana Hops; Aroma of citrus, grapefruit and hint of gooseberry; Moderate bitterness balanced by light, biscuit malt character.

“The Indian was smooth,” David said. “It has a great balance so IPA enthusiasts will enjoy it, and it’s easy for newcomers to IPAs to enjoy. The Indian has a pleasant hoppy, citrusy aroma. I had a growler filled to enjoy at home.”

Roger Gillespie
Generations Cold Brew Stout (5.5% ABV and 30 IBU)

Milk stout with an infusion of cold-brewed coffee from Generations Coffee House; Dark, sweet and mellow; Pours smooth with a creamy head.

“While I’m always a fan of IPAs, I enjoyed the Generations Coffee Stout on Nitro,” Roger said. “It was smooth, with a more-than-subtle hint of coffee. The Nitro added a perfect head and ease of drinkability. It was the best beer of the night.”

Jason Jugenheimer
Peach The Word! (4.8% ABV and 22 IBU)

Features Warrior and Cascade hops with a touch of peach puree; A light, refreshing golden ale.

“While I gravitate toward something hoppy or a nice stout, Peach the Word! is a refreshing distraction to the palate,” Jason said. “It’s crisp, with subtle hints of peach, and serves as a nice bridge for people who want to move into a craft beer lifestyle.”

Dave Shively
County Line Pale Ale (5% ABV and 45 IBU)

American pale ale with Sorachi Ace, Amarillo and Citra hops; Light-bodied, fresh, floral and citrus pale ale; Named after brewery’s location on the Columbiana-Mahoning County line.

“My favorite beer was ‘County Line Pale Ale,’” Dave said. “It was lightly hopped, well-balanced, with a crisp finish. According to brew master Jared, this ale serves as the ‘gateway’ to introduce non-craft beer drinkers to the world of IPAs. They have a new fan!”

Joe Sanfilippo
Dancing Hen Mushroom Porter (6.5% ABV and 33 IBU)

Porter with Miatake mushrooms; Hearty, earthy, full-bodied and mahogany colored; Well-balanced malts and hops; Subtle notes of chocolate.

“Porters are one of my favorite styles of beer,” Joe said. “The Dancing Hen is unique. It’s got a nice chocolate flavor with a distinct hint of mushroom at the finish. It is a must-have for the porter lovers out there.”

 

Birdfish puts careful consideration into its ingredients. The brewery’s go-to base grain is Maris Otter, a premium base grain, compared to the standard two-row barley.

Timing is important. Whether peaches, mushrooms, pecans or coffee, the brewers are deliberate about adding ingredients, so additives don’t overtake the beer.

“Dirndl Swindle,” an Oktoberfest marzen, “Toasted Gilligan,” a toasted coconut black IPA, “Grimm,” a pumpkin ale with pecans, graham crackers, honey and spices, and “Grynch,” a Christmas ale, are in the works.

The brewers got their start six years ago, brewing in Channell’s garage. Friends and family convinced them to open a brewery.

Channell is the only full-time Birdfish employee. Dunn and Snyder have full-time jobs outside the brewery, but spend plenty of time collaborating. The team asks for input about new styles and beer names through a suggestion box on the bar.

The namesake animal of two sports programs – Youngstown State University and Pittsburgh’s NHL franchise – inspired the brewery’s name. A penguin is kind of like a bird and kind of like a fish.

The state of Ohio has been supportive. Birdfish has developed relationships with other craft brewers, some local and some met through the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, of which the brewery is a member.

Steady growth is the plan.

“We’ve been approached by investors,” Dunn said. “We want to grow on our own here in Columbiana. We’ve visited regional breweries that have five- to seven-barrel systems. We’d be comfortable with something like that.”

Birdfish will continue to add variety to the Mahoning Valley craft beer scene.

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