Brewery Reviews, Craft Beer Travel, Travel, United States

Rust Belt Brewery in Youngstown, Ohio

I visited Rust Belt Brewery expecting to sample craft beer that was mediocre at best.  My previous run in with Rust Belt at Stoneyard Grill didn’t turn out so well and resulted in us sending the beer back to the bar.  Why go then?  Well, it is the only craft brewery in the Mahoning Valley, and I believe in second chances.  It turns out that Rust Belt Brewery deserved a second chance as each beer I sampled was on par with some of the best craft breweries I have visited (NoDa, Cigar City, Dogfish Head).

Rust Belt Brewery in Youngstown, Ohio

Rust Belt Brewery in Youngstown, Ohio

But Rust Belt Brewing isn’t just about the beer…

Most brewery visits result in “beer” talk – what unique brewing processes does the brewer use, hop profiles, fad beers, other breweries visited, etc.  But not at Rust Belt.  Here, talk revolved more around the recent resurgence in the city than on the beer.  Perhaps that’s because our bartender was Phil Kidd, owner of Defend Youngstown and Youngstown Nation. Or because the patrons around us were so proud of their Youngstown heritage. Or because Rust Belt is themed around the industrial history of the area.

And why shouldn’t brewery talk revolve around the local community?  After all, isn’t this whole eat and drink local movement about the local community?  Rust Belt, to me, epitomized what the craft beer movement is trying to accomplish – to make it about the community and not necessarily the beer.  It reminds me of the neighborhood breweries that we visited in Bamberg, Germany.  The brewery was the centerpiece of the neighborhood where patrons gathered to talk about life in their immediate vicinity.  I appreciated the positive conversation in a town that I had written off..

It turns out Youngstown isn’t so rusty anymore.  Youngstown has a lot to be proud of today, much of which I was completely ignorant on.  I grew up outside of Youngstown in the suburb of Niles.  Like many native sons who have left “The Valley” as we call it, I wrote off Youngstown.  It was nothing but a decaying, depressing town in the heart of the Rust Belt.  I laughed off stories about a high school classmate investing in apartment buildings and restaurants in downtown.  I read articles about Youngstown topping lists as one of the United States most start-up friendly cities and figured those rankings were politically influenced.  Apparently they weren’t.  From the growth of YSU to the success of the Business Incubator to the center of the 3-D Printing Movement, Youngstown is deserving of accolades and praise.

Rust Belt Brewery Tap House in the Erie Terminal Building

Rust Belt Brewery Tap House in the Erie Terminal Building

Well maybe Rust Belt is about the beer…

I was blown away by the quality of the beer at Rust Belt Brewery.  And, after learning so much about the resurgence of Youngstown, am quite proud to say it comes from my hometown.  I started the evening with the Southern Migration, an IPA designed for summer.  The ABV landed at 6% making it a bit strong for the golf course, but the flavor profile was all summer – strong citrus hops with a slight piney and candied finish.

Next up was another summer seasonal, the Peacemaker Double IPA, coming in hot at 8% ABV.  This one really challenged conventions.  A summer DIPA?  Aren’t summer ales supposed to be light, blonde, and wheat?  But it worked. The Peacemaker contained a mild malt backbone with an alcohol flavor lower than most DIPAs.  It started off quite bitter on the tongue but finished citrusy and dry.  A perfect summer sipper!  Just don’t drink too many because Youngstown doesn’t have Uber yet!

I also sampled the Coke Oven Stout and the Rust River Irish Red.  The stout was all coffee on the nose and had me quite excited for that first sip.  But the taste was a bit flat and the mouth feel a little watery compared to other stouts I have sampled.  Now the Irish Red?  I would easily label this the best red I’ve ever tasted.  It was big, thick, malty, toasty, and slightly sweet.  It’s worth visiting Rust Belt for the Rust River Irish Red alone.

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Peacemaker DIPA and Coke Oven Stout at Rust Belt Brewery

Peacemaker DIPA and Coke Oven Stout at Rust Belt Brewery

You gotta visit this brewery!

It’s no fluke that Rust Belt made the list of 50 Things To Do in Youngstown.  While the brewery itself is located in the old B&O Train Station, the tasting room is located at 112 W Commerce Street on the ground floor of the Erie Terminal Building – right in the heart of the now bustling downtown Youngstown.  While the Tap House proudly serves Rust Belt beers, it also serves other Ohio beers as well.  For the non-beer fan, wine and liquor options are also available many also from Ohio like Youngstown  Vodka.

The Tap House at Rust Belt Brewery

The Tap House at Rust Belt Brewery