Cocky Little Asian Guy and Small City Taphouse

We visited CLAG, a brewery that I think is one of the best in Ohio.

On our first night in Sandusky, when the owners of Sandusky Wine Merchant found out that Bhavna and I were craft ale fans, they recommended we visit [CLAG Brewing]. There is another brewer within easy walking distance of the hotel, but Alana and Kevin were adamant that CLAG was the one to visit.

CLAG, Sandusky, Ohio
Friday 2 September 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

I met a short Asian man outside the brewery just as we entered the building. I told him that he looked like the owner's photograph on the website. I asked if that was him. He gave a vague answer, and our conversation continued until we got to the taproom, where Emilia, our taproom attendant, confirmed that the man I met at the entrance was indeed the owner.

CLAG, Sandusky, Ohio
CLAG’s owner, Kha Bui · Friday 2 September 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

CLAG, an acronym for Cocky Little Asian Guy, is owned by the same family that owns Small City Taphouse, one of Ohio's premier craft beer bars. The owner, Kha Bui, and his business partners, including his brother An Bui, invested about $1.2 million to start Clag Brewing Co. on Columbus Avenue. Kha’s brother, An, owns The Answer Brewpub in Richmond, Virginia. The Answer Brewpub is a 2018 James Beard Foundation Awards Semifinalist. The Bui family has a history of creating popular eateries and pubs. The Buis are natives of Vietnam who have lived in the USA since the 1980s.

CLAG, Sandusky, Ohio
Friday 2 September 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

We are used to the small spaces of many micro-craft breweries in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, usually located in former industrial sections of old towns or restored barns on historic farm properties. The size of the space is enormous. The brewery and taproom are in one building, and the restaurant, the Small City Taphouse, is in the adjacent building.

The beer is excellent and is the best beer I’ve had in Ohio, although, to be truthful, I have not had a lot of beer from Ohio’s breweries. I was told that Dong is pronounced just as we would that vulgar word in English. Few brewery owners put their faces or likeness on their beer labels, but Kha is a brewery owner like no other. Kha continues with his tongue-in-cheek nature in the names of his IPAs, among them One Million Dong, Two Million Dong, Three Million Dong, and One Floppy Dong, with a caricature of his face on each label. We also tried his Hoppy No Ending, Juicy Bui and Yellow Moon ales.

CLAG, Sandusky, Ohio
Friday 2 September 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

Kha isn’t the only Bui to grace a CLAG beer label. Kha’s parents have their beers named after them: Mama Bui triple IPA and Papa Bui double IPA. We didn’t try these beers. While both have been available on tap dating back to CLAG’s grand opening, Mama Bui and Papa Bui are now released in cans once a year on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, respectively.

We spent the rest of the night at the bar, hanging out with Kha and some of his friends, staying hours after the taproom had officially closed. Kha told about how he opened the Small City Taphouse and then, inspired by his brother’s success in Richmond, bought the adjacent building, and knocked out a space in the wall between them to connect his brewery and tap room to the restaurant. Kha has plans to renovate the top floors of the building to create a boutique hotel.

CLAG
Thursday 1 September 2022 · Apple iPhone 11 Pro · iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 4.25mm f/1.8

It was a very late night, and perhaps because the conversations were so enjoyable, I didn’t take any photographs of the restaurant space in the Small City Taphouse. But we returned the next day for an early dinner. The photos I took of the tap room don’t quite show the enormity of the space, nor does it include the hundreds of bottles of spirits that line the wall from top to bottom.

I found the menu at Small City Taphouse overwhelming, full of succulent and authentic Asian cuisine, which features something for just about anyone. I wanted something with intense flavour. Our server suggests the Spicy Lemongrass Sauce with Onion and Pork. It was delicious.

Odd Bird Brewing

Before the pandemic, Bhavna and I often drove out of town, at least once a month, to new breweries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When the restrictions was lifted I was keen to visit Odd Bird Brewing in Stockton which opened in late January 2020; just before the pandemic lockdown. Odd Bird Brewing is less than a 40 minute drive from our home. Stockton is a very small town in Hunterdon County, New Jersey across the Delaware River from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Parking can be often challenging to find but we were lucky enough to find parking just outside the brewery entrance.

Odd Bird Brewing
Adam | Saturday 2 July 2022 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 R WR

Owners and brewers Adam Juncosa and Karen Malzone designed the tap room, which, while not large, is large for a community the size of Stockton. According to the brewery website:

All of the tables, bar and frames are from a single Red Oak tree, constructed and finished by us. The Hand Pulled Beer Engine was originally from a 1970s John Smith Pub in the UK and reconditioned for use over the last few years.

Adam and Karen are weirdos just like Bhavna and I, hence the name of the brewery.

Odd Bird Brewing
Saturday 2 July 2022 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 R WR

Talking with Karen and Adam, it seems they prefer traditional European styles like Kölsch and smoked helles lager, from Germany, and bitters and oatmeal stouts the likes of which are popular in England. Too many breweries in New Jersey focus on more popular styles like the IPA, especially the hazy or New England IPA. At some breweries half the ales on tap are IPA.

Odd Bird Brewing
Saturday 2 July 2022 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 R WR

Over the last several years, many breweries have increased the alcohol content by volume (ABV) of many of their beer to over 8%. I think this ruins the brewery experience. I want to sit and have a few pints with Bhavna or friends. Like Flounder Brewing, Odd Bird has bucked the trend by offering many beers in the 4 to 6% ABV range. Adam says that while Catbird IPA is the brewery’s best-selling brew overall, the lower-ABV beers more than hold their own in terms of popularity. Odd Bird’s offerings are a welcome change.

Odd Bird Brewing
Saturday 2 July 2022 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 R WR

We started out our tour of the fancifully named beers with Bird Light, a light and refreshing Mexican-Style Pale Lager. Karen suggested I try it with a lime so I did. I think this is an excellent beer for the beach or a BBQ. Bird Light was my favourite. I got a growler to take home. Next up was a Kölsch called Joe's Garage, followed by Extraordinary Machine IPA, an IPA with Nelson Sauvin and Rakau hops. I finished my tour with Extra Stockton Bitter served from the authentic British hand pump.

Odd Bird Brewing
Saturday 2 July 2022 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Odd Bird Brewing
Saturday 2 July 2022 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 R WR

Readington Brewery & Hop Farm

Before leaving Frenchtown, we made a detour to the Readington Brewery & Hop Farm. The Readington Brewery and Hop Farm recently opened in the borough of Readington in Hunterdon County. The brewery specialises in producing a variety of handcrafted beers using ingredients grown on the farm, including hops, barley, and other locally sourced ingredients. It's rare to have a new brewery in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, so we were excited. We looked at the tap list before making the trip but did not hope we would enjoy the ales. Our misgivings were confirmed.

The brewery has a spacious taproom with a relaxing atmosphere. The tap list included IPAs, stouts, lagers, and seasonal brews. Some of their beers include "Old Highway," an American Pale Ale; "Sourland," a sour IPA; and "Farmers Tan," an American wheat beer. The brewery is committed to sustainability and uses environmentally friendly practices in its brewing and farming processes.

Readington Brewery and Hop Farm · 19 December 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8

We tried several times from the tap list but found them average. But one beer stood out. We rated the Kombucha-inspired ale a paltry 0.1/5, the lowest rating I can give a beer on Untappd. Up until now, my lowest-rated beer was a Corona.

As for the food we bought in Frenchtown, I enjoyed my Bermuda seafood chowder and grilled cheese, but Bhanva disliked her hummus wrap.