Matt and Jon Keine are well-known figures in the Medina County community. In 2010, the brothers started brewing at Lager Heads BBQ Smokehouse in Abbeyville, and they secured a following that forced them to move to a new location in 2015.
“We outgrew our restaurant brewery and decided to open a brewing operation close to the heart of Medina,” says Matt Keine. While Jon can be found making sure the restaurant runs smoothly on a typical work day, Matt tends to oversee operations at the Lager Heads Brewery just outside of Downtown Medina.
The Keine brothers share a love of craft beer, and that is what initially sparked their start in the business of brewing. After they began to feature craft beer at Lager Heads BBQ Smokehouse, its popularity inspired them to begin studying homebrewing and, ultimately, to begin producing craft beers for their restaurant.
“I think the entire country is craft-centric,” says Keine. “People love traditionally-made local brews. It is a great time to be in the market, especially in this area. There are so many great brewers from Cleveland to Akron that it is hard to not support local companies.”
Craft beers are the brews produced by small, traditional, and independent breweries. They tend to produce fewer than 6,000 barrels of beer each year, which gives them the opportunity to perfect each individual brew. According to 2015 statistics from the Brewers Association, craft brewers make up 12 percent of the total U.S. beer market.
So, what is it that makes craft beers so great? Matt Keine in particular appreciates the variety, as well as the opportunity to introduce people to new drinks. Lager Heads Brewery produces about 17 ales and lagers year round, which requires upwards of ten different varieties of hops. Hops are the flower cones produced by humulus lupulus vines that, when added to beer, contribute bitter, zesty, or citric flavor. The humulus lupulus plant is, interestingly, in the same family as hemp.
“We actually are getting ready to offer Harvest Brown Ale, which we brew out of hops that we grow at our restaurant,” says Keine. “This is the fourth year that those have been producing. We planted some hops behind the brewery last year, though those will not produce cones for a while still.”
Keine says that beer styles tend to flow with the seasons. With the brewery in Oktoberfest mode, they tend to put out heavier, maltier beers. As we move closer to winter, they will offer darker, heavier beers with more spice. As the seasons change into spring, they will begin offering lighter beers such as witte, which is flavored with orange peel and coriander.
Keine recommends that people that are not super experienced in tasting craft beers start with a light lager and work their way up to the more hop-heavy styles that are available on tap. Usually, around nine beers are available in the tap room, and brewers are available on-location to answer any questions you may have.
“Chances are, you could have easy access to the brewers themselves. You have the opportunity to ask questions, find out why this beer tastes like that, and so on. I think the great part is that you are sitting inside the brewery here while you are enjoying our drink. It is an unusual opportunity to see a working brewery, and it is a unique experience for many people. I think the best part for us is turning people onto different styles they have never tried.”
Lager Heads Brewery is located just outside of the Historic Medina Square at 325 W Smith Road, Medina. They are open from 4 to 9 pm Wednesday through Saturday.