LIMA — A gathering of friends sharing laughs and a handful of select beers has developed into an Ohio beer tasting group that hopes to interest others in drinking outside the box.
In 2010, Scott and Ashley Merricle, of Cridersville, created the Ohio Beer Drinker’s Association after years of hosting private tastings.
Ashley Merricle said, “We were holding tastings at our house. We would buy the beers ourselves, then just split the cost with our friends.”
Merricle explained that it got to be a lot of work hosting it once a month, so she and her husband had the idea of trying to make it some sort of club, and to hold the tastings at local bars.
“I went on Google looking for names. I couldn’t find anything similar,” Merricle said. She added that once they took the group to Facebook, and more recently, Twitter, the name got out fast. “We started with 75 of our friends and now we have about 1,750 friends and followers of ODBA.”
Merricle explained that she, her husband and the rest of the OBDA group get to meet new people with similar interests all of the time. The common denominator: an appreciation for beer.
On average, OBDA has an event at a bar about once a month. Merricle said they will meet with a bar owner to ask for his/her permission to host a tasting. They assist the bar by recommending a list of beers to have available for the tasting, but the bar has the final say in what will be offered.
“We usually have a theme to the beers often having to do with an event or the season,” Merricle said, “Just Sam Adam’s alone has six fall-ish beers to choose from.”
The attendees will have the opportunity to sample each beer available at any given beer tasting. Merricle explained that there are generally 16 to 20 different beers to try. The samples are 2 or 3 ounces each.
Each person will also be given a description sheet and a rate sheet for the beers. Merricle said that it helps the patrons to learn about what they’re drinking and then to give their feedback about what beers they like. She then will give the feedback to the bar owners.
Merricle went on to tell of one instance when the feedback was particularly helpful to the bar owner.
“We had recommended a cider for the tasting that the bar didn’t even carry but chose to serve for our event. After 17 out of 20 of the attendees gave the feedback a ‘5’ (perfect) rating for that cider, the bar owner decided to stock it on a regular basis,” Merricle said.
Anyone is welcome to come to the tastings. There is no membership fee or process; just joining them on their Facebook or Twitter journey is adequate. Merricle said they generally tell people, ‘“If you have ever had, or plan to have a beer in Ohio, then join.”’
Merricle added that even though their events are open to anyone, they do insist that only those 21 and over who have a designated driver are allowed to participate in the tastings, Merricle explained. “We are big advocates of safety.”
Beer tasting event attendees pay a flat rate to participate.
“It is usually about $10 a head,” Merricle said. “It won’t make a bar a lot of money, but they won’t lose, either. In addition to getting feedback about the beers, “… it also helps to bring in new people to the bar that wouldn’t usually go.”
“We have a tasting coming up on Nov. 17 with the Lima Elks. They are having an all-day beer event, but OBDA will be there from 6 to 8 p.m.,” Merricle said, and explained that throughout the day The Lima Elks will have up to 26 beers to sample.
OBDA isn’t just staying around Lima for its events. “Word is spreading,” Merricle said, “Four of us just drove up to Cleveland for beer week and were invited to tour some breweries.”
The group is also planning an OSU football tailgating event that will take place in November. “A lot of coordination goes into the tailgate,” Merricle said, “… but it’s a great chance to meet some of our followers face-to-face for the first time.”
Merricle said they are also trying to coordinate and all-Ohio beer tasting sometime soon. “I want to get the smaller breweries in Ohio that distribute their own beer to do their own tastings,” she said.
Merricle said that the group has a good following of bars around Lima that have hosted, and they have talked to several others that are interested.
“We don’t make any money doing this, we just do it for fun. We just want to get people out of their normal realm and try something new,” Merricle said.
For more information about OBDA, please visit: www.ohiobeerdrinkersassociation.webs.com or find them on Facebook.