Little Fish Shagbark Clinehens

Organic farmers Chris and Kim Clinehens share an inaugural toast with the new pilsner at Little Fish. File photo.

Little Fish Brewery, one of two new micro-breweries that opened this summer in Athens, released a new beer last week that uses local organic corn from Athens-based Shagbark Seed & Mill.

The beer, called Shagbark Pilsner, is made using 20 percent corn (from Shagbark) and 80 percent organic barley, and is 5.4 percent alcohol by volume content.

Little Fish, located on Armitage Road in northwest Athens on some recently annexed land, also uses Shagbark Seed & Mill's organic spelt in one of the first beers it ever offered on tap – a Belgian-style saison-style beer called Saison Du Poisson.

Shagbark Seed & Mill is a regional-scale certified organic mill that sells grains, corn, beans, and flour, chips and crackers made out of those products all across Ohio.

The Shagbark Pilsner was released last Friday (Sept. 18) at a public event with live music and a ceremonial first taste from the farmer who grew Shagbark's corn, Chris Clinehens. Michelle Ajamian, co-innovator and co-founder of Shagbark with Brandon Jaeger, said Monday that they welcome any Ohio brewery working with them to use Shagbark's spelt, corn and other grains.

“Chris Clinehens, who grew the organic corn, is not usually a beer drinker, but he had more than one (Shagbark Pilsner), said it was pretty darn good, and was nothing but smiles all evening (during the event),” Ajamian wrote in an email.

Ajamian said Shagbark's dream is to add malting to what the business already does, so local micro-breweries such as Little Fish, Jackie O's Pub & Brewery and Devil's Kettle Brewery (on Columbus Road) can use local malted grain in their beers.

Sean White, brewer and co-owner of Little Fish, described the Shagbark Pilsner as a “crisp, hoppy, 'pre-Prohibition pilsner.'

“It's a style that is brewed by some modern craft breweries, but it's pretty hard to find,” White wrote Monday. “Before Prohibition, American brewers of German heritage were using a percentage of corn in their beers to reduce the husky flavors associated with American six-row barley. After Prohibition, the American macro-breweries kept brewing with six-row barley and corn, but the style was watered down to its present state.”

White said that Little Fish previously has used some other local ingredients in its beers, including local apples and some hops from City Council member Steve Patterson (who is the sole candidate currently running for mayor).

White also said that Little Fish soon will be celebrating completion of a spur of the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway currently being constructed by the city from West State Street to Armitage Road. To celebrate, White said, the brewery will release its first all-organic beer, called “Bike Beer!” at an event sometime this fall, likely in October when the bike path connection will be complete.

“(It) is a dry-hopped red ale that should be a perfect accompaniment to a fall-weather bike ride,” White wrote. “We are also doing a process that is new for us with this beer:  we are using a special enzyme that breaks down gluten to the point that it will be drinkable for gluten-free folks.

“The gluten, when tested, should be under 10 ppm, which is incredibly low, but most importantly, it will still taste like beer!”

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