Amongst the many fields and forests of central Ohio, there beside a few farms and some roads barely big enough to fit two cars, a building stands on top of a hill, like an oasis in the middle of a barren wasteland. This place is Hoof Hearted Brewing, one of the Midwest’s most well-known purveyors of hazy New England-style IPAs, and the only place to find one particular sought-after creation.
Inside a building that can best be described as a really big garage, a beastly beer known as Konkey Dong is brewed. HHB’s signature beer of-sorts, Konkey is an 8% alcohol by volume double IPA, hopped with Galaxy, Simcoe, and Dr. Rudi hops.
It pours out from its ounce aluminum holding cell, appearing lightly orange and yellow, with a body of medium thickness, and a thick white head that is very slow to dissipate. Those who have been fortunate enough to capture and taste Konkey have reported strong notes of grapefruit and pineapple, with light flavors of ripe melon, and the right amount of balancing bitter and earthy pine to make this treat stand up to its reputation.
While many outside the Midwest, and the beer trading world, may not yet have heard of Hoof Hearted Brewing, they’ve built themselves from, literally, the ground up: two brothers and a friend started in an old garage on a tiny brew system they built and welded together themselves.
After moving to a bigger system in a new building, a mobile canning line was brought in for Sunday releases, handing out freshly filled cans to eager patrons who would show up in the early morning to wait for a chance to buy a case on a first come, first served basis.
As the popularity grew, so did logistical issues. Parking was sparse, so patrons would park in the ditch alongside the road, or in the neighboring fields. This was an issue for the brewery’s neighbors, and for the local police. During this time, production started to not be able to keep pace with demand, and customers were leaving the long line empty handed.
So the brewery made what was, at the time, a controversial choice: they began ticketing their releases. With tickets guaranteeing each holder a half case of cans, HHB releases grew into a little community. Regulars got to know each other over beers. More popular releases, like Konkey Dong, have the feeling of a big block party (or field party, for the more rural crowd). Babies, senior citizens, and dogs are all welcomed as new friends.
One of the biggest draws of Konkey Dong has always been the unique markings on the can. Like everything that comes out of HHB, Konkey’s label come from the hand of artist Thom Lessner, a childhood friend of the brewery owners. The cartoon, often 80’s inspired branding that Lessner has provided the brewery, adorns the walls of the landlocked rural lighthouse for beer lovers.
The silly, tongue-in-cheekiness of the artwork sort of colors the HHB environment; nothing is to be taken too seriously, and everyone should be having a good time. Most of the artwork is inspired by popular culture from the 80’s, so much so that many of the references can be lost on their younger loyalists. If hanging out with strangers and eating grub served from a food truck isn’t really for you, you can spend your time at HHB in front of a classic Nintendo’s Donkey Kong arcade box, custom painted with Lessner’s Konkey designs. Just don’t get so inspired that the wooden barrels resting around the brew house start to look tempting.
In times past, Konkey Dong was so elusive that you may go months without seeing it in the wild. Fans of the beast clamored for more. The guys at HHB heard their calls, and decided to release the caged ape about six times a year.
So if you’re feeling like taking an adventure, set your destination for the only place you can find Konkey, remote Marengo, Ohio. Once you're close, follow the sounds of revelry and folks enjoying the spoils of the hunt.