Steve Stephens More Content Now
Sure, any longtime American travel writer might eventually hit all 50 states.
But how many have seen all 88 Ohio counties?
Well, at least this one.
I finally hit the big 88 during a trip to northwest Ohio this fall, with a drive into Williams County and the town of Bryan.
The historic 1890 Williams County Courthouse is a curvaceous but muscular combination of French Baroque and Richardson Revival architecture, studded with turrets and a large decorative clock tower.
But the interesting courthouse was just an amuse-bouche for the tasty treat awaiting nearby.
Father John’s Heavenly Devilish Brewing Company is located in a former Methodist church built in 1895, shortly after the courthouse was finished.
The empty, historic church building was completely renovated as a restaurant and brewpub by local retired surgeon John Trippy. Had he not called the place “Father John’s,” “Trippy” would have been equally appropriate.
The wonderfully weird brewpub is decorated with statues, icons and symbols from seemingly every faith including, perhaps, some fictional ones. (I think I spotted Gandalf the wizard in the old sanctuary.)
The restaurant, located below the sanctuary, has a large seating area and bar, augmented with cozy themed areas such as the Crypt Room (which looks just like it sounds) and the Camel Room, with Middle Eastern-style floor-cushion seating.
The former sanctuary, separate from the restaurant and brewery, still has original furnishings such as pews and beautiful stained glass and is available for wedding rentals and the like. It also is home to a magnificent and massive historical pipe organ. Patrons can buy little stuffed church mice (they’re cute, I swear) for $5, with all proceeds going toward restoration of the organ. Many purchasers leave the creatures behind in a niche of their choice, so mice seem to crawl from every crevice, chalice or suit of armor.
Guests also can sit in the former church courtyard, now a beer garden that hosts live music performances in warmer weather.
The religiously themed menus, with selections like “Opening Prelude” appetizers and “Sacred Garden” salads, features several bison entrees: The meat comes from Trippy’s own Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve in Indiana.
Father John’s beers also have religiously redolent names, such as Sacrificial Goat, Black Eye for an Eye and Smite the Amalekites Imperial Stout. (“Whether you’re the smiter or smitee is up to you,” the beer menu notes.)
Although the beer takes center stage (or pew, as the case may be), Father John’s is family-friendly. I saw several children happily taking in the fascinating surroundings at lunchtime.
Do-it-yourselfers also can schedule private sessions to brew their own beer with instruction and blessings from Father John’s brewers.
For more information, call the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce at 419-636-2247 or visit www.bryanchamber.org. For information about Father John’s Brewery, call 419-633-1313 or visit www.fatherjohnsbrewery.net.
— Steve Stephens can be reached at sstephens[email protected] or on Twitter @SteveStephens.
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