Grown-up beers meet grown-up food on the drink lists at high-end restaurants
Story by Jill Moorhead // Photo by Jodi Miller
"There are a lot of great beers out there, and none of them are made by Coors." My of-age booze connection was snarky as he delivered a 12-pack to my freshman dorm room. Everyone starts somewhere on the path to drinking good beer; I started with Killian's Irish Red.
I grew up, as did my taste buds. And it's safe to say that our city's beer palate is growing beyond the watered-down macrolagers of our youth, as well. (Though, not unlike Kraft Dinner, those first beers have a special place in our hearts, don't they?)
With five new breweries this year, three on the way and every beer bar so packed you can't get a seat, the Capital City is a hopping (get it?) place to get your hops on. Several of Central Ohio's best upscale restaurants are happy to contribute to the growing beer culture. "Why would a restaurant that takes great efforts to source the best local ingredients for their meals be satisfied with a mediocre beer list?," asks Julie Mulisano, food and beverage director at the Granville Inn.
When put that way, this "grown-up beers meet grown-up food" thing seems like a no-brainer. Join us as we take a look at seven eateries that put as much effort into their beer menus as they do their wine, liquor and dinner menus. At these restaurants, you can have your beer, and eat your black truffle potato mousseline, too.
1808 AMERICAN BISTRO
29 E. Winter St., Delaware
With 48 beers on draft and a website that's updated daily with new selections, the Delaware eatery is not shy about its love affair with beer. Chef Josh Dalton is such an aficionado that he's opened a sister restaurant two doors down. Veritas Tavern is the bomber equivalent to 1808, serving 50 different types of the 22-ounce beers. For Dalton, it's not just a numbers game. "Beers have a tremendous amount of character once you get past the domestic lagers and pilsner," he says. "You start getting into some of the IPAs with their bitterness, and the Belgians with their sweetness."
Expert Pick: Chef Josh Dalton recommends Bell's Oberon Ale paired with the 48 Hour Short Rib.
511 N. High st., Short North
Now that Colin Vent, the force behind DeepWood's striking beer list, is a bona fide zymurgist at Seventh Son Brewing, the ultimate responsibility of keeping the Short North restaurant's pint glasses full falls to owner Amber Herron and assistant front-of-house manager Nicole Eggert. "Colin's the heart of the list," says Eggert. "Amber and I are the brains."
A new approach means the beer list has the same fluidity as the rest of the restaurant's menus, with changes (newest additions include smoked beers and hefeweizens) based on seasonality and dialogue with patrons. Democracy in beer? God bless America!
Expert Pick: Assistant front-of-house manager Nicole Eggert recommends Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA paired with the lentil patty.
772 N. High St., Short North
When L'Antibes doubled its seating capacity by adding an urban patio last summer, the restaurant multiplied the number -- and style -- of libations as well. A new atmosphere for enjoying French fare brought on a younger clientele with new tastes. "They're into craft beers. And Belgians," says Sam Ellis, server and wine steward at L'Antibes. The largely European beer list is served by an attentive and professional waitstaff. Hops just got fancy.
Expert Pick: Wine steward Sam Ellis recommends Rogue Chipotle Ale paired with Bluescreek Farm Mini Lamb Burgers from the patio menu.
TILL DYNAMIC FARE
247 King Ave., Victorian Village
It's not surprising that Till's Magdiale Wolmark is as passionate and detailed about the beers he serves and the stories behind them as he is about every other aspect of his restaurant. This is the guy who drives out of state to meet his meat before it's slaughtered. Consider this incredibly good news for the beer geek looking to fall in love with obscure and food-friendly beers. Till's tap, bottle and can lists are stocked with low-alcohol craft, indie and local beers -- with a special nod to gypsy brewers, folks who make small batches using other brewery's equipment.
Expert Pick: Owner Magdiale Wolmark recommends Arcobrau Zwickl Lager paired with the lamb burger with smoked goat cheese.
SPAGIO WINE LOUNGE
1295 Grandview Ave., Grandview
Don't let the name fool you; the bistro-turned-carryout tucked next to Spagio fills its coolers with at least 150 beers, all available for on-site consumption or to-go. The ability to try beer in singles rather than risk purchasing a six-pack of something you may not like makes this a haven for beer lovers. New additions to the small plates menu can help soak up the suds should you decide to try to tackle a beer cooler or two.
Expert Pick: Wine Lounge manager Olivia Davis recommends Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale paired with Sweet Thai Chili Calamari.
314 E. Broadway, Granville granvilleinn.com
Want to try all the beers? Granville Inn is the place to go, partially because they embrace the sample flight (the easy way to try as many beers as possible and still be able to walk without swaying). Craft beer lovers will adore the selection. "[We carry] real products that are lovingly crafted with heritage and tradition," Julie Mulisano says. Whether they're from nearby Newark or Lancaster or from across the pond, all the selections are made to honor the legacy of the 88-year-old inn, built as a cornerstone of the New England-style village.
Expert Pick: Food and beverage manager Julie Mulisano recommends Rockmill Brewery Organic Dubbel paired with a smoked pork chop.
652 High St., Worthington
Sixteen food-forward beers flow through the taps in The Back Room gastropub, attached to the back of Rivage Atlantique. "We try to pair our food offerings with seasonal beer options," says co-owner Bill Cosgrove. There's an emphasis on seasonal; Rivage's customers demand it. In the fall, they sell so much pumpkin beer they offer multiple varieties. Despite this, several taps are reserved for IPAs. Bartender Greg Longfellow admits he's biased toward the style, but finds them great go-to beers that work well with the restaurant's vast seafood selection.
Expert Pick: Bartender Greg Longfellow recommends Lagunitas IPA paired with yellowfin tuna.
Jill Moorhead blogs about food at itinerantfoodies.com