The insider's guide to the Columbus beer scene
Craft beer is here. A handful of local microbreweries sold their first pints this year, joining established Columbus labels and bringing to town a nationwide explosion of new beer operations. This city has been making beer for nearly 200 years, but the recent resurgence is pushing the craft in new directions. Local artisans experiment with styles, partner with chefs and share stories as unique as what they pour from kegs. Their beer isn't just for aficionados-it's sloshed into your favorite bars and restaurants, waiting to be enjoyed. Here's more about the people who make it, where to find it and how to savor every sip.
Four String Brewing Co.
Dan Cochran played in bands for years, so it was with no shortage of energy and attitude that he quit his day job, made plans never to return and started selling his own handmade beer.
Four String Brewing Co. was born from Cochran's extensive homebrewing experience, and it's colored front to back by his rocker spirit. If a beer name like Backstage Blonde doesn't catch your attention, its guitar-neck tap handle will.
Like a road-weary musician, Cochran likes getting his hands dirty and meeting his fans: "It's very gratifying to walk into a bar and have one of your own beers. It's also gratifying to see someone you've never met walk into a bar and order one of your beers."
Four String's main offerings are available at a growing number of Columbus bars and restaurants, and he opens the Grandview brewery's tap room from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
Brass Knuckle is an American pale ale built to pack a Marshall stack of flavor into something that won't immediately intoxicate you. The Backstage Blonde is a more delicate Belgian.
A white India pale ale was released in August, and drinkers should see Four String in six-packs when Cochran sets up a bottling line in 2013.
On Tap: Buffalo Wild Wings,
968 W. Fifth Ave., Grandview
American pale ale
Balance is key in this popular, smooth-drinking variety. Bready or toasty flavors from pale malts stand firm alongside tart, citrusy hop notes. This is the India pale ale's less bitter American cousin.
Pizza and a pint
Villa Nova Ristorante, 5545 N. High St., Worthington
Packed with neighborhood regulars and a mind-boggling collection of copper kettles, family-owned Villa Nova Ristorante is a classic place to celebrate the beer world's most enduring pair. Pizza and a pint: simple, trusted, timeless.
Like all the Villa's food, the pepperoni pizza is served at a searing temperature that crisps the thin crust and melts the hearty cheese into a gooey, delicious sheen.
To wash it down, grab a frosty 12-ounce mug of Hoster Gold Top. The legendary Dortmunder lager from the L. Hoster Brewing Co., headquartered in Franklinton, is packed with slightly sweet, bready flavors and a crisp hop bite. It's total refreshment with a 24-carat hue.
The Columbus craft beer scene is set to grow even bigger, as two fledgling microbreweries work to join those already hawking pints.
Actual Brewing co.
On the horizon is Actual Brewing Co., headquartered on the East Side. Brewer Fred Lee, who started the project three years ago, has several recipes ready. However, he and his cohorts are waiting on their brewing license. Lee said his application process has been delayed because federal regulators are facing a tsunami of new applications.
Oval Brewing co.
Also in the works is Oval Brewing Co., which is named in honor of Ohio State's trademark lawn but has no official connection to the university. Founders have a robust line of beers planned and recently received roughly $31,000 in start-up cash through online fundraising forum Kickstarter.com.
How to Drink Beer Like a Pro
Pop the top and pound? Hardly. Get more enjoyment from your next pint with these simple steps from Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association.
FOSTER SOME FOAM
"CO2 has a great purpose-it scrubs your tongue. A head of foam allows you to have enhanced aromatics and means that the carbon dioxide is leaving the beer and rising out of the glass."
POUR IT OUT
"When you get your beer poured into a glass, you get enhanced characteristics you wouldn't get by drinking it out of the bottle or the can."
SNEAK A PEEK
"You taste with your eyes first. A glass will also allow you to see what's going on with that beer, and you can appreciate the color."
"It's kind of the foreplay of beer-tasting. Is it dry-hopped? Am I getting a sense of the aroma of the yeast? Am I getting a sense of the sweetness-or a toasty, roast-y, raisin-y, caramel-y or biscuit-y sense of the malt?"
SIP SLOWLY AND SEE
"There are many aspects you're getting a sense of, including the malt, yeast and bitterness from the hops. And then there's an overall impression of, 'How the heck do you feel about this beer?' "
GET A "BEER CLEAN" GLASS
"You want to rinse your glass with water right before and then just flick out all the water with the glass upside-down. There should be no bubbles clinging to the inside of the glass."
"Slosh the glass around just a little bit to agitate the beer and get that CO2 kind of shaken out."
Behind the Pint:
Columbus Brewing Co., IPA
"I had taken over the brewery maybe six months to a year before we started making the IPA. We knew we wanted one in the portfolio, but we didn't want to just make a bigger version of our Pale Ale. We
wanted something that was going to stand out.
"We found some newer hop varieties, the Simcoe and the Amarillo, and started kind of designing the beer around that. For the malt profile, it had a little sweetness behind it to balance out the hop flavor. That was probably one of the most purpose-built beers we've done."
-Eric Bean, brewmaster
In the world of craft beer, even taps have personality
1. Spruce Campbells Brewing Co. Vowl Kolsch IPA. Limited releases are each presented with a hand-blown glass handle
2. Barley's Brewing Co. Blood Thirst Wheat. Handcrafted beer? How about a tap handle with a hand-carved orange
3. Hoof Hearted Brewing Permafrost Porter. Unable to use real animal legs, brewers opted for this wooden replica
4. Four String Brewing Co. Backstage Blonde. Brewer (and bass player) Dan Cochran shows his love of rock 'n' roll
Hoof Hearted Brewing
A welding engineer and a wine salesman who became friends in middle school join forces to open a microbrewery on a farm in Morrow County.
That, in a nutshell, is Hoof Hearted Brewing.
Then there's the pair's love of mythical creatures, pin-up girls and fart jokes. (Don't hear it yet? Say the brewery name again, fast and loose.)
"With the name, we wanted to embody our personalities," partner Jarrod Bichon joked from the barn where Hoof Hearted brews. "Which is kind of childish."
But scoffers will find serious beer beneath the goofy facade. Hoof Hearted's excellent porter gains its creamy, chocolate nose from hefty additions of oats, and a copper-colored ale called Ryborg boasts a tongue-tingling spice and delicious hop flavor.
The beer's been a hit in Elizabeth Lessner's Columbus Food League restaurants since the brewery launched in May.
"It's a great group of restaurants to get some feedback," said Trevor Williams, who sold wine before jumping into the beer game.
Hoof Hearted is set to expand in the fall. "We thought if we could build things from the ground up it would mean more than just buying a bunch of equipment," Bichon said.
On Tap: Surly Girl Saloon,
1126 N. High St., Short North
STYLE POINTS: PORTER
Originating in 18th century England, porters are dark-colored ales with relatively mild hop character and roasty malt flavors. This style gave birth to stouts, once known as "stout porters."
Burger and a beer
Barley's Ale House No. 1,
467 N. High St.,
One of the beer-maker's two pubs, Barley's Ale House No. 1 lies in one of those worn, warm buildings that has held a dozen businesses over the decades and that you're glad is still standing. Best among the broad range of picks are the Turkey Nut burger and MacLenny's Scottish Ale.
The burger's base of ground turkey and spices is topped with a layer of pecans, which gives the patty a nutty kick and crunch. Grab it with crispy fries or the spicy coleslaw.
MacLenny's Scottish Ale is an ideal dining beer-solid body, strong malty backbone, a touch of sweetness magnified by anything spicy or tart. It's likely among the brewpub's top sellers because it washes down food without being washed away.
No, these aren't sexual euphemisms, they're actual brewing terms. Master these buzzwords and you'll sound like you've been enjoying craft suds for years.
Brewers traditionally add hops during the boiling process for flavor, bitterness and aroma. Dry hopping increases aromatic impact by adding them in later stages.
This is how a beer tantalizes the tongue and palate. Mouthfeel is determined by ingredients, overall weight, carbonation, alcohol content and astringency.
International bittering units are how the industry measures hop flavor. A standard India pale ale measures around 60 IBUs, while a wheat beer packs less than 15.
A beer with relatively light body and low alcohol content, usually five percent or less. Drinkers can consume a couple during a single sitting without getting smashed.
The German purity law of 1516 stated that beer could only contain water, hops and barley. Yeast was added to the list when scientists discovered its role in fermentation.
Local brews have seeped into many of the city's most popular watering holes. Here
are a few good places to grab Columbus-made pints.
World of Beer
503 S. Front St.,
This chain (pictured) showcases great beers from abroad-and from Central Ohio.
Eddie George's Grille 27
1636 N. High St.,
The gridiron hero didn't forget his hometown or its beers.
The Jury Room
22 E. Mound St.,
Does Elizabeth Lessner's Downtown eatery drink local? Guilty as charged!
1044 N. High St.,
Stocked coolers and 50 taps provide one of the best selections in town.
Sip from many of the city's breweries during the Columbus Microbrew Festival at the North Market. Beer tastings and live music run from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14. northmarket.com
Behind the Pint:
Elevator Brewing Co.,
"I come in one day, and this bottle of horny goat weed pills is sitting right in the middle of my desk. Nobody's around. They don't say a word to me. They just put it on my desk to see what I'd do. I just decided that someday I was going to make a label out of that.
"One of the first versions we had, the goat was actually humping the bottle. Then we decided to tame it down a little bit. Now he's just standing over the bottle. The two brewers, they play jokes on me all the time."
-Dick Stevens, owner
Some drinkers are as obsessed with beer glassware as they are with beer. Collections get crazy-but they don't need to. If you're a recent convert to craft concoctions, track down these four versatile containers, which show off the look, smell and taste of many different styles.
Nonick pint glass
How it works: A wide mouth allows easy drinking and fosters a good, thick head. The ring that bulges near the top improves grip and reduces chipping if glasses are stacked.
Use it for: Pale ale, India pale ale, brown ale, stout, porter, English bitter beers
How it works: Its long, slender shape shows off the clarity and color of good German and Czech lagers, and a wider top helps maintain a fluffy head. It's the prettiest way to serve
Use it for: Pilsner, Dortmunder, light American lager
How it works: Its wide body transfers hand heat to warm the beer, and a tapered rim captures the complex aromas of strong beers. It's also the ideal glass for swirling.
Use it for: Scotch ale, Russian imperial stout, imperial IPA, barleywine, strong Belgians
How it works: The bright, showy color of many wheat beers is displayed in this elongated glass. Its top is designed to cushion hearty heads and trap characteristic aromas of clove and banana.
Use it for: American wheat ale, hefeweizen, kristalweizen
Seventh Son Brewing Co.
The three partners and two brewers behind Seventh Son Brewing Co. come from different fields. They boast different strengths. They even like different styles of beer. But the team of local tastemakers has made Seventh Son the most anticipated local brewery opening of the past decade.
Partner Collin Castore, a driving force behind beer bar Bodega and North Market carryout The Barrel and Bottle, said collaboration will hone the brewery and its beers. Two production systems will allow Seventh Son to create year-round offerings and one-off experiments, Castore said. Bodega, located a few blocks from the brewery, will provide a testing ground.
Initially, the brewery will have two selections. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is an American strong ale with big flavors of malt and hops, while Black Sheep is a stout with dark hues and a hefty alcohol punch. Others will be influenced by brewer Colin Vent's experience as a sous chef at DeepWood.
Nearly finished, the brewery in Italian Village will function as an event space. It'll open occasionally as a bar with a full liquor license, though it won't keep conventional hours.
The space is set to open later this year, and Seventh Son plans to have beers available for the Columbus Microbrew Festival this month.
STYLE POINTS: American strong ale
More a description than a category, this wide-ranging classification usually includes beers with an alcohol content of 7% or greater. Most also boast big flavors of hops and malts.
Perfect Pair: Short Rib And Saison
The Rossi Bar + Kitchen, 895 N. High St.,
Beer from Rockmill Brewery is the dream beverage for a city yearning to drink local and think global. Owner Matthew Barbee's small but magnificent beer line is produced in Lancaster but tastes like Belgium.
Grab a champagne bottle of Rockmill's excellent saison at The Rossi alongside the chic eatery's Grilled Short Rib. Two thick hunks of fork-tender beef come with a footer of corn pancakes and a drizzle of sweet-and-spicy jam made of hot peppers and maple syrup. It's like chicken and waffles-for royalty.
Built to mirror the traditional Belgian farmhouse style, Rockmill's saison is light and golden with a fluffy, lingering head. Its floral nose and tastes of rosemary, thyme and dried fruit are the perfect complement to a sturdy, standout dish.
Columbus companies are brewing more than beer. Here's a look at other fermented drinks you can find in bottles at local stores and bars.
The world's oldest fermented beverage is made with honey instead of barley and hops. The brewers at Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar in the Short North add locally sourced fruit and aromatics to a wide lineup of varieties, including berries in the Scarlet Solstice mead and Ohio's native fruit in the Paw Paw mead.
Touted by the homeopathic set for its immune-boosting effects, kombucha is a probiotic tea made with live cultures of yeast and bacteria. Locally, Luna Kombucha brews varieties like black raspberry and strawberry with Ohio fruit, and Kombu-Tea Kombucha Kvass crafts effervescent teas in flavors like goji-ginger and blueberry.
Behind the Pint:
Neil House Brewery,
Brewmaster's Select Cranberry Cider
"Back when I was a homebrewer, I lost a bet. I personally do not like cranberry juice. I hated the stuff. I was doing some work with apple ciders, and I was having some pretty good luck with it. A friend of mine who really liked cranberry juice said, 'Oh, man, this apple cider's really great. You should make a cranberry cider.' Then I lost a bet and he was like, 'Alright. You have to make a cranberry cider now.' I had to develop a recipe, then won a couple awards with it." -Patrick Kelleher, owner
GOOD OL' ALE
Zauber Brewing Co.
Beer is a social DRINK, something to enjoy slowly among friends. That's the vision behind Zauber Brewing Co., the Grandview operation that released its first pints in April.
Grab one of five selections on draft and you'll taste owner Geoff Towne's take on sip-and-savor European styles. Vertigo is a hazy, yellow hefeweizen, while the Stodgy Brown is a darker ale with nutty, hoppy kicks.
"It's beer with character and nuance that I didn't easily find when I was growing up," said Towne, who earned a brewing degree from the University of California at Davis.
His slow-sip philosophy goes beyond his suds. Zauber's facility features a tap room where beer fans can order pints and fill growlers from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Down the road, Towne plans to transform the space into a German-style beer hall.
He currently crafts batches on a beefed-up homebrew rig, but by early next year a new system will increase his output up to 20 times. He isn't fazed: Before going solo, he brewed at Boston Beer Co. in Cincinnati and Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland.
"We've demonstrated what we set out to do-to determine there was demand and that we could make a good beer on a small system," Towne explained.
On tap: Z Cucina,
1368 Grandview Ave., Grandview
STYLE POINTS: Hefeweizen
Hefeweizen is German ale brewed with large amounts of wheat ("weizen"), which adds a smooth, creamy texture. Suspended yeast ("hefe") creates its cloudy appearance and sweet flavors of banana and clove.
Scallops and suds
15 E. Olentangy St., Powell
Local Roots proudly offers Ohio-made products from beer to beef. The charming restaurant in downtown Powell doesn't source its scallops from the Buckeye State, but this excellent seafood offering is still worth a trip.
You can enjoy these pan-seared beauties in their own dish with lobster risotto, but try a pair added to the Mediterranean Salad, a crunchy blend of mixed greens, olives, feta, red onions, artichoke hearts and tangy vinaigrette.
To complete your ideal patio meal, swig from a pint of Ornery Otter Blonde Ale, a light and summer-ready selection from Zanesville's Weasel Boy Brewing Co. This refreshing beer is low in bitterness and bears a subtle sweetness-an easy introduction to Central Ohio's microbrew scene.
You might struggle to find beer from the Spruce Campbells Brewing Co.
But when you see one, you'll want to try it.
Each selection from the fledgling local brewery comes with a label painstakingly designed by illustrator Cyrus Fire, who sees big opportunity in a bottle-sized canvas. "Limitations make you creative," Fire says. "I pretty much have free rein to see what I come up with."
The most striking pieces are attached to Frost Giant Pale Ale and Tangerine Wheat Dream, two selections in the growing Spruce Campbells lineup.
Brewmaster Jason Matthew Kusowski crafts his beer in small batches through contracts with Grandview's Zauber Brewing Co. Limited amounts are available in bottles, while most is released in kegs at smaller Columbus bars. Often Kusowski will celebrate a tapping with a show featuring his rock band, The Spruce Campbells.
"We want to put out rock- solid beer that's visually, aesthetically pleasing-but that tastes awesome, too," Kusowski says. "It's going to take some time, that's for sure."