The Chicago-based brewpub opened on Nov. 29.
Standing in the middle of Easton Town Center’s $500 million expansion, a short walk from Nordstrom, is a large A-frame structure that looks like an Aspen ski lodge. It’s the new home of Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery, a newcomer to Columbus with a back-to-nature attitude.
The brewery, with only one other location in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, was founded three years ago by “rootmaster” Robert Finkel. His business partner, “alchemist” Randy Mosher, is the brand’s resident beer expert and, yes, its mad scientist.
Forbidden Root is one of the country’s emerging botanical breweries, likely one of the next big trends in brewing. Though you may have never heard of botanical beers, they actually go back thousands of years to a time when an herbal mixture called gruit was used in flavoring and bittering beer, long before hops, yeast, barley and water became the de facto ingredients. Today’s botanical beers typically build flavor around ingredients like roots, bark, flowers, herbs, spices and other items found in nature. “No ingredients are off limits,” Mosher says.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
Forbidden Root’s Wildflower Pale Ale, for example, balances hops with floral ingredients—elderflower, marigolds and osmanthus—that you might find in one of Jeni’s more experimental ice cream offerings.
In a more extreme example, an Amsterdam-based botanical brewery, Lowlander Beer, uses spruce needles and juniper berries from donated Christmas trees to brew its Winter IPA.
Though botanical beers may seem avant-garde compared to their hoppy craft brethren, don’t expect most of Forbidden Root’s offerings to be really out there. (The brewery was recruited to join Easton, after all.) “We kind of run the gamut,” Mosher says, adding that all of their beers incorporate hops to some extent.
On one end of the spectrum, you have Forbidden Root’s herbal-bomb collaboration beer with Fernet-Branca, the intensely bitter Italian amaro. On the opposite end, some of Forbidden Root’s most popular beers are its approachable, juicy, New England IPAs, such as the Snoochie Boochies Double IPA. In addition, the brewery always has a rotating “beer-flavored beer,” Mosher says, like a kolsch or pilsner.
“Beer’s for drinking and being social and having fun. … So, we’re just trying to be subversive in the fact that we’re bringing [botanical] ingredients in, but we’re doing it sometimes in extremely subtle ways,” Mosher says. “We like to lure people into our world and show them the delights that we found, but we’re not hell-bent on changing people’s minds.”
The 12,000-square-foot restaurant and brewery, which opened on Nov. 29, features two levels, with both indoor and outdoor seating. The bar offers at least 10 house beers on draft and a couple of guest drafts. The brewery also will incorporate a 20-barrel foeder (a large wooden vessel) for making lagers, Finkel says, an homage to Midwest brewing traditions, and in particular, Columbus’ historic Hoster Brewing Co.
To lead the brewery and restaurant, Finkel and Mosher have hired two experienced locals. Nick Gabriel, formerly head brewer at Four String Brewing Co., fills the same role at Forbidden Root. Meanwhile, executive chef Paul Yow, formerly of Barcelona and Hae Paul’s, leads the kitchen. In Chicago, the brewery’s restaurant has received high marks for its cheffy pub fare, which features items such as malt and vinegar potato chips, a milk-brined pork schnitzel sandwich and mussels bathed in cioppino broth.