Beer Guide: The Columbus beer scene continues to grow

Nicholas Dekker, Columbus Alive contributor

This has been a busy year for Columbus breweries: openings, expansions, new equipment, more cans and bottles, collaborative brews - it's all happening. And more is on the horizon. (Deep breath…) Rockmill is adding two locations in the city. Commonhouse Ales just started brewing. Cleveland-based Platform Beer Co. is building a production facility. BrewDog is slated for an October or November kick-off (plus a promised brewpub somewhere in Franklinton). Combustion Brewery is coming to Pickerington, and 2 Tones Brewing Co. to Whitehall. Grove City Brewing Co. is on the way.

We caught up with Columbus' existing breweries - all 23 in greater Columbus - and one thing's for sure: No one is slowing down.

The Actual Brewing Company

655 N. James Rd., East Side


Style range: rye beers, stouts, light lager, saisons

Signature: Fat Julian imperial stout

Like many Columbus breweries, Actual expanded this past year. Following additions to both its space and brewing capacity, it put a new canning line to work. The brewer churned out cans of the new Photon Light Lager and the Luxon golden saison, and this year it introduced its first IPA, the Magnon. Actual also embodies one theme from the year: collaboration, and not just within the Columbus beer community. This year it was selected to brew the special Adopted Arrogant Bastard for California-based Stone Brewing Co.

Barley's Brewing Company

467 N. High St., Short North


Style range: English styles

Signature:MacLenny's Scottish ale

Although an announced expansion seems to have stalled for the moment, Barley's continues operating as a mainstay in the Columbus brewing scene, as it has been for over 20 years. Firkin Fridays, homebrew competitions and other specialty releases are going strong. The biggest news is the opening of Brewcadia upstairs. The second floor arcade draws in a new crowd with both vintage arcade games and a roster of 40 taps.

Brew Brothers at the Scioto Downs

6000 S. High St., South Side


Style range:pale ale, amber ales, stout

Signature: Redhead amber ale

Owned by the Eldorado Resorts, Brew Brothers opened this past year as part of the growing entertainment complex at the Scioto Downs. The full-service restaurant and brewery pairs house-made brews with an easy-to-like menu of pizzas, burgers and other pub favorites. The beer styles stay in pretty safe territory, with a roster featuring a stout, an amber ale, a pale, plus a few specialties. All the beer is brewed onsite by brewmaster Ryan Torres, a former brewer at Barley's. Beer aficionados can forego the races and be entertained by the live music or by watching Torres and his team in the brewery instead.

Columbus Brewing Co.

2555 Harrison Rd., West Side


Style range:American IPAs

Signature: Bodhi IPA

By the time you read this, Bodhi will finally have been released in bottles. CBC's expansion into a large production facility on the west side has enabled significant growth this year. It houses a new brew system and bottling line that has let owner and brewer Eric Bean go from brewing two beers a day to 10. Combined with new branding, CBC continues to extend its reach around the city, across the state and beyond. Long-waiting beer fans are just beginning to reap the rewards, with Bodhi hitting bottles and much more to come.

Elevator Brewing Company

165 N. Fourth St., Downtown


Style range:German lagers, IPAs, red ales

Signature: Bleeding Buckeye red ale

Elevator Brewing has two lives: one as the kinda-fancy restaurant in a 100-year-old building on High St., and one as the rustic taproom a few blocks away. All told, it offers an established roster of seasonal beers, monthly specialties for its beer-education programs and bottled beers filling store shelves. Elevator produces specialty beers for the restaurant and bottles eight regular beers (four year-round, four seasonal). Last fall, Elevator was the only Columbus brewery to take home a medal from the Great American Beer Festival: a bronze for its Mogabi wheat.

Gordon Biersch Columbus

401 N. Front St., Arena District


Style range: German lagers, IPA

Signature: Marzen

Like Hofbrauhaus, Gordon Biersch is a national chain with a presence in Columbus. The brewery has been camped out in the Arena District for over 10 years, producing a solid roster of German and Czech style beers. Last year, the company eased restrictions on its brewers, allowing them play with more seasonal and one-off beers. The beer list has stayed healthy; recent offerings include a maibock, a session IPA, a weizenbock, a Belgian IPA and more. The big change is head brewer Keith Jackson departing to start his own brewery, Combustion Brewery & Taproom, which is set to open in Pickerington this fall.

Hofbrauhaus Columbus

800 Goodale St., Grandview


Style range: German

Signature: Premium lager

The Hofbrauhaus chain, modeled on the Munich brewery, is nearing two years in Columbus and seems to have been well received. The operation is significant, with a burgeoning portfolio of beers, expanded food menus and a total liquid output in the hundreds of thousands of liters. It features four year-round beers: a light lager, a dunkel, a premium lager and a hefeweizen. A monthly special is tapped at a ceremony at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month.

Hoof Hearted Brewpub & Kitchen

850 N. Fourth St., Italian Village


Style range: Hazy IPAs

Signature: Musk of the Minotaur, South of Eleven, Sidepipin'

Hoof Hearted went from a small brewery operating out of a barn to a fully functional Italian Village brewpub this year. The Marengo brewery and taproom, meanwhile, continues to produce beers that are snatched up almost as soon as they come off the canning line. Overall, this means more dank and hazy Konky Dong and Jacuzzerooski and Everybody Wants Some! for all of us.

Four String Brewing

985 W. Sixth Ave., Grandview


Style range:pale ales, IPAs, wheat beers

Signature: Brass Knuckle pale ale

Last year's big developments at Four String are finally paying off in 2016. In 2015, Four String hired Larry Horwitz as its new brewmaster and built out a new 25,000-square-foot production facility with a 30-barrel brew house, a canning line, a sensory analysis lab and a second taproom. The original Grandview taproom keeps humming along, serving Four String's growing portfolio of beers to the masses. The west side facility gives beer drinkers another place to sample Four String's offerings, while the canning line increases its output and allows the company to distribute further outside of Columbus.

Ill Mannered Brewing Company

30 Grace Dr., Powell


Style range: hoppy wheat, IPAs, blonde ale

Signature: Jilarious Session Wheat

Ill Mannered is closing in on its one-year anniversary this September. The brainchild of four homebrewing friends, the brewery has already upgraded from a three-barrel system to a nine-barrel one in order to meet demand. Founders Tom Ayers and Greg Dannemiller have already begun working for the brewery full-time. Their Powell taproom has become a neighborhood hangout. Regulars gather for everything from the Nice Vice breakfast stout to the Bitter Ex double IPA, plus weekly special infusions.

Kindred Artisan Ales

505 Morrison Rd., Gahanna


Style range: saisons, wits, sours

Signature: Kindred Wit

Kindred opened this past April with a taproom and production facility geared toward a large barrel and sour program. Owners Max Lachowyn and Patrick Gangwer come from Seventh Son and Jackie O's, respectively. They began their barrel-aging program with 20 wine barrels, although by the end of the year they'll have over 400 filled with Belgian golden ale, Flanders red and a honey buckwheat saison. The taproom is brand new, but still cozy enough for sipping the wit, porter, farmhouse ale, Berlinerweiss or anything else the brewers blend or infuse in the many barrels.

Knotty Pine Brewing

1765 W. Third Ave., Grandview


Style range: porter, IPAs, blonde

Signature: Cherry Wood Smoked Porter

Although still primarily a bar and restaurant, Knotty Pine has already upgraded to a three-and-a-half-barrel brewing system since opening early in 2015. Owner Jay Kessler brews a rotating portfolio of about six beers, with his Mirror Lake IPA and Cherry Wood Smoked Porter ranking as some of the most popular beers. Other beers include, amongst more specialties, the Knotty Blonde, the Snow Day IPA and the Black Bones IPA.

Land-Grant Brewing Company

424 W. Town St., Franklinton


Style range: IPA, Kölsch, brown ale

Signature: Stiff-Arm IPA

In less than two years, Land-Grant has hit a number of milestones: brewing a growing roster of beers, serving its products at Ohio Stadium and partnering with the Columbus Crew SC for the specialty Glory wheat. Land-Grant cans are ubiquitous on store shelves, with its IPA, session IPA, brown ale and Kölsch taking the lead. The brewer expanded its seasonal, specialty and collaborative releases, even starting the Space-Grant and Sea-Grant series. The Franklinton taproom now sports a patio, plays host to a variety of food trucks and partakes in special neighborhood events like Independents' Day.

Lineage Brewing

2971 N. High St., Clintonville


Style range: cream ale, IPA, sours

Signature: Aunt Bernice Berliner Weiss

Lineage has been warmly embraced by Clintonville since opening early in 2015. The neighborhood's loyalty has allowed the brewery to expand both its beer production and the food selection. Now two of the four founding members work full-time at the brewery, as they add more and more brewing equipment. Meanwhile, the kitchen pumps out hand pies, sandwiches and a solid brunch. To top off Lineage's first successful year, Beer Advocate named it one of the 33 best new breweries in the country for 2015.

North High Brewing

1288 N. High St., Short North


Style range: pale ale, hefeweizen, IPA, milk stout

Signature: pale ale

While North High's taproom and on-premises brewing facility keep rocking, the nearby production warehouse seems to be outpacing them. With increased capacity and a canning line, more and more of the company's beers are getting wider distribution. The cans have been given an updated look, and standards like the IPA, hefeweizen, pale and milk stout are being joined by specialties like the Grapefruit Walleye session IPA and the Jalilima chili beer. This year North High took home Columbus' only medal at the World Beer Cup, a silver for its pale ale.

Pigskin Brewing Company

81 Mill St., Gahanna


Style range: IPA, cream ale, gose, hefeweizen

Signature:Undefeated IPA

Alongside Ill Mannered, Lineage, Knotty Pine and others, Pigskin is just getting into its second year, settling in as Gahanna's neighborhood pub. The brewer sports a roster of over a dozen house beers, ranging from standouts like the Undefeated IPA, the gose and a cream ale to a stout, porter, more IPAs and a Belgian rye. Perhaps the biggest step this year has been the addition of the gastropub. Previously, Pigskin offered special menus from nearby restaurants, but now it's serving up flatbreads, sandwiches and other pub snacks, all made in house.

Seventh Son Brewing

1101 N. Fourth St., Italian Village


Style range: ales and IPAs

Signature: Seventh Son American strong ale

What can't Seventh Son do? The brewery, now firmly established in the Columbus beer scene, is active in canning and bottling its beers, collaborating on specialty brews, hosting some of the city's top food trucks and generally filling the patio with avid beer drinkers. Undoubtedly more expansion is on the horizon, while mainstays like the American strong ale and Humulus Nimbus super pale have secured positions as some of Columbus' defining beers.

Sideswipe Brewing

2419 Scioto Harper Dr., West Side


Style range: IPA, smoked stout, saison

Signature: Fisticuffs IPA

Sideswipe continues to have a significant presence in bottled beers, but this year owner Craig O'Herron doubled the size of his facility, allowing him to expand his brewing capacity and offer a more comfortable taproom. The full bar features a growing lineup of beers, plus picnic tables, board games, darts and a small patio. O'Herron has supplemented standard brews like the Fisticuffs IPA and Elegant Hoodlum smoked stout with newer concoctions like the Mastermind imperial stout.

Smokehouse Brewing Company

1130 Dublin Rd., Grandview


Style range: English ales, cask-conditioned ale

Signature: Centennial IPA

The brewpub at the pit-barbecue-focused Smokehouse continues to serve up popular staples like the Centennial IPA and MacLenny's Scottish ale, while expanding its portfolio to include more sours, barrel-aged beers, firkins and other specialty offerings. Business is steady enough that owner Lenny Kolada and brewmaster Sam Hickey have also started a second brewery, Commonhouse Ales, a B Corp organization using its profits to support different charitable organizations. Many of the Commonhouse brews have been tested and perfected at Smokehouse, and it recently took over the brewery behind the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant. Look for beers to hit cans and taps in early August.

Temperance Row Brewing

41 N. State St., Westerville


Style range: English ales

Signature: Any of beers offered on nitro tap

Temperance Row Brewing, housed inside Uptown Deli & Brew, opened in late 2014, nodding to Westerville's history as the former headquarters of the temperance movement. Scott Francis, owner of The Winemaker's Shop in Clintonville, and the brewer who helped start Barley's, CBC and Smokehouse, continues to brew English styles that pair with meals from the deli. This May, Francis helped resurrect the Columbus classic Hoster Gold Top withHoster's original brewmaster Victor Ecimovich III.

Wolf's Ridge Brewing

215 N. Fourth St., Downtown


Style range: stout, smoked beers, cream ales

Signature: Dire Wolf imperial stout

Wolf's Ridge has made itself a destination for both creative dining and experimental beer. This past year saw the addition of more brewing equipment, some of it slowly encroaching on the taproom, and a bottling line. Signatures like Clear Sky cream ale, Driftwood session IPA and Daybreak coffee cream ale can now be found at grocery stores. Brewer Chris Davison continues to experiment with one-off brews and infused variations of his Dire Wolf imperial stout; bottle release parties see the supply exhausted quickly. Meanwhile, the taproom just got its own small kitchen, letting Chef Seth Lassak and his culinary team better serve taproom patrons.

Zaftig Brewing Company

7020A Huntley Rd., Worthington


Style range: Anything high gravity

Signature: Shadowed Mistress strong ale

Zaftig will probably benefit most from the elimination of the ABV limit in Ohio. With its brand-new taproom and significantly upgraded brew system, it'll be able to pump out more ABV-busting stouts, strong ales, double IPAs, wee heavies and more. The new taproom, which opened in May, sits a couple blocks from the old space in the shadow of the Budweiser plant. The larger digs can more comfortably welcome guests and host food trucks. Look for Zaftig to bottle more brews and continue expanding its line of barrel-aged beers.

Zauber Brewing Company

909 W. Fifth Ave., Grandview


Style range: German and Belgian beers

Signature: Vertigo hefeweizen

Zauber has come into its own with its beer garden-style taproom, larger brew system, a big patio and a new brewmaster as of last year. It fills the taproom with Premier League fans on a regular basis, feeding them a steady rotation of signature German and Belgian beers. The bigger system has allowed Zauber to introduce more seasonal and specialty brews, like the Berzerker Belgian IPA or Ominous Belgian stout. And this year the brewer moved closer to owner Geoff Towne's vision of a true German beer hall with small market kiosks; Explorers Club has taken over the kitchen and Das Kaffeehaus von Frau Burkhardt serves coffee and pastries.