Beer Guide: Seventh Son selected as Alive's first-ever Brewer of the Year

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

A recent photograph posted to the official Instagram account of Seventh Son Brewing featured a hand holding a small cluster of hops and malts and was accompanied by a simple tagline: "Great things come from humble beginnings."

This isn't some idle boast, either. According to Seventh Son Head Brewer Colin Vent, the Italian Village-based business prefers to keep things simple rather than chasing trends or introducing exotic ingredients.

"I'm never going to be the guy who makes the wackiest beer, like those [brewers] who put rare Amazonian tree nuts in their beer or whatever," said the Columbus-born Vent, 33, who has been with Seventh Son since the bar opened in December 2012 (the brewery subsisted on guest taps until it released its first beers in April 2013). "We're dabbling in what malts, hops and yeast will do, and all those variations within."

At the same time, Vent rarely takes a straightforward approach to the ingredients. The brewer said he avoids chasing trends (when Kölsch-style beers exploded a couple of years back, Vent avoided making one because he "didn't want to make the ninth Kölsch in Columbus") or doing anything he termed "100 percent obvious."

This creativity has helped Seventh Son progress from an upstart with two on-site beer offerings toAlive's first-ever Brewer of the Year in just a shade over three years - an inventive spirit that further reveals itself in beers like the Scientist IPA. One of four beers generally available year-round at the brew house, joining best-seller Humulus Nimbus super pale ale, Seventh Son American Strong ale and Stone Fort oat brown ale, Scientist lives up to its white-lab-coat-evoking name, doubling as an ever-evolving experiment.

"We told ourselves … we have to change that one every single recipe," Vent said. "Even if this is the most amazing batch we've made, well, too bad, we're going to have to take a hop out and replace it with a new hop, or switch out a malt. We force ourselves to keep moving on that beer.

"I'm never going to be a guy who brews an amber ale and calls it Seventh Son Brewing Company's amber ale. I'd rather have a built-in context or story for the beer."

Take the Golden Ratio IPA, which includes a roster of ingredients that follow the Fibonacci Sequence, or Wild Hunt, a traditional, English-style barley wine whose name was poached from an obscure British myth about a ghostly hunter who would ride through the sky at night.

Vent, a fine arts graduate from Ohio State University, has a culinary background that includes stints at Z Cucina in Grandview and now-closed Downtown eatery DeepWood. He started home brewing in 2005, driven by the same urges that inspired him to take up kitchen work. "I wanted creative control over what I was drinking," he said.

At times, Vent's culinary roots will inform his brew decisions. Recently, for example, he prepared a Japanese fish broth flavored with Sichuan peppercorns and garnished with kumquats, and he's intrigued by recreating the "interesting, juicy" experience in beer form. He's also kicked around the idea of brewing an oyster stout classed up with frozen lobster bodies in place of the namesake shellfish.

Vent also garners inspiration from more traditional sources, like recipes created by his fellow Columbus brewers, describing the camaraderie in the local beer scene as "a friendly rivalry."

Even so, Vent said there remains one local mainstay he and every other brewer in town still measures themselves against: Columbus Brewing Company.

"Everyone looks up to CBC. Bodhi is the IPA, and a lot of times it'll be like, 'What can we do that can take ourselves to that? How do we achieve our version of a Bodhi?'" Vent said. "They're really meticulous about what they do, and it's all about quality. They're willing to dump a batch if it's not up to their standards, which is really admirable. I think they prop all of us up. You don't want to disappoint [CBC Head Brewmaster] Eric Bean, so you better get your shit together."

Voting was conducted by a select panel, including Andy Downing, Joel Oliphint, Jim Fischer, G.A. Benton, Nicholas Dekker, Eric Lyttle, Erin Edwards, Dave Bihn, Bill Bopp and Geoff Randolph. Voters ranked their favorite local breweries 1-5, with five points awarded for a first place vote, four for a second and so on, and the final scores were tabulated.

First runner-up: Wolf's Ridge Brewing

Second runner-up: Lineage Brewing