Q&A: Meet the fellas behind Franklinton's Land Grant Brewing

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Land Grant Brewing Company (424 W. Town St.) owner Adam Benner and creative director Walt Keys finally have a date to circle on the calendar. After two and a half years, a Kickstarter campaign and some real estate hurdles, Land Grant Brewing will welcome beer enthusiasts for a grand opening on Oct. 18. What started out in a small carriage-house apartment in Chicago, has grown into a 12,000-square-feet brewery and tasting room in Franklinton, making Land Grant the latest addition to the enclave, as well as the Columbus brewing community.

We started in Chicago, but coming back to Columbus was always the goal. I'm from Cincinnati and Adam is from Cleveland. We both met at Ohio State, and just really loved the city, and always planned on moving back. When we decided to open a brewery, it seemed perfect because the Columbus market was really growing. When we were in college, we'd go to Elevator or Barley's or whatever, but there wasn't much else. Obviously that has just exploded since then, so it just seemed like the perfect place and time. There is a very youthful energy to Columbus; it's a little different. We've always loved the place, and it's cool to move back and have the opportunity to do this awesome project. WK

We thought looking for a building would be fun at first but we had no idea how difficult it would be. The goal from the beginning was to be an urban brewery. We never wanted to open in a business park or out in the suburbs. Franklinton was sort of the last frontier for Columbus as far as getting a space large enough to accommodate what we want to do that was also in an urban setting. We've always had the vision of a brewery people could walk to and socialize in. That's part of what took us a long time to find the right space. We fell in love with our current building when we first saw it, but it was already under contract. It was at the very last minute that the contract on this place fell through, and we jumped all over it. It really fits our needs perfectly. AB

We want our beer and brewery to be an interactive experience. We wanted to create a community and have a direct dialogue with our consumers. We added the communal tables and the tasting room to add that social element to beer tasting. We want to just get people together, get ’em drinking good beer and talking about it. We aren't hard-headed in our styles; we specifically wanted to leave room to grow as far as experimentation and open up that dialogue on what works for our customers before it hits the market. We're built to grow and we plan on growing; we aren't going through this construction crap again. WK

We are not about cutting corners. We could have opened out in an industrial park with a smaller system, but it wouldn't have been Land Grant; it would have been a shadow of what it was supposed to be. By making sure we are ready when we open, that we had the capital to do what we wanted to do, and all the best equipment, we feel like our quality is going to set us apart. We want to keep the quality from the ground up. Where the market is right now in Columbus, with all the great beer and breweries, we know we aren't going to get a free pass just because we're new. Once the first beer gets poured, all this hard work will be worth it. AB

We finally got to pick a date for our grand opening. For the first time in the two-and-a-half-year project, we are able to put a solid date on our opening. On Oct. 18, we're going to have our grand opening with our four flagship beers. We're excited to debut our Stiff-arm West Coast IPA, Greenskeeper Session IPA, 1862 Ale and our Son Of A Mudder Brown Ale. It'll be the first time anyone has gotten to taste our brews, so it'll be really exciting. We also plan on having some great guest drafts, a full bar and a solid food truck. We're just going to make a day of it and throw a big party. Beer shouldn't be complicated; it should just be enjoyed with good people. WK

Photo by Meghan Ralston

Adam Benner

Age: 30

Hometown: Cleveland

Current neighborhood: Upper Arlington

Day job: Owner/president of Land Grant Brewing

Currently listening to: "Topics" podcast with Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black

Playing favorites

Favorite restaurant: Wolf's Ridge

Favorite beverage: Orval

Favorite movie: "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" - "We named our canning system 'Cansley Zissou'"

Favorite TV show: "Arrested Development"

Best way to spend $10 in Columbus: Ray Ray's brisket

What's your life's theme song? "One Big Holiday" by My Morning Jacket

Walt Keys

Age: 30

Hometown: Cincinnati

Current neighborhood: German Village

Day job: Creative director of Land Grant Brewing

Currently listening to: The War On Drugs

Playing favorites

Favorite restaurant: Hot Chicken Takeover

Favorite beverage: The Bruery's Tart of Darkness

Favorite movie: "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou"

Favorite TV show: "Twin Peaks"

Best way to spend $10 in Columbus: At Studio 35

What's your life's theme song? "Constructive Summer" by The Hold Steady