From farm to city: Matthew Barbee discusses planned Rockmill tavern

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Situated in sleepy Lancaster and set in an old 18th century horse farm is the charming little production facility of Rockmill Brewery. Known for their dynamic brews they refer to as the"Rockmill Spell"and comfortable at-home feel, this hidden gem has built a loyal fan base. Matthew Barbee, co-owner of Rockmill Brewery, is planning to bring a little slice of the country to the city in his new prospective Rockmill tavern.

Barbee's grandfather was a vintner, so he developed an interest in the art of wine and food pairing at a young age. It wasn't until he discovered the Brasserie Dupont's saison that he realized the versatile nature that beer could have. The saison sparked a curiosity in Barbee which led to his research in multidimensional beers and their ability to complement certain foods, a concept he emphasizes at Rockmill's Brewery.

"We focus on Belgian-style ales and creating very layered, structured, food-driven liquid,"Barbee said.

The brewery will continue this concept at their planned new location in German Village, sharing a space with Juergens German Bakery and Restaurant. Barbee was introduced to the space through his accountant and business advisor who was a big fan of the traditional german meals at Juergens.

"I always loved German Village,"Barbee said."My accountant grew up going to German Club and would always go to Juergens. He suggested that it would be the perfect place."

The tavern will share the space with Juergens, and it will have similar aesthetic to the farmhouse, incorporating a patio garden to add to the Rockmill experience."It's going to be very warm and rugged,"Barbee said."We want it to feel like an extension of the Lancaster location."

Barbee plans on utilizing Juergens bakery, but the tavern will have its own kitchen to incorporate savory foods such as gourmet sausages, assorted cheese and charcuterie in what Barbee refers to as a very"focused menu."

"It's going to be about experimenting with new ideas and doing fun brews that will only be available in the new location,"Barbee said."It's an opportunity for people to try all of our beers and pair them with very dynamic food."

Rockmill's quality brews are attributed to their fresh, natural water source. The farmhouse is located at the head of the Hocking River watershed. Any chemicals that may pollute the water from agricultural run-off are downstream from their location. The water matched a similar minerality profile to that of the Wallonia region of Belgium, ideal for Rockmill's focus on Belgian style ales.

"It's a very pristine water, and, having a brewery operation, water is very important,"Barbee said."We are really fortunate."

Barbee plans on continuing to utilize this natural water source by transporting water from the farm to the new location, providing that same delicious quality, the Rockmill Spell.

"You can make wonderful beer off of city water but generally you are going to have to make some adjustments to ensure it's going to turn out the way you want,"Barbee said."We just kinda bring the water out of the earth and brew it. It's luxurious from a brewer's perspective."

Rockmill's tavern is scheduled to open in mid-spring 2016, when"the weather gets nice and the sun comes out again,"Barbee said.

"Columbus has really supported our brand,"Barbee said. "A lot of people would come to the farmhouse to get out of the city, so we kinda became the farmhouse ale brewery of Columbus. I would like to add that to an urban experience where you don't necessarily have to trek outside of the city to get that experience of the beers, the dynamic food pairings and a very cozy, comfortable atmosphere."

To check out the current brews available at nearby locations,