Tastemaker: Eric Bean, owner and brewmaster, Columbus Brewing Co.
Why he's a Tastemaker: You'll find the short answer in one smooth, citrusy sip of Columbus Bodhi double IPA. The longer version goes something like this: When Eric Bean took over Columbus Brewing Co. in 2005, the microbrewery was producing 1,500 barrels of beer annually. This year, it will turn out more than 15,000-a number that will continue to grow as the city's largest brewery transitions later this year into its new 50,000-square-foot production facility and tasting room at 2555 Harrison Road on the West Side. But Bean is responsible for more than just sheer growth and good beer; he's shaped a respected brand that's evolved into a sustainable company poised to launch Columbus onto the national beer scene.
Beyond Columbus: After graduating from Kent State University, Bean completed an apprenticeship under the German-trained brewmaster at Firehouse Brewery in Cleveland Heights, then the Master Brewers Program at the University of California, Davis, where he soaked up the then-burgeoning and hoppy West Coast craft beer scene.
Peer support: Under Bean's leadership, CBC has become Columbus' most decorated brewery. At last year's Great American Beer Festival, the largest commercial beer competition in the world, CBC's Bodhi earned a bronze medal in the American-style IPA category, and its Creeper Imperial IPA won the gold in the Imperial IPA category. Uncle Rusty, CBC's imperial red ale, also earned gold in its respective category at the 2014 World Beer Cup. But the real validation, Bean says, is in seeing CBC's name right alongside those of other award winners such as Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Dogfish Head Brewery and Founders Brewing Co.
Big picture: Bean isn't chasing volume, though CBC has the capacity to do 100,000 barrels a year at its new facility. For him, it's about smart growth. The new brewery will allow CBC to diversify its draft and bottled offerings (Bean is thinking lagers and Belgian-style brews). "It's not the cash bottom line; it's about the employee bottom line and what are we doing to create a better company," Bean says. "So how do you do that and not become this robotic, commercialized caricature of ourselves? How do you balance that to maintain the honest thing about craft beer, the artistic integrity? How does that continue to be sincere and not just something you write down on the side of the six pack?"
Smart investments: Bean commissioned a German-made brew house for the new CBC facility that will improve brewery efficiencies while extending product shelf life (translation: greater expansion statewide). "I think, 'What's that beer going to taste like in 90, 120, 160 days?' " he says. "That's the difference from our current to new space. Not a huge flavor difference, but a huge stability difference. It will improve grain handling and hop aroma and flavor [in the long term], too, by reducing oxygen pickup during the whole process."
Previous gigs: Diamond Knot Craft Brewing in Mukilteo, Washington; Firehouse Brewery & Restaurant in Cleveland Heights
Guilty pleasure: Cheap beer and whiskey
Recommended reading: "The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts" by David McMillan, Frederic Morin and Meredith Erickson
Favorite off-night eats? Indochine Cafe. "I also like that, when I'm there, I don't have to think about business. If I go into a bar, I'm looking around, 'What are they drinking; what's in their hand?' "