Prost at Last!

Geoff Towne has never been one to mince words. Long before he brewed his first batch of beer in Columbus, he spoke openly about his ambitions. Reaction was mixed: some were excited, others dubious.

It’s easy to talk about beer, but a lot harder to brew it.

So Towne got on with the brewing, and he managed to find a niche – a niche that does well enough to allow him to expand his operation from a one-barrel brew house, to a 20-barrel operation that can comfortably pour 1200 barrels of beer into the Columbus market in the next year. That’s about 2500 kegs. Not quite a beer empire, but definitely a respectable output.

The brewing equipment arrives at the end of the month, and Towne hopes to have it set up by early March. Meanwhile, Zauber has opened up a retail space at 909 West Fifth Ave, in Grandview, just a few stumbles from the space on Norton where he started brewing three years ago. There’s a full bar, a convenient taproom set up for quick growler fills, and an open seating area that takes a page from the local beers halls of central Europe.

“It’s an Americanized take on the European beer hall,” Towne said. “It’s a place where you can go by yourself because you know you won’t end up drinking alone.”

Of course, saving Columbus from brooding in dimly lit bars isn’t Towne’s goal. The plan is to use the space to create a buzz about his beers. Ramping up the distribution is part of his plan to saturate the market with Zauber beers. Ultimately, he sees his market reaching “beyond the beltway.”

The beers themselves are decidedly Euro-centric. Craft beer fans hopelessly addicted to the aggressive hop profiles indicative of West Coast IPAs may not find these beers particularly satisfying. You can still appreciate them, but you have to understand that this is an American interpretation of German styles. There’s nuance and subtlety afoot, which is a great idea when the beers can be served in a huge stein, sometimes a full liter of beer swashing around inside.

Towne sees his beers shoring that gap between boring domestics, which often dictate taste through marketing, and the aggressive American craft brewers who brazenly brew beers designed to shock the palate. His beers appeal to those who have either grown weary of the hop race, or those who simply want something more from beer than a great Super Bowl commercial.

Zauber’s taproom is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with a happy hour taking place between 4 and 7. They stay open an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays, and close around 7 on Sunday. It features other local beer selections, choice regvional brews, wine, and spirits. Food is supplied through the food truck network on a rotating schedule.

Entertainment is on the agenda, as is a patio that will face Fifth Avenue when the weather warms up a bit. It’s a work in progress and adjustments will be made to keep customers happy.

The wheels are in motion. Towne put his money (a lot of it, by the way) where his mouth is, and brewed beer. Now he’s brewing even more. That’s the way this game is played, and now Zauber’s got a sweet little spot where you can play along. •

Zauber Brewing Company is now located at 909 West Fifth Avenue. Read the latest on Towne’s beer offerings in our latest edition of Swig, out March 7. To keep up with food truck rotations and other Zauber news, follow @ZBeers or visitwww.zbeers.com.

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