If you’re opening a brewery in 2015, you’d better deliver the goods right out of the gate. You’re going to get accolades regardless, because people love the new local guy, but you need to ignore the love and listen to candid judgment, even if you’re the only one willing to speak the truth.
Mike Byrne is all about the truth. And truth is, he isn’t completely satisfied with all the beers in the opening lineup of his new enterprise, Lineage Brewing. The IPA doesn’t quite have the hop profile he was looking for, so he’s going to tweak some things. Of course, “tweaking some things” from the mouths of new brewers can often be translated as, “We can’t believe you haven’t spit that out at us.”
Candidly speaking, most breweries don’t tend to debut all that well. The standard was pretty low 20 years ago, so if you managed to create a beer with any flavor, it pretty much knocked people’s socks off. My point: opening a new brewery is harder than it’s ever been. There are a lot of great beers out there, local and otherwise, and most of them are brewed by people who’ve had a few years to get their sh*t together.
And truly, most consumers don’t care about the brewer’s story. Everybody has a story. We want to hear it, but only if your beer is good enough to keep us interested. The days of passing off mediocre home brew as craft beer are over.
But here’s the honest truth—Byrne and his cohort at Lineage nailed it. The Spaceship #6 IPA that isn’t rocking his world is still everything you want an IPA to be. It’s clean and clear with a dry, citrus-peel finish. It’s not a “game-changer”—which seems to be the notion most brewers have when they put an IPA on the market these days—but you don’t always want to think about the game as a whole. Sometimes you just want a beer that does what it’s supposed to do.
“I don’t want to brew anything really crazy, at least not at first,” said Byrne, who learned the craft at Buckeye Lake Brewing Company before unveiling the first microbrewery in his Clintonville stomping grounds. “Personally, I like beers that are easy to drink.”
For a long time, we thought Clintonville had everything.
We were wrong. It was missing a brewery. Now it has one, and damned if it isn’t the perfect brewery for the neighborhood.
Some might disagree with his assessment when they try the Aunt Bernice Berliner Weisse. This low-ABV brew is a popular summer beer in Germany. Lineage pushes its version of the Berliner beyond traditional ABV ranges, but this sour wheat ale is refreshing. Yes it’s a sour, but not an overpowering one. The flavor delivers more of a pleasant, lemony tartness. Germans often blend juices and syrups into this beer, so feel free to experiment.
The initial beer menu also features a fantastic rye pale ale, as well as a mild, traditional British pale. The Mike Drop coconut porter is sure to raise eyebrows, but the toasted coconut is scarcely detectable.
And Lineage isn’t averse to the occasional game-changing brew either. Shoot-the-Chutes cream ale is a wicked nod to an enormously popular style of beer that all but died during Prohibition. It’s an ale take on a pale lager that utilizes a period of cold conditioning to dispense with the esters and residual solids. Shoot-the-Chutes nudges the high end of the accepted ABV range of this style as well, but the result is an easily quaffable beer that too few brewers honor.
Lineage has a bright future. We’ve seen more than a few brewers open in Columbus recently, but nobody has swaggered in quite like this. Byrne planned everything meticulously. That’s why he doesn’t require much extra work—just tweaks. These beers are ready for action. The fact that he’s putting his lineup under such scrutiny is a great sign of things to come. He’s a bit like Urban Meyer assessing his team. He sees the flaws and wants to correct them. He’s got his sights set on something bigger.
Lineage’s Clintonville home is a weird and charming neighborhood, a sprawling and eclectic area that stretches from North Campus to south Worthington. For a long time, we thought it had everything. We were wrong. It was missing a brewery. Now it has one, and damned if it isn’t the perfect brewery for the neighborhood, and for this massive new era of microbeer.