Photo by Chris Casella

Brewing Up

The universe is in a state of expansion,
and that’s the name of the game when it comes to craft beer in Columbus. While
Stone spurned us in favor of the former
capital of the Confederate States of America, our local brewers
are scrambling to fill that void.

Photo by Chris Casella

Photo by Chris Casella

Leading the pack, naturally, is Columbus Brewing Company. After years of frustration with limited space behind the restaurant on Front Street, Eric Bean and his band of bold beersmiths secured a massive facility on the West Side. While the new digs might not be aesthetically conducive to supporting an onsite tap room, Columbus Brewing Company will have the space to expand exponentially. This is bad news for craft brewers who have been secretly grateful that juggernauts like Bodhi and Creeper have been trapped in local kegs for the last few years. How big is this place? Let’s just put it this way: if the time comes that CBC needs to invest in yet a bigger space, Bean said he’ll be living on his own private island.

Of course, CBC isn’t alone. Dan Cochran at Four String has beefed up his portfolio of beers, capturing the fancy of beer snobs who found Brass Knuckle a little pedestrian for their refined tastes. He can brew bigger, complex beers, and the success of his APA has given him the ability to do so. He also has designs on expanding, with plans to open a West Side production facility in 2015, thereby quadrupling his capacity and providing an opportunity to expand the current taproom.

North High Brewing realized the market for their own beers might exceed the market for people wishing to brew with their equipment, so they snatched up some space in Milo-Grogan to kick off some serious production with seasoned brewer Jason McKibben taking the helm.

Photo by Chris Casella

Photo by Chris Casella

Elevator, fresh off its 15th anniversary, has secured a statewide presence, and has designs on crossing state lines in the near future. They have room to grow, as their facility on Fourth Street isn’t running at full capacity. Even so, owner Dick Stevens is aware that he could quickly max out, and he’s got designs on proactively mitigating space constraints.

Wolf’s Ridge avoided a rookie mistake by building a much larger brewhouse than they needed. Production was always the goal. Now they’ve got a brew master, and WRB beers are popping up all over town—very worthwhile beers, like that flawless cream ale. More importantly, a much needed taproom is on the way, rectifying what many pub peeps saw as a craft beer boo-boo. Oh, nobody has a beef with the restaurant, but sometimes you just want to hang out and knock back a few pints. Plus, it always felt weird to lumber through the restaurant for a growler fill. Now, everyone wins.

Photo by Chris Casella

Photo by Chris Casella

After a Homeric effort to launch, Land-Grant Brewery finally tapped its first round of beers. The taproom drew rave reviews, and despite the fact that it wasn’t the first choice of locations, the Franklinton facility will prove to be a stroke of brilliance, as Land-Grant has a hip location that’s only going to get better, and a ponderous amount of space that will allow a robust production volume right out of the gate. A few tweaks are needed on the brewing side before beer starts rolling out in cans, but Land-Grant is finally on the way.

Zaftig, which is basically a Yiddish way of saying BBW, is actually rather petite for now, but the beers are hefty and have drawn a large enough following that 2015 will involve steady expansion efforts and possibly the acquisition of more space.

Of all the newer brewers, the one drawing the most consistent praise from other brewers is Seventh Son. Their beer is on point, and everybody seems to love their taproom/event space. The popularity of the beers has placed expansion on the horizon. Nothing has been set in stone, but Collin Castore confessed that their eyes are peeled for a cool space that would serve as an auxiliary brewery, as well as a neighborhood watering hole.

Speaking of killer taprooms, Zauber pretty much nailed it, and recently showed us that they can connect old-world inspiration with new-world innovation by snagging some whiskey barrels and kicking off what is meant to be an annual event in the Barrel Bash. Much like Four String, Zauber has demonstrated an ability to push the envelope by producing bolder beers that appeal to seasoned craft beer veterans, without betraying its Eurocentric roots.

Actual Brewing Company is located in a sketchy industrial area just south of the Airport, but fans are routinely finding their way out to the tasting room. This is a weird crew crafting strange brew, but the creativity has earned Actual high praise from their peers. If anybody in Columbus has the gumption to craft outlandish things in the vein of Dogfish Head, this is the place.

Barley’s has expanded in its own way, by allowing long-time brewer Gabe Sturgess to sneak a few kegs over to his other haunt, Studio 35. This effort also included a firkin of Bourbon Meyer Buckeye Stout, which is a trend people in Clintonville (and North Linden) would like to see continued. A firkin and a movie? That’s just the sort of thing one needs to get through another installment of The Hunger Games.

Expansion abounds. Columbus Brewing Godfather Scott Francis has Temperance Row Brewing Company just about ready to flow in Westerville, which finally drags our suburbs into the mix. Gahanna is on top of it as well with the long-awaited Pigskin Brewing Company rounding into form at Creekside.

Hoof Hearted is winning awards, Sideswipe is still kicking out bombers, we’ve got Homestead and Buckeye Lake Brewing out on the eastern front, and construction has already begun on Lineage Brewing, set to open in Clintonville in 2015.

A brewery. In Clintonville.

A sign of the times (and a welcome one) in the ever-thirsty Columbus.