Huddle Up

Gahanna’s Creekside business complex has drawn mixed reviews. It was an ambitious venture, but a combination of Columbus reclaiming its urban core and a dicey economy worked against the boom developers were banking on. Still, Gahanna is fully engaged in drawing people to the area with a slate of festivals and events ranging from a Blues and Jazz Festival, to a new Local Cantina, and now, to a proper celebration of craft beer.

Quarterbacking Gahanna’s presence in the Craft Beer League, and perhaps leading Creekside to the promised land, is Pigskin Brewing Company. I’m going to leave the clever sports puns here because Pigskin works those pretty hard, and they damned well know it. That doesn’t matter, because the bar did not make the mistake of overdoing the typical, tired sports decor. Oh, it’s got a sports theme and TVs, but we’re spared acres of stock sports flair.

Pigskin’s three-barrel brew house, which beckons you through windows from the street, offers a nut brown and a hefewiezen. The hefe was fizzy, refreshing, and true to German form. The finish is dry with a hint of lemon.

The Kickoff Brown Ale is perplexing. Brown ales are normally nutty and sweet, sometimes to the point of banality, but this one is a weird take on the style. To be more on point, it’s more of an ESB, with a dry, tart finish and light feel. This beer comes in somewhere between 3.1 percent and 3.8 percent ABV, which is damn-near “near beer”—good for when you’re grinding out an afternoon of intense spectating—or for visitors getting safely back to the urban core. It’s the first time I’ve had a brown ale I’d describe as refreshing.

The thing to get excited about is the fact that Pigskin has a gose on the way, which opens the door to so many bad puns, but it’s a style of beer that is gaining some traction in the US. Co-owner Craig Bailey assures me that the test batch was awesome, and he did not shy away from admitting that a big part of the reason they’re brewing the German sour is to stand out from the crowd.

An IPA is on the way, as is a porter and an amber. There’s also a selection of well-curated guest beers. Specials, however, will make frequent appearances.

Pigskin has three brewers working together and they aren’t shy about firing up the 10 gallon test system to challenge each other. The bar will take advantage of this and regularly feature experimental batches, enlisting customers to sample competing offerings from the brewers to determine a winner.

That’s thing about Pigskin: they’re connected to the consumer and the owners are hands-on operators. They aren’t some empty suits in an office trying to cash in on a trend; they seem to have drafted a team that shares a similar passion for the vision. A lot of places start strong and then settle into mediocrity, but that’s not the feel you get here. Pigskin Brewing Company is going to continue to improve, and they are filling an important niche. We need the craft beer movement to expand to our suburbs. The Columbus area can support a lot of breweries, but they can’t all wash over downtown.

There’s a patio that will be poured into shape before summer. Most of it will be covered well enough to allow for flat screens to be mounted. There’s a roll-up door that will give the interior bar a good dose of fresh air and allow for some continuity between the inside and outside seating.

The menu is small. You’ve got apps (of which the candied bacon stands out), requisite wings, brick-oven pizzas, and sandwiches. They’ve got a tasty burger. The medium rare order was executed perfectly: pink in the middle, and charred crust on the outside. The prime brisket sandwich was sublime.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and Craig compares it to a football game. They’ve got a goal in mind, but they’re focusing on one play at time.

Pigskin Brewing Company is now open at 81 Mill St., Gahanna.

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