I choose beer, almost always, over any other Adult Drink. Taproom culture is a big part of my infatuation with craft beer and the great variety of quality beverage is the other part. After a year of living in Columbus, Ohio, I’m ready to talk about some of my favorite breweries. Columbus Craft Beer Week is in early May and the latest counts are in: there are nearly 200 craft breweries in Ohio, the middle of the state is home to 40 of those. Compared to other cities like Portland, OR and Asheville, TN we have room to grow. The disclaimer here is that I’ve only visited a small portion of these, and really only those in Columbus proper. I have room to grow, too!
Wolf’s Ridge Brewery and Restaurant, is unassuming in appearance and location, but is the unusual and impressive combination of brewery and gourmet restaurant. Building and launching a brewery with a license to serve is an achievement in its own right. Creating a trendy, yet comfortable, location complete with brewery, taproom and dining room is a triple-threat. Wolf’s Ridge is a Special Occasion Place: $15 flights in their taproom and delicate portions in their dining room don’t encourage weekly visits. Regardless, Wolf’s Ridge has stayed at the top of my list of Columbus breweries for their ability to produce an incredibly diverse variety of flavors without sacrificing quality. Whether it’s a smokey Rauchbeir, a light-colored cream ale that tastes like coffee, or a refreshing liquid lemon meringue, Wolf’s Ridge can brew them all. Creativity and quality also shine on the seasonally rotating menu: you’ll likely find the trendiest ingredients next to familiar staples in surprising ways. If you’re looking for a great date-night location, the ambiance of the dining-room is romantic and friendly and the menu will give you plenty of conversation topics. Sometimes the taproom downstairs is overrun with Suits, but nudge your way onto a table, play a raucous game of Jenga, and they’ll soon realize craft beer – and Wolf’s Ridge – is for everyone.
Zauber Brewing Co. in Grandview is my neighborhood favorite and gem on the Columbus beer scene. Because it’s so close to my apartment, sometimes I overlook Zauber with it’s large interior space, almost fanatic support of the Columbus Crew soccer team, and beautiful patio. When the days are longer and the nights are warmer, however, Zauber’s usually on my mind all day. The Fifth Avenue adjacent patio is a great place to gather and people watch. On a weekend evening, the interior is uncomfortably loud. Recently, we realized Zauber’s Belgian IPA – the Berzerker – might be one of the best beers in Columbus. Casual and low-key, Zauber doesn’t boast some of the more adventurous brews of trendier taprooms, but their beers run the gamut from easy Kolschs and Hefeweizens to robust stouts. They serve the kind beer that’s so well balanced, you just don’t think about it. The former-food-truck, Explorer’s Club, now calls Zauber home with a small but well-crafted menu so you can get a snack with your quality, unassuming beer.
Seventh Son Brewing Co. is a Columbus staple on the beer trail; you can’t have a conversation with anyone who likes beer in Columbus without them gushing about Seventh’s Son’s patios. This is especially exciting, since the brewery is in the middle of a taproom expansion and opening a second location in the original brewery district. I hesitated to put Seventh Son on my list, however, because while I have a great experience every time I go, I’m not sure their beers are what draws the crowds. There’s a great range of styles offered at Seventh Son but typically you’ll run into a brew or two that just isn’t excellent. For example, they have a Sour IPA on tap right now that I highly recommend for it’s funky, fruity tartness but I would caution against the overcomplicated Syzygy, an American Double IPA. I also think the fact that their Scientist IPA recipe constantly changes is a wee gimmicky. What Seventh Son might lack in a full menu of perfect beers, they make up for in atmosphere. Their bar offers craft cocktails and a rotating queue of food-trucks, so it’s a great place to bring a group of friends. Dog, cat, and kid friendly, on a Saturday night you’ll find patrons ranging from California chic to smiley grandmas to couples snuggled by the fire.
Ohio Taproom isn’t a brewery, but it’s my absolute favorite place to get a beer in Columbus. Harkening back to the pre-Prohibition days when every neighborhood had a friendly spot to get a beer, The Ohio Taproom is owned by a Grandview couple and embodies the Midwest ethos of hard work and friendliness. The blackboard menu in the tiny building nestled on the corner of Third and Northwest boasts, “no crap on tap!” Ohio Taproom serves a constantly rotating collection of Ohio-only craft beers. Visit on a Sunday and you will probably meet John, the owner and Grandview local, who is perfectly willing to answer all your questions while he serves his neighbors. Don’t fret if you’re unfamiliar with a beer and don’t want to invest in a whole pint: Ohio Taproom offers a variety of sizes at really great prices. Recently, the Taproom nearly doubled it’s size with a humble patio. If you’ve come to Grandview Ave for dinner, and you decide to walk-off your Jeni’s in the beautiful neighborhood, make sure to swing by the Ohio Taproom and reward yourself with a beer for supporting so many local establishments.
From trendy to traditional, home-brewers to international stars, Columbus has everything a beer lover needs whether you’re just visiting or here to stay.