Thursday, May 14, 2015

Columbus Beer Week - Impressions

May 1-9 saw Columbus celebrating its first Craft Beer Week.  I'm glad that we've finally been able to pull one together.  There are a lot of good things I can say about it.

There were LOTS of events around town, so many that the ones I attended never seemed to be overly crowded.  I was able to try any of the beers I wanted to at the events, rarely did any waiting, and none of the things I wanted to try ever ran out.  I think the variety of events was probably the strongest part of the week.  There were probably enough things going on that no one venue became overloaded.  The events I attended all had plenty of guests but only one was truly "crowded".  More on that in a moment.

Wolf's Ridge

I got to try the three variations on Wolf's Ridge's excellent St. Francis Quad at their taproom on Sunday.  Since I covered that in another post, all I'll say is that I love all three.  The maple one is probably my favorite, because it's just a touch sweeter and offsets the bitterness.  It's another great beer from Wolf's Ridge.

Lineage Brewing

I went to Lineage Brewing in Clintonville for the first time on Monday and got to sample their beers.  I was very impressed with the different styles they offered.  Their IPA was hoppy but drinkable.  Their other styles weren't particularly hoppy, but appropriately bitter for their style.  That's one sign of a good brewmaster - the ability to produce beers that don't have to hide behind a truckload of hops.

So many local brewers offer a range of beers, with most of them being some variation on an IPA, an "Imperial" version of an existing style, a "West Coast" version, or some other code word for "hopped-up" beer.  As I've said many times, I appreciate the flavor, aroma, and other qualities hops adds to a beer - but I don't enjoy it when the bitterness dominates the flavor.  It's like a chicken soup that's too salty, cinnamon toast with more cinnamon than sugar, or a chocolate cake with a paper-thin layer of frosting.  It's unbalanced.


I visited Growl! which is just down the street from Lineage (within walking distance, even).  It's a very cozy and pleasant place to sit and have a glass of one of the 40 or so craft beers they have on draft.  Their draft list had a nice combination of local and non-local brews on it, and we felt welcome there.

Weird Beer Night at The St. James Tavern

Friday night we went to "Weird Beer Night" at the St. James Tavern.  That was my first time at the bar.  It had a friendly, cozy atmosphere that I felt comfortable in.  The fact that they had New Belgium Cascara Quad on draft (a beer I don't think is even in stock in Fort Collins) was the big draw for me.  I don't love it as much as St. Francis or Ommegang's Three Philosophers, but it's a great beer that I fell in love with at New Belgium's brewery.

Free Glass Night at Zauber

After St. James, we went to Zauber's Taproom on Fifth Avenue in Grandview.  My wife and I each got a free pint glass, and the opportunity to enjoy their Marzen and Empire Strikes Bock.  Both were nice beers and worthy of the Zauber name.

The Daily Growler

On Saturday, we stopped by The Daily Growler in Powell and shared a pint while talking with co-owner John Blakely and his excellent staff.  Be sure to check out his "Crowler Truck" campaign on IndieGoGo and support it if you can!

Six One Pour

Saturday evening we went to Six One Pour at Brewmaster's Gate.  It was great to see so many Columbus area breweries there showing off their products, and fun to try the different collaboration beers.  If you were a fan of hop-forward beer styles, you were probably in heaven.  Out of the approximately 120 beers on the official program guide for the event, I was only interested in about 14.  Of those, at least five or six didn't show up or were well-hidden in the venue.  We left the event about 90 minutes after we got there, having sampled as many of the beers we wanted to.  I probably dumped more samples than I drank, either because the flavor didn't live up to the name, or the beer was hoppier than its style suggested.  It's rare that I walk out of any beer tasting event as quickly as this, and with having tasted absolutely every beer I cared about.

There were a few beers at Six One Pour that I enjoyed.  Sadly, my favorite of the bunch was from Sam Adams - their New World Tripel.  I expected Wolf's Ridge to bring Alpha, Beta, St. Francis, and some of their excellent Belgian style beers.  They brought two IPAs instead.  There were lots of IPAs at the event, but few Belgian style beers.  I keep hoping that someday Columbus craft beer fans learn the joys of styles other than Pale Ales, IPAs, and "Imperial" beers.


All things considered, my proverbial hat is off to all of the organizers, local breweries, and others who made Columbus Craft Beer Week a reality.  I was genuinely impressed with the variety of events available around town each day of the event, the number of events going on, and the way it was all handled.  In case it sounds otherwise, I enjoyed Six One Pour, but hope there will be some improvements in it next year.

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