Saturday, August 26, 2017

Best Wishes to Zauber Brewing and Geoff Towne

When Zauber Brewing in Grandview first opened its doors back in 2011, my wife and I used to visit every Thursday evening (or at least every one we could).  At the time, they didn't have their full brewing equipment operational and could only brew on their smaller-scale system. That meant that each Thursday they could offer some of their own beer.  The rest of the week, they were (mostly) selling beers from other craft brewers.  After they started full-scale operations we didn't visit quite as often.

I met Zauber founder Geoff Towne a while later, at Barley's Ale House's "Afternoon with the Brewers" event.  Geoff was a very nice guy and told me that if I was enjoying home brewing (which I am) that I shouldn't make it a business.  Once you do that, you're spending time dealing with employees, making payroll, paying a lease, meeting government regulations, etc.  You're spending very little time brewing and a lot more time doing mundane, sometimes stressful, business activities.  It was advice that I took to heart.

I've met Geoff a couple of times since then.  He once took a few of us on an impromptu tour of Zauber.  His passion for the brewery and Belgian/German beer styles was evident.  I always thought he seemed like a good guy and I wanted very much to see Zauber succeed.

The casual but friendly atmosphere at Zauber made it one of my favorite places to go have a beer. One thing that always stood out to me about Zauber was Towne's focus on Belgian and German beer styles.  That is pretty unique in the Columbus craft beer market.  Many breweries focus on IPAs, Pale Ales, and other hop-forward styles - rarely venturing into other territory.  I understand why they do it.  Those styles tend to be among the best-selling these days, and they are in business to make money.  But there is an underserved market around town for styles that aren't hop-forward.  Most of my friends and family members are perfectly happy drinking a well-balanced Kolsch, Cream Ale, Stout, Belgian Single/Dubbel/Tripel/Quad, Brown Ale, etc.  Few of them will happily crack open and drink a hop-forward Pale Ale, IPA, or Double IPA.  When they visit some of our local breweries, there's nothing on the menu they find palatable.  Zauber shined in that regard.  While I felt that some of the beers were a little hop-forward for the style (or for my taste), I could nearly always find something on Zauber's beer menu that appealed to me.

It saddened me to learn recently that Towne had found it necessary to sell his brewery.  The new owners are letting him keep the Zauber brand name, but they're taking over the equipment and facility.  They'll be re-branding it some time in the near future.  I haven't seen much from Geoff Towne since then.  In one interview, Towne was quoted as saying "I'd like to move to another site and re-emerge. Zauber isn't dying or dead, just evolving."  In another article I read, it seemed like Geoff had not decided if he'd return to craft beer or not.

If you are out there and read this, Geoff, I want you to know that there are folks like me who appreciated you and Zauber.  I hope you don't give up on craft beer and find a way to bring Zauber back as a successful local brewery.  When you do, I'll be there.

No matter what you do, I wish you success and happiness.

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