Restaurant review: Columbus Brewing Company

By
From the June 7, 2012 edition

In the drab days before a trickle of microbreweries would improbably gush into a macro small-batch splash-fest, drips of a world-class suds movement were tapped here by a rare and founding father-y breed of early believers. These malty pioneers operated in a primordial and thankfully extinct world of recreational drinking in which the average tippling citizen found the notion of “Columbus craft beer” harder to swallow than his belovedly cheap and simple Corporate Lite lager. Against long and sobering odds, though, some of the hopped-up revolutionaries — including the bold Columbus Brewing Company — not only persevered, but thrived.

About a decade after its unceremonious founding in 1988, an ambitious Columbus Brewing Company relocated and joined ranks with a same-named new brewpub that instantly became popular for mod Brewery District architecture and food good enough to proudly be served with CBC’s stellar beers. This inspired sip and sup hook-up (the restaurant and brewery are separate businesses) is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary.

And with that, it’s time to sound a bell signaling the end of history class and the beginning of happy hour. In other words, time to bolt for CBC’s alluring happy hour deals and new, often Asian-inspired, warm-weather-appropriate menu items.

Happy hour brings a cost-cutting chance to slam CBC’s seasonally perfect and funnily named Summer Teeth beer or, say, its famously crisp IPA, with fermented barley-compatible appetizers (happy hour starters are about half-off at $5 apiece, and beers are discounted a dollar). From these, though the fried and Thai chili-sauced Hot and Sour Calamari might better be described as hot and sweet, it’s an easy-to-like golden oldie.

More distinct is CBC’s Hummus Plate. The coarse dip, which is unusually enriched with sesame oil, is served with hefty wedges of puffy and toasty housemade pita plus scene-stealing and fresh-tasting homemade giardiniera.

My favorite happy-tizer was probably CBC’s top notchos (sorry). Called Pub Nachos, they’re among the best in town. Why? Well, their high-quality ingredients — spicy chorizo, soup-worthy black beans, sweet and smoky chili sauce, avocado and tangy homemade pale-ale cheese sauce — are applied to freshly fried chips in layers, meaning not ladled all on top and leaving mostly naked chips underneath.

Ordering the pizza special ($13) Monday-Friday evenings basically means you’ll be awarded a free pint. I was especially fond of munching the super-satisfying Bye Bye Miss America Pie — a new but old school, all-American Saturday night style-classic (crumbled homemade fennel-y sausage, thick strips of spicy pepperoni and banana peppers) — while on CBC’s pleasantly secluded and weather-protected patio.

That comfy little porch was likewise ideal for digging into healthy and summery Chilled Sesame Noodles ($15). Wispy whole wheat soba threads harmoniously meshed with a lot of vegetables (bok choy, cabbages, sprouts) through a slightly sweet and unifying “organic peanut sauce.”

A Black Tiger Shrimp Stir-fry ($17) hit similarly nutty, semi-sweet and veggie-laden notes. Like the aforementioned Chilled Noodles (and for that matter, the nachos), this vitamin and fiber-filled mound of good and plentiful shrimp, brown rice and crisp and colorful vegetables benefited greatly from jolts of CBC’s own hot sauces (made locally by CaJohns).

Plated with Japanese-like spareness and accompanied by sticky rice plus al dente sauteed bok choy, four attractively seared, black sesame seed-crusted and lightly gingery sauced Large Sea Scallops ($21) stayed in aesthetic tune with CBC’s other new entrees. And they provided excellent patio nourishment as I beheld my foam-laced glasses — and the sun — gradually drain away.

Photos by Alysia Burton