Coldest Beer in Columbus: Top 10

  • High Beck
  • Johnnie's Tavern
  • Rafters Beer Pub
  • Circus
  • India-Oak Grill
  • Villa Nova
By
From the July 19, 2012 edition

When we decided to bring back our Coldest Beer in Columbus feature after a hiatus in 2011, we wanted to go big. More beer! More bars!

Alive staffers, equipped with trusty Taylor digital thermometers (calibrated using the ice point method first, nerds) trudged to 24 bars across our fine city. We powered through power outage and absolutely miserable weather to quench our thirst at watering holes big and small. Many times was an “Ahhhh” uttered. It’s a tough job, but we did it. Enjoy the results — and head out to these places to see for yourself just how chilled a bottle of beer can get.

Story by Chris DeVille, Heather Gross, Brad Keefe, Brittany Kress, Jackie Mantey, Jessica Salerno, Kristen Schmidt and Jesse Tigges

WINNER

High Beck

564 S. High St., German Village

614-224-0886

highbeck.com

Beer: Miller Lite

Tested: 5:32 p.m. July 5

Temperature: 23.5 degrees

High Beck’s name — the bar is located on the corner of High and Beck streets — is indicative of its play-it-straight approach. This neighborhood favorite never gets too fancy, leaving it to concentrate on the things patrons really dig after a long day: beer so cold it’s degrees away from freezing longing lips to the bottle and free food (pizza on Mondays and hot dogs on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to close). Tip ’em back on the cozily lit patio or while kicking some ass on the pool or pingpong tables. High Beck will inject blue right into your collar and the coldest beer in Columbus straight to your belly. All hail.

#2

Johnnie’s Tavern

3503 Trabue Rd., West Side

614-488-0110

Beer type: Bud Light

Tested: 6 p.m. July 7

Temperature: 24.0 degrees

Johnnie’s is a throwback neighborhood bar on the West Side, renowned as the “Home of the Superburger.” And yes, you have to try the burger, a three-quarter-pound beast that is one of the best in the city.

Walls are decorated with the usual mix of sports and bar memorabilia — notably a Schlitz globe — but the joint feels old and lived-in, not kitschy. Staff and patrons are friendly and familial. It is the kind of place — wait for it — where everybody knows your name.

Most importantly for our purposes, they keep their beers extra freakin’ frosty. Perfect for cooling a sweat — we tested on a triple-digit-temperature day — or washing down an amazing burger.

#3

Rafters Beer Pub

4404 Indianola Ave., Clintonville

614-263-2120

Beer: Miller Lite

Tested: 5:15 p.m. Saturday, July 7

Temperature: 24.5 degrees

Rafters Beer Pub is a great neighborhood spot that’s a little hard to find (in a nondescript mini strip mall between a barber shop and Beechwold Diner) and even harder to leave. Besides having the coldest bottles north of Campus, Rafters has a peculiar charm and super-friendly bartenders that make the experience worthwhile. And the neighborhood Clintonvillians who hang out at the bar are as genial as they are diverse.

The digital juke box also has a wonderfully eclectic mix — everything from timeless Motown and rare classic rock ditties to indie stuff, and even SWV (Sisters with Voices) for the ladies — already available so you don’t have to pay that extra download cost.

#4

Circus

1227 N. High St., Short North

614-421-2998

facebook.com/circuscolumbus

Beer: Bud Light

Tested: 8:23 p.m. Friday, July 6

Temperature: 26.9 degrees

The air conditioning at Circus hadn’t been working for weeks when we stopped in for a cold one — and even though a floor fan made the bar feel surprisingly comfortable, beers this icy went a long way. Circus serves up DJ sets and dance parties almost every night of the week, and Clever Crow fans can stop in before 9 p.m. to fill up on their favorite pizzas with cornmeal crust. Perhaps our favorite part of Circus: Characters such as “Corkscrew Boy” fill the space on vintage-looking circus posters, most of which scream the word “alive!” in the corner.

#5

Marshall’s

1105 W. 1st Ave., Grandview

614-294-1105

marshallsgrandview.com

Beer: Coors Light

Tested: 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 3

Temperature: 27.5 degrees

You pleasure hounds could actually hang out at Marshall’s all day if you have it in you. Stop by for brunch, sip coffee until noon, then switch to cocktails until the restaurant side closes at 2 p.m. Provided they don’t bust you for loitering, just stick around and bask in the summer sun on the patio until the bar side opens at 4 p.m. By then you’ll be ready to start pounding ice-cold lagers (colder than ice, actually) and hustling at the pool table. Hell, why not rent out the party room while you’re at it?

#6

Butter’s Bar

1137 N. Hamilton Rd., Gahanna

614-470-9702

facebook.com/buttersbar

Beer: Coors Light

Tested: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 5

Temperature: 27.7 degrees

Suburban strip malls get a bad rap. Some of them might look like a blight compared to pastoral landscapes or quaint small-town business districts, but on the bright side, you can usually find an oasis like Butter’s Bar nearby. Few experiences are more comfortingly American than clinking frigid bottles and pints in a dark room with sports on a big screen. There is a brilliant simplicity to it — not smooth-cornered, trying-too-hard, faux-artistic simplicity but functional, familiar, meat-and-potatoes simplicity.

Speaking of which, feel free to bring in your own meat and potatoes.

#7

Beck Tavern

284 E. Beck St., German Village

614- 228-1841

Beer: Bud Light

Tested: 6:40 p.m. Thursday, July 5

Temperature: 29.7 degrees

Beck Tavern is quite possibly the neighborhoodiest bar in the city. Without the green awnings, no one would ever notice that there’s a dive bar right smack in the middle of German Village’s million-dollar brick homes. The bar is where German Villagers young and old go to get a cold drink when they’re looking for a quiet place to unwind. It’s no doubt more fun to drink there when you’re a regular and everyone knows you, but Beck Tavern isn’t one of those neighborhood spots that thumb their noses at new patrons.

#8

R Bar

413 N. Front St., Arena District

614-221-4950

rbararena.com

Beer: Bud Light

Tested: 2:06 p.m. Saturday, July 7

Temperature: 30.5 degrees

You can’t beat R Bar’s Blue Jackets memorabilia and its great location in the Arena District. It’s known as the go-to spot to watch the Blue Jackets during their season, but don’t let the abundance of hockey signage give you the wrong impression. R Bar is a sports bar through and through, and it has great coverage of sports events and games throughout the year. With plenty of TVs, free popcorn and great service, R Bar is the perfect place to hang out and catch any game.

#9 (three-way tie)

Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace

248 S. 4th St., Downtown

614-824-4673

dirtyfrankscolumbus.com

Beer: Schlitz (the sign in the window was a beacon)

Tested: 5 p.m. Monday, July 9

Temperature: 30.7 degrees

Liz Lessner’s downtown temple of the dog has been a casual food fixture pretty much from the day it opened in 2009. If you don’t know, you better recognize (or at least go get a Pittsburgh Princess).

Sure, it’s almost always packed, but that gives you a little time to take in the surroundings. Awesome artwork by Lessner’s brother, Thom Lessner, adorns the walls — whimsical representations of both heavy metal legends and baseball stars of the ’80s!

We tested Dirty Frank’s beer just a couple of days after some renovations, so the beer cooler was still working its way back to maximum frigidness. Dirty Frank’s still managed to land a tie for ninth, proving hot dogs and cold beers are a match made in … America!

India-Oak Grill

590 Oakland Ave., Clintonville

614-261-9355

Beer: Bud Light

Tested: 5:45 p.m. Saturday, July 7

Temperature: 30.7 degrees

Yes, India-Oak serves its bottles cold, but if you go by the popular Clintonville hangout, you should also get the Shiner Bock on tap. India-Oak is the only place in town that always has this wonderful German-by-way-of Texas brew. No matter what you drink, India-Oak has an excellent menu of subs, burgers, salads and soups to go with it. “The Classic” Italian Sub is second to none, the ’50s drive-in-style burger is throwback delicious and you might as well round it out with a bowl of homemade chili. During happy hour, it’s a bustling crowd of blue and white collars kicking back, and at night live bands and young revelers turn the place into a rockin’ yet chill good time.

T.T. Murph’s

2996 E. Livingston Ave., Berwick

614-231-2996

ttmurphs.com

Beer: Bud Light

Tested: 1:15 p.m. Saturday, July 7

Temperature: 30.7 degrees

If you’re looking for an Irish pub, don’t forget to check out T.T. Murph’s on your next night out. With a laidback atmosphere, the bar doesn’t skimp on the Irish pride, but you aren’t overwhelmed by shamrocks. They have multiple flat screens to watch, and they proudly display the football jerseys of local high schools like St. Charles and Bishop Hartley. If you’re staying for more than a drink, try the pizza. You won’t be disappointed. The service is friendly and efficient — just what you’d hope for from a neighborhood dive.

#10

Villa Nova

5545 N. High St., Beechwold

614-846-5777

villanovacolumbus.com

Beer: Bud Light

Tested: 12:04 p.m. Sunday, July 8

Temperature: 31.1 degrees

This Beechwold institution might not get the attention it deserves from Columbus as a whole, but the regular crowd it does get wouldn’t go anywhere else. The bar’s walls are covered with a staggering number of neon beer signs, and the restaurant side is equally (and charmingly) covered in an uber-shiny collection of coffee pots. Don’t pass up the opportunity to fill your belly with some delicious Italian food while you’re filling up on beer: The entrees and lunch specials are delicious.

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