Distilled: Oldfield’s Loves Ohio

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
From the March 14, 2013 edition

When Dan Starek took over longtime campus haunt Oldfield’s Bar (on Fourth) in December and renamed it Oldfield’s North Fourth Tavern, he had Ohio in mind. The Cleveland native — who’s been bartending in Columbus for 10 years — decided to make Oldfield’s the locale for local.

Starek also wanted to swap Oldfield’s former reputation as a dive for a neighborhood bar on campus. There are still remnants of these types of campus places (Bier Stube, Thirsty Scholar, The Library) among the peddlers of Liquid Dope and $2 bomb shots. But Oldfield’s Ohio dedication — plans to carry 100 bottled beers, 20 drafts and 40 to 45 liquors from the Buckeye state — is unparalleled.

“That’s a huge goal of mine … it would definitely be cool to get that whole Ohio theme in here,” said Starek.

The locavore movement — whether you find it pretentious or not — is at an all-time high, but the number of excellent Ohio breweries and distilleries makes Oldfield’s a proud supporter. Established breweries (e.g. Cleveland’s Fat Head’s, Cincinnati’s Rivertown and Mt. Carmel, Strongsville’s The Brew Kettle, and Columbus’ CBC and Elevator) join a host of Ohio spirits. Everything from Columbus’ distilleries, as well as offerings from Painesville’s Seven Brothers and Athens’ Dancing Tree are at Oldfield’s. Starek even bought a bunch of cases of the recently closed Neil House Brewery’s Cranberry Cider so he could offer it long after the brewery’s gone.

The local approach is having an effect too; regulars are ordering a beer simply because it feels like home, which is getting college students to experience better beer.

“You have 21-, 22-year-old kids who’re getting a good feel for beer. They feel loyal because it’s from their hometown,” said Starek.

Once the school year ends, Starek is traveling to every Ohio brewery. He hopes The Dan Starek Beer Tour will set up relationships for maintaining a constant supply of Ohio products. Focusing on Ohio isn’t about revenue — it’s about doing something different that Starek can be proud of.

“My sales are majority of whiskey and domestics, but it’s about having those options, that availability you won’t find in Columbus, let alone campus,” said Starek.