Bar profile: Zauber finds inspiration in German heritage

  • Photos by Meghan Ralston
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From the January 30, 2014 edition

Brewmaster and owner of Zauber Brewing Co., Geoff Towne’s dream has come true. As an all-American guy with proud German lineage, Towne has always wanted to open his own beer brewery and taproom. Through his beers and vision, Towne hopes to give Columbus a glimpse of Germany through an American lens. In other words, he wants you to pronounce is “Zah-ber.”

“Zauber translates to ‘magical’ in German, and that is sort of how I feel about beer,” Towne said. “When you think about it, fermentation is a pretty magical process. You have to hope the yeast is going to do what you want it to do.”

For 10 years, Towne has been actively learning about or participating in most every facet of the brewing industry. After attending grad school at U.C. Davis, he went on to work for Great Lakes Brewing and Boston Beers. Towne’s plan has always been to open a taproom and brewery, but he wanted to create a viable product first to entice investors. That’s why Zauber beers can be found all over the state.

“I knew I wanted to open a European-style beer hall, but I wanted to get as much experience as possible first. I wanted to make sure I could actually make a viable product,” he said. “I guess that’s my Midwest mentality; learn as much as you can first.”

Located on Fifth Ave. in Grandview, the sprawling warehouse-like space houses the taproom as well as the brewery. In lieu of an in-house kitchen, Towne opted to have a rotating cast of food trucks set up shop in front of the building. Cafeteria-style picnic tables and exposed Edison light bulbs give the industrial space a minimalist look. Though it may be off-putting to sit next to strangers while you enjoy a brew at first, Towne said this was all part of the plan.

“Beer brings people together, which is one of my favorite things about it. I wanted to make this place look like a European beer hall, and encourage conversation,” he said. “Our space is designed to get people to cross-pollinate ideas and share stories.”

Though Zauber beers will be available at other bars and retailers, Towne plans to keep a few special batches in the taproom only and offer a unique experience for patrons.

“The closer you are to the actual taproom, the more exclusive Zauber beers you will find,” he said. “We offer accessible ‘party’ beers for the non-craft drinker, and some more experimental brews for the beer snob. Once the excitement [of a new brewery] wears off, we want to be the place people still hang out because we are fun and accessible.”

Prost!