Distilled: Local Species’ weird brew surprises even this beer-lover

By Columbus Alive
From the February 20, 2014 edition
  • Photo by Tim Johnson

It’s rare I come across a brewery, or even a beer, I’m not familiar with. But such was the case a couple weeks ago when a knowledgeable local beer guy recommended Blue Mountain Brewery’s Local Species. I was informed Blue Mountain Brewery’s wares had recently become available in Ohio, like so many others, but is a cut above the rest of the recent additions.

The reason for Blue Mountain standing out compared to the rest is two-fold. It’s partly because its brewmaster, Taylor Smack, previously ran both Goose Island brewpubs in Chicago — where the brewery’s best beers are created — and is widely regarded as being responsible for implementing Goose Island’s barrel-aging program. The other, and more important reason, is because the five-year-old Blue Mountain is already producing top-notch beers.

So I left the beer store (The Hills Market in Worthington, but Local Species is also available at Weiland’s Market) with high expectations. Thankfully, those expectations were met, and possibly exceeded.

The Local Species bottle describes it as, “A Belgian-inspired, barrel-aged, American-hopped experimental sort of ale.” This sounds like a mishmash of conflicting elements, but the result is strange in the best way possible.

Local Species pours a deep, dark rust color with a solid head. The aromas aren’t as complex and bizarre as the beer’s description. After the first sip I was taken aback by the diverging flavors; a fruity Belgian yeast component, hint of tart sour, some spice and a substantial amount of wood combined with a strong hop presence.

I wasn’t sure if I was fully on-board. Could there be a beer out there even too weird for me, the ultimate lover of weird? Nope.

After my palette adjusted to these flavors, I found the combination quite pleasing. If I had one quibble, it would be the hop profile could be toned down.

Local Species is surely not a beer for everyone — I could see why one person would love it and another despise it — but those looking for something wild should give it a shot.