Beer guide: These aren’t your grandma’s bottle shops

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From the July 17, 2014 edition

Columbus storefronts make bottle-buying hip

Bottle shops have almost become synonymous with liquor stores, where spotting Kamchatka can induce flashbacks of college parties gone wrong. But the city is quickly shifting the connotation of the bottle shop, actively replacing those images of ABC storefronts with those of youth-filled, locally owned and (dare we say) hip watering holes offering the best in local and national craft beers. With that replacement came significant interest and demand, so much so that Columbus locales — ranging from bars to markets to carryouts — have made bottle sales a main component of their businesses. Alive did some digging and found some of the best bottle shops around, saving you time for more important, libation-induced fun. Here are a few of our favorites.

Bodega

You might be used to hitting up the Short North classic for drinks and dinner, but Bodega doesn’t limit you to consumption within those recently redesigned walls. As owner Collin Castore noted, Bodega has a prime selection of Trappist (read: monk-brewed), sour and vintage (read: sat in the Bodega basement and “fun to taste,” Castore said) beers ready for carryout. But that’s not all. Accompanying that new redesign is another change, as Bodega is offering growler sales now too.

The Barrel & Bottle

Castore’s other booze-based baby also houses a variety of bottle offerings. The small beer and wine store packed snuggly in the North Market may be younger than its predecessor (seven years to be exact), but the space is chock-full with hundreds of different beer (and wine) bottles, including American crafts, Belgians, rarities and hard-to-get styles, new releases and limited items. But, like Bodega, the locale is transforming, with its original 500-square-feet expanding soon to 1,100, providing sit-down space so you can have a bottle with your food before you take some home.

Savor Market and Savor Growl

Savor Market, now three years old, experienced such demand for craft beer bottles in its infancy that owner and manager Firas Habli shifted the whole concept of the market to a straight craft beer store and bottle shop, with more than 1,000 beers. But what separates the Market from other bottle shops may just be its focus on selling brews, from small, local businesses.

Savor Growl, which opened last April due to more brew demand, sells growlers of brews from local businesses and more that might not package their product, in addition to its vast array of bottles. And as with the Market, the Growl keeps a local focus. “Any local brewery that has good beer, we bring it on draft so people can take advantage of finding and having it,” Habli said.

In addition to its loyalty to all-brews local, Habli also prides himself on the knowledge of his workers. “Our staff is well-educated about craft beer. We can help customers find what they are looking for,” he said. “If they‘re asking for something new or coming soon, the staff can guide them on how we can accommodate their palate.”

Corner Stone Craft Beer & Wine

Corner Stone, Olde Towne East’s year-old bottle shop, was the result of natural business inclinations as well as demand. “We’re also owners of the Olde Towne Tavern. There are a hundred beers in a bottle there. The demand for all the different kinds of beers kept increasing, we got more into the local beer and craft beer scene, and we’ve always worked in food and beverage and are big fans of wine and beer. So it seemed like natural progression to do a bottle shop next,” said Brad Hobbs, part owner of Corner Stone.

On any given day, Corner Stone is packed with 700 different brands of beer you can try, with many of those options coming from local breweries. Many from that selection, Hobbs said, are unique, like relatively new and trending sour beers and a collection of brews many don’t know about yet, like those from Belgium and Europe.

Much like Savor Market and Growl, Corner Stone offers six beers on tap for growler sales. These growlers are dedicated to local breweries in Ohio “who don’t have bottling lines yet or don’t have beers available in packages. So people can take their beer home, instead of just drinking it at the bar,” Hobbs said.

One of the biggest perks of the shop, and bottle shops in general, is the camaraderie in the beer-enthusiast community. “A lot of times we just end up chatting with them,” Hobbs said. “It’s, in my opinion, the best way to get to know about the products. And you see it in other bottle shops, the camaraderie in the beer-lover world.”

House Beer

What started as a family tradition resulted in a Short North destination for all things bottled, as the Walter brothers (Patrick and Steve) and their friend, Kurt Edwards, turned their love and experiences with homegrown beer into a profitable bottle shop and growler-fill location.

The bar-slash-bottle shop, inching up on its second birthday, offers 220 unique bottles in coolers, as well as a six-handle draft system carrying any brew that’s seasonal, strange, unique or rare. With its fast rotation, Patrick Walter, manager of House Beer, said you’re sure to find something new every time.

Another perk: House Beer is decked out in the finest décor, made possible by the items found in a friend’s family’s Prohibition-era barn bar, which was busted by the fuzz and left behind as a bar-décor goldmine. So while you can take your goodies on the go, with reclaimed barn wood, antique bottle-drying racks and brewing paraphernalia, the “warm, intimate environment” might just get you to stick around.