Matthew Barbee thinks Lancaster is too far north to grow grapes.

Matthew Barbee thinks Lancaster is too far north to grow grapes.

Even if it weren't, he'd probably stick to brewing beer.

The mastermind behind Rockmill Brewery discovered the world of craft beer several years ago through a glass of Saison Dupont - and now spends his days attempting to create his own unique brew.

"This whole new world opened up for me," Barbee remembered about enjoying that first great pint. "I was excited."

Determination followed his excitement.

Barbee eventually left Los Angeles and returned home to live with his parents on a former horse farm that sits among the rolling hills and deep woods about 40 minutes southeast of Columbus.

He thought about following his grandfather into the wine business, but instead he founded the small, organic Rockmill operation with his parents in a sparse, cement-floored building next to the family farmhouse.

"At first, my parents were like, 'That sounds dumb,'" Barbee said of opening a brewery. "But in short order, they got excited, too."

And for good reason.

The well water at Rockmill has a flavor profile like that in Wallonia, a French-speaking region in southern Belgium that has produced some of the world's greatest beer. The exquisite aqua was the perfect backbone to produce four Belgian-style ales: Saison, Dubbel, Tripel and Witbier.

"When you break it down, beer is 90 percent water," he said. "All these styles are from Wallonia, which is what works best with our own water."

Rockmill beers are currently available at Columbus restaurants such as Latitude 41, Little Palace and DeepWood, as well as a good number of Central Ohio carryouts.

Production is limited to four barrels per week, though Barbee is working to bring his beers to a larger local audience craving craft beer.

"There's a movement here," Barbee explained. "It's made me really proud to be in Columbus."