An overview of the city's many breweries
The story of Columbus breweries continues many of the same themes as last year: openings, expansions, beer festivals, bottle releases, special events and collaborations. Seven new breweries opened since July 2016, including BrewDog's massive taproom and production facility in Canal Winchester. The third edition of the Columbus Ale Trail now includes 37 stops, up from 28 last year. Breweries also opened in outlying towns, including Three Tigers in Granville and Trek Brewing in Newark. More are coming to Central Ohio, like sour-focused Random Precision, which is slated to open in Linworth. And late last summer Ohio dropped the 12 percent ABV limit on beers brewed and sold around the state, allowing breweries greater flexibility in brewing big beers.
One new theme, and a developing one, is how this new wave of breweries will fare amongst increased competition. The old guard like Elevator, Barley's, CBC and Smokehouse continue churning away, although they're pressed to find ways to reinvent themselves in response to increased competition and changing tastes among beer drinkers. Larger breweries nationwide continue to put pressure on the little guy by buying out microbreweries while trying to rebrand themselves as “craft”-focused. (The Columbus Budweiser plant just opened up to the public for the first time in years.)
The first of the new wave of breweries, including Seventh Son, Four String, North High and Zaftig, all seem like grown-ups now, having outgrown their rustic taprooms for larger facilities and expanding their portfolios far beyond a handful of signature brews. This begs the question: What's next for this current crop of breweries? And can they sustain quality while increasing quantity?
For now, though, it means more beer for all of us.
Actual Brewing Company
655 N. James Rd., East Side
Style range: rye beers, stouts, light lager, saisons
Signature: Fat Julian imperial stout
After adding new beers last year like the Photon Light Lager and Magnon IPA, Actual continues to brew, bottle and can with “tender loving science.” More and more of its beers are hitting the can, and the East Side taproom continues to hum along, too, hosting food trucks, trivia nights and special events such as the Funkypuss sour release party. True to its scientific nature, Actual collaborated with COSI, took part in the Columbus March for Science and hosted its second Immature Amateur Science Fair. Next on the horizon: a second taproom coming to the Lucky's Market plaza in Clintonville.
Barley's Brewing Company
467 N. High St., Short North
Style range: English styles
Signature: MacLenny's Scottish ale
With recent renovations, an updated menu and refreshed branding, Barley's is still going strong. The brewpub plays host to local crowds and visitors from the Convention Center across the street. One-off brews rotate with mainstays like MacLenny's Scottish Ale and Blurry Bike IPA. The annual homebrew competition continues to be a draw, and the new Brewcadia arcade and bar upstairs is rocking and rolling.
Brew Brothers at the Scioto Downs
6000 S. High St., South Side
Style range: pale ale, amber ales, stout
Signature: Redhead amber ale
Brew Brothers enters its second year as a full service restaurant and brewery in the Scioto Downs entertainment complex. The brewpub pairs house-made brews with an easy-to-like menu of pizzas, burgers and other pub favorites. The beer styles stay in pretty safe territory, but they're all brewed on site by brewmaster Ryan Torres. Beer aficionados can forego the races and be entertained by the live music, or by watching Torres and his team in the brewery instead.
96 Gender Rd., Canal Winchester
Style range: IPAs, stouts
Signature: Punk IPA
Easily the biggest opening this year — in part because of its sheer physical size — is Scotland-based BrewDog's 100,000-square-foot facility in Canal Winchester. It houses the first DogTap brewpub in the States, plus offices and production space. The giant concrete building, painted with colorful murals, opened its doors in late February and was mobbed instantly. No sooner had BrewDog opened the taproom than it announced further expansion: a crowd-funded, on-site hotel that has beer taps in each room and overlooks a new sour facility. The brewer also secured a space at 463 W. Town St. in Franklinton for a second DogTap brewpub, and has announced it's searching for another potential site in the Short North. The most recent development is the hiring of Columbus entrepreneur Tanisha Robinson as the CEO of BrewDog USA.
Columbus Brewing Co.
2555 Harrison Rd., West Side
Style range: American IPAs
Signature: Bodhi IPA
After major expansions last year, CBC has settled into its West Side production facility. More beers have consistently hit the bottle, such as Creeper imperial IPA, Lucy Belgian IPA, Thunderlips IPA and SFW farmhouse-style ale. CBC has also teased more barrel-aged beers on the way. This spring, CBC played host to Columbus-area brewers for the Columbus Craft Beer Week collaboration beer Dysfunctionale.
Combustion Brewery & Taproom
80 W. Church St., Suite 101, Pickerington
Style range: blonde ales, IPAs, stouts
Signature: Combustion IPA
With the opening of Combustion Brewing in April, Pickerington has its own neighborhood brewery. Owner and head brewer Keith Jackson most recently worked at Gordon Biersch before venturing out on his own. The brewery, established in the former Pickerington Creamery building, is outfitted using refurbished and reclaimed materials, and has quickly become a local hot spot, offering curated bar snacks, live music and food trucks in rotation.
Style range: California common, IPAs, wheat beers
Signature: Six.One For Good Ale
Although Commonhouse Ales doesn't have a storefront, it has still had an effect on Columbus and its beer scene. The brewery was created by Lenny Kolada, owner of Smokehouse Brewing. Its bottled beers are available on store shelves around the city, from the Six.One For Good Common Ale, summer and winter session IPAs, a hopped-up imperial IPA and more. This year, Commonhouse officially became Ohio's first certified B Corp brewery, meaning it's held to rigorous accountability and transparency standards. The Brewery supports local non-profits like Wild Goose Creative and Gracehaven through the Commonhouse Shares fund.
Elevator Brewing Company
165 N. Fourth St., Downtown
Style range: German lagers, IPAs, red ales
Signature: Bleeding Buckeye red ale
Elevator continues operating its Downtown restaurant on High Street and its 13th Floor Taproom in the Fourth Street brewery. Elevator keeps busy with a steady production of bottled beers, and has also hosted more specialty bottle releases. Most recently, Elevator hired Doug Beedy as brewmaster.
Four String Brewing
985 W. Sixth Ave., Grandview
Style range: pale ales, IPAs, lagers
Signature: Brass Knuckle pale ale
Like Elevator, Four String Brewing continues to operate two facilities: the original Grandview taproom and a West Side production house and taproom. Grandview has been hosting live music, while the West Side taproom has gotten a paint job and updated to better seating to make it a cozier spot. This year, Four String has attempted to reclaim the American lager by brewing the popular Hilltop Heritage Lager, with pricing and branding that matches the classic style.
Gordon Biersch Columbus
401 N. Front St., Arena District
Style range: German lagers, IPA
Signature: Czech pilsner
After the departure of head brewer Keith Jackson to open Combustion Brewery, Dan Griffin has taken the reins of the Gordon Biersch brewery, maintaining a roster of German- and Czech-style brews such as the Golden Export lager, Czech pilsner and Marzen, which pair with the restaurant menu.
Grove City Brewing Company
3946 Broadway, Grove City
Style range: pale ale, IPA, porter
Signature: Indian Trails IPA
Like Combustion Brewing in Pickerington, Grove City Brewing Co. seems to have been warmly embraced as the neighborhood brewery. The owners of Plum Run Winery in Grove City opened the brewery on a trial basis late last year and celebrated a grand opening in May. The owners are supplementing the operation with a full food menu and events such as trivia nights, live music and special beer tappings on the first Thursday of every month.
800 Goodale Blvd., Grandview
Style range: German
Signature: Premium lager
The Hofbrauhaus chain, modeled on the Munich brewery, is nearing three years in Columbus and seems to have been well received. The operation is significant, with a burgeoning portfolio of beers, expanded food menus and a total liquid output in the hundreds of thousands of liters. The brewer features four year-round beers: a light lager, a dunkel, a premium lager and a hefeweizen. A specialty brew is tapped at a ceremony held the first Tuesday of each month.
Hoof Hearted Brewery & Kitchen
850 N. Fourth St., Italian Village
Style range: Hazy IPAs
Signature: Musk of the Minotaur, Everybody Wants Some
Hoof Hearted's Italian Village brewpub is entering its second year of serving up colorful dinner and brunch dishes to go with its irreverent beers. In warmer weather, it makes the most of its pool-side patio. Hoof Hearted's first anniversary summarizes its progress best: the commemoration included special dishes from Chef Justin Wotring, beer tappings, can releases, artwork from Thom Lessner and … free mullet haircuts.
Ill Mannered Brewing Company
30 Grace Dr., Powell
Style range: IPAs, hoppy wheat, stouts
Signature: Bitter Ex Double IPA
Ill Mannered is closing in on its two-year anniversary this September. Last year, it tripled its brewhouse capacity after two of the founders came on to work full-time. From its Powell taproom, the brewer hosts food trucks, special tastings and weekly infusions. Meanwhile, it's in the midst of expanding its portfolio to include a specialty anniversary beer and some sours.
505 Morrison Rd., Gahanna
Style range: saisons, wits, sours
Signature: Kindred Wit
Despite a season of significant change, Kindred has maintained its momentum. New ownership accompanied the rebrand from Kindred Artisan Ales to Kindred Beer and the opening of its own food truck headed up by executive chef Ben Beardsley. While a planned second taproom in Clintonville didn't come to fruition, the big payoff this year is the arrival of the first sours from barrel-house manager Patrick Gangwer: Wanderlust and Spring Thaw.
Knotty Pine Brewing
1765 W. Third Ave., Grandview
Style range: porter, IPAs, blonde ale
Signature: Cherry Wood Smoked Porter
Although still primarily a bar and restaurant, Knotty Pine has already upgraded equipment since opening two years ago. It brews a rotating portfolio of about six beers, with the Mirror Lake IPA and Cherry Wood Smoked Porter ranking as some of the most popular beers. Other beers include the Knotty Blonde, the Snow Day IPA and the Black Bones IPA.
Land-Grant Brewing Company
424 W. Town St., Franklinton
Style range: IPA, kolsch, brown ale
Signature: Stiff-Arm IPA
Land-Grant Brewing canned beers are now instantly recognizable on shelves, from the signature IPAs, brown ale and kolsch to the ever-expanding portfolio of specialty and seasonal releases. The Franklinton taproom and patio are regular hangouts for Columbus beer drinkers. Last December, it opened a second taproom in Concourse B of the John Glenn International Airport, bringing Land-Grant's signature look and taste to thirsty travelers.
2971 N. High St., Clintonville
Style range: cream ale, IPA, sours
Signature: Aunt Bernice Berliner Weiss
Lineage has been warmly embraced by Clintonville since opening early in 2015. The neighborhood's loyalty has allowed the brewery to expand both its beer production and food selection. The kitchen gets creative with handpies, sandwiches and snacks, while beer offerings now include everything from saisons, stouts and pilsners to IPAs, barley wines and variations on the popular Aunt Bernice Berliner Weiss.
Loose Rail Brewing
37 W. Waterloo St., Canal Winchester
Style range: IPAs, saisons, stouts
Signature: Freight Hopper IPA
BrewDog wasn't the only brewery to open in Canal Winchester this year. Situated in the old electrical building for the Ohio Valley Traction Company, Loose Rail Brewing was opened by Nathan and Kelley Doerfler, owners of Harvest Moon Craft Kitchen and Garden Herb Shop in Canal Winchester, and brewer Jonathan Woodruff. The crew has fully embraced the train theme, with a train whistle installed in the taproom and beer names like the Full Steam saison and Coal's Cousin stout. Like many taprooms, Loose Rail adds to the beer-drinking experience with food trucks and live music.
North High Brewing
1288 N. High St., Short North
Style range: pale ale, hefeweizen, IPA, milk stout
Signature: pale ale
While North High's taproom and brew-on-premises facility keep rocking, the production warehouse continues to outpace them. Cans of IPA, hefeweizen, pale ale, milk stout and Grapefruit Walleye session IPA are ubiquitous on grocery store shelves, while seasonal and special releases join the pack. Recent specialty brews include the ABV-busting Danke imperial IPA and a new collaboration with Weyerbacher Brewing called HighWeyer.
Pigskin Brewing Company
81 Mill St., Gahanna
Style range: IPA, cream ale, gose, hefeweizen
Signature: Undefeated IPA
The athletic-themed Pigskin is Gahanna's brewpub, sporting a roster of over a dozen house beers to go with a full gastropub menu. House brews range from the Undefeated IPA and variations on a gose to cream ales, stouts, porters, bocks and barley wines.
Platform Beer Co.
408 N. Sixth St., Downtown
Style range: IPAs, sours, pilsners, stouts
Signature: Speed Merchant white IPA
Platform burst onto the scene late last year, and the Downtown taproom, located in the old Carfagna's meat-packing and sauce-making facility, has quickly become a favorite hangout. The bright, industrial atmosphere is the backdrop for enjoying 25-plus beers on tap and a rotating selection of pop-ups from local food trucks and restaurants. The Downtown brewery is actually the second location for Platform, which originated out of Cleveland, but the Columbus facility sports its own 3.5-barrel brewhouse to produce experimental and barrel-aged beers. The most recent addition is a 20-person rooftop patio that offers great views of the city skyline.
503 S. Front St., Brewery District
Style range: Belgian-style brews
Seasoned Central Ohio beer drinkers are already familiar with Rockmill's Belgian-style brews, which came in handy when the Lancaster-based brewery took over the old World of Beer space in the Brewery District. The portfolio of saisons, farmhouse IPAs, stouts and cask-aged beers has been richly complemented by creative pub fare from Chef Andrew Smith. Bonus: The brewery is open early for breakfast with a full coffee program.
Seventh Son Brewing
1101 N. Fourth St., Italian Village
Style range: ales and IPAs
Signature: Seventh Son American strong ale
Seventh Son is regularly voted one of the city's favorite breweries, having established its Italian Village taproom and brewery as a place to be for excellent brews, special events and top-quality food trucks. The brewery is just beginning some major expansions, including the build-out of a new brewing space, complete with a rooftop patio. Also on deck is a sister brewery called Antiques on High in the Brewery District, focusing on sours and Belgian brews.
2419 Scioto Harper Dr., Columbus
Style range: IPA, smoked stout, saison
Signature: Fisticuffs IPA
Sideswipe continues to have a significant presence in bottled beers, while the expanded taproom and brewery is a hidden gem for ale seekers. The full taproom bar features a growing lineup of beers, plus picnic tables, board games, darts, a small patio and visiting food trucks. Owner Craig O'Herron has supplemented standard brews like the Punch Out pale ale and Elegant Hoodlum smoked stout with newer concoctions like the Hoppy Amber, inspired by local band MojoFlo.
Smokehouse Brewing Company
1130 Dublin Rd., Grandview
Style range: English ales, cask-conditioned ale
Signature: Centennial IPA
The barbecue-focused Smokehouse brewpub continues to be a destination for smoked and grilled meats while brewing popular staples like the Centennial IPA and MacLenny's Scottish ale. The brewer has also been expanding its portfolio to include more barrel-aged beers, firkins and other specialty offerings. Owner Lenny Kolada used Smokehouse as the testing ground for his second brewery, Commonhouse Ales, which utilizes the brew space behind the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant.
Temperance Row Brewing
41 N. State St., Westerville
Style range: English ales
Signature: Scofflaw Scottish ale
Temperance Row Brewing, housed inside Uptown Deli & Brew, is now in its third year in business, providing good beer in the neighborhood that was once the epicenter of the temperance movement. Scott Francis, owner of The Winemaker's Shop in Clintonville, and the brewer who helped start Barley's, CBC and Smokehouse, continues to brew English styles that pair with meals from the deli.
Wolf's Ridge Brewing
215 N. Fourth St., Downtown
Style range: stout, smoked beers, cream ales
Signature: Dire Wolf imperial stout
Wolf's Ridge has solidified its reputation as a destination for both creative dining and experimental beer. Brewer Chris Davison continues to collect awards for his brews; at last year's San Diego International Beer Fest, he took home a gold for his Buchenrauch smoked lager and silvers for his Clear Sky cream ale and Sustinator doppelbock. The quarterly bottle releases are popular affairs, with beer fans lining up down the alley outside the taproom. Expect the anticipation to increase as Davison releases more of his sour beers. Meanwhile, taproom patrons can enjoy a special food menu crafted by Chef Seth Lassak.
Zaftig Brewing Company
7020A Huntley Rd., Worthington
Style range: Anything high gravity
Signature: Shadowed Mistress strong ale
Zaftig has settled into its Worthington taproom, located in a light industrial park in the shadow of the Budweiser plant. The brewer built out a patio and hosts food trucks on the regular. With the lifting of the Ohio ABV limit last August, Zaftig, which is a Yiddish term for “full-bodied,” can finally flex its muscles, brewing giant stouts, strong ales and double IPAs.
Zauber Brewing Company
909 W. Fifth Ave., Grandview
Style range: German and Belgian beers
Signature: Vertigo hefeweizen
For now, Zauber continues to produce its signature German and Belgian beers, as well as hosting soccer fans in its German beer hall-style taproom. But soon it will be last call for the brewery as we know it. This spring it was announced that a local investment group had purchased the Fifth Avenue taproom and brewhouse, and would open a new brewery in its place. But that won't be the end of Zauber; owner Geoff Towne has hinted that he may revive the brand elsewhere.