The city's newest brewery (for now) and the only dedicated sour brewery (for now)
The distinction as Columbus' newest brewery may be eclipsed in the coming months, but for now, at least, Pretentious Barrel House holds the title. Pretentious opened its taproom and barreling house last October on the North Side, and has served a steady roster of beer on tap, as well as in special bottle releases.
Pretentious also lays claim — again, at least for now — to the title as the city's only brewery dedicated exclusively to sour beers. The style has gained popularity in recent years, both with beer geeks and mainstream audiences. More and more breweries across Columbus — Actual, Platform, Kindred, Wolf's Ridge, Lineage and others — have tinkered with the style, but no one has focused solely on them like Pretentious.
Josh Martinez, owner and head brewer (“I'm most of the company,” he joked), is a chemist by training, but he has professional brewing experience. “We're not a brewing company,” he explained. “We're a fermentation and maturation lab. The wort manufacturing is done at Four String Brewing. We truck the wort back to our site and ferment it.”
The use of Four String's facility highlights another stage in the growth of the beer industry: contract brewing. Four String's West Side facility was designed to brew and can beers for hire. Martinez is one of many clients who relies on the facility to produce his beer.
“Someone was tasting my beers and thought it was Four String beer that's fermented,” Martinez joked, “but Four String brews my recipes. We do all the funky stuff.” Pretentious has brewed eight batches, or 240 barrels of beer, to date. The beer from each batch is fermented and blended in a variety of ways, so Martinez usually offers 10 different beers on tap. There are still 210 barrels of beer waiting to be tapped, so in about seven or eight months Pretentious will have even more beer ready for sipping.
Martinez also estimates about 20 percent of sales are from bottles, including the well-received Truculent sour ale series.
Martinez described the initial response as “encouragingly positive,” and he's made a number of converts to the style. “A lot of people come in saying they don't like sour beer,” he said. “They sit down and try our beers, and end up saying, ‘I really like sour beers.'”
“It is funny to watch someone taste sour beer for the first time,” he added. “It's like giving a baby a lemon. They have no idea what's about to happen, and you do.”
While sour beers are reaching broader audiences, Martinez is also playing to diehard aficionados by starting a bottle club, The Sour Society. “The club is a cool creative outlet,” he said. “We've created some interesting things … that aren't great for the general public but perfect for members.”