Thought lost forever, the much-loved beer makes its return to shelves
When Four String Brewing closed in October 2018, the Columbus beer community mourned the loss of its signature Hilltop Lager, in particular. The beer had seemingly taken on a life of its own, and fans rejoiced when it was announced this spring that a new brewery was forming to revive the lager. Both Hilltop Lager and its light variation hit store shelves last week, and debuted on tap at ComFest.
Four String founder Dan Cochran said that a few months after Four String’s closure, an old friend reached out to discuss acquiring the brand rights to Four String’s products and forming the new Hilltop Brewing.
“Once that was done, we started looking for a partner to produce the beer,” Cochran says, “This wasn't easy to find. The overall volume needed and quality control program required limited us to who we could work with. At the end of the day, the beer comes first.”
The team chose a contract brewing partner in Detroit who could meet its quality standards. “There really aren't many breweries in Central Ohio that brew American lagers,” Cochran said. “It's much harder to brew them consistently over time. Imperfections that can hide in bigger ales come screaming out in the lagers.” Cochran adds that, in time, the venture plans to move production back to Columbus.
Cochran’s role with the new brewery is fairly broad, and he said his workload has him interacting directly with retailers once again. “When I started Four String in 2011, I was in the trenches with the bars and other retailers,” he said. “It's my favorite part of the industry. It's more fun if you can be close to the street and understand how your beer truly resonates in the market.”
And clearly Hilltop continues to resonate with Columbus. Cochran described the response at ComFest as “unbelievable.”
“To be able to get this beer back into the Columbus market this early and have it kick off at Comfiest was a dream come true,” he said. “The response I got over the weekend was really meaningful. People loved that the brand was back, and, more importantly, they loved the beer.”
Cochran said the next steps include distributing widely across Central Ohio and eventually beyond. The brewery is also prioritizing community involvement, particularly in the Hilltop neighborhood.