I was hoping to make this a yearly column but I was too busy to make it happen last year. The column is back from the dead and ready to be posted on a yearly basis going forward. It wasn’t as hard to pick a Top 10 back in 2014 when there was only about ten breweries to choose from. There is now twenty eight according to the Columbus Ale Trail, which includes tap rooms from Four String Brewing and Elevator Brewing Co., and that total doesn’t include Hoof Hearted Brewing. It also doesn’t include some more breweries which are ready to come online or just distribute like Common House Ales and Granville Brewing. I got to 20 of the official stops plus Hoof Hearted and have had beers from the two distributors mentioned after Volume 2 of the Ale Trail book came out so this list is in no way complete.
Runners Up: Barley’s Brewing – Oatmeal Stout , Buckeye Lake Brewing – Pontoon Pale Ale, Elevator Brewing Co. – Bear Ass Pale Ale, Hofbrauhaus Columbus – Dunkel, Homestead Beer Co. – Snake Oil, Kindred Artisan Ales – Kindred Wit, Restoration Brew Worx – Dela Saison, Rockmill Brewery – Le Cheval, Sideswipe Brewing Co. – Punch-Out Pale Ale, Smokehouse Brewing Co. – Red Molly, Staas Brewing Co. – The Evangelist, Temperance Row Brewing – Scofflaw Scottish Ale
The Top 10
10. North High Brewing Co. – Norden Hoch Oktoberfest – I had seen around the web that sometimes breweries don’t always take their best step forward when they initially open for various and sundry reasons. Though I had enjoyed North High’s Milk Stout (See this post from 3 years ago about my tour there) and their Porter (My first Best of Cbus also from three years ago) from the jump, I wasn’t that big of a fan of the majority of their products. Going on the Cbus Ale Trail to complete my book of stamps changed my mind though. It just so happened that another beer blogger, Pat’s Pints, chronicled the change in flavors from this brewer so it wasn’t just me that saw in uptick in their overall product.
I had a number of beers while in for my stop and their Oktoberfest was my favorite of the group. It has that nice maltiness and low hoppiness (25 IBU) and a similarly low ABV (5.6%) so that you can have a stein or two or more of this fine beverage during the festival it is named after.
9. Lineage Brewing Co. – Idaho 7 APA – This brewery is the one closest to us but we don’t manage to get their as often as I’d like. Though this beer isn’t on tap currently, it was another beer that was my favorite when stopping in for my Ale Trail stamp. Pale ales are more my game and this one does a great job of mixing the seven hops from Idaho into a delicious tropical trip. It comes in at 51 IBU which is in my sweet (or should I say bitter) spot for hops. Idaho is quite drinkable too coming in at 5.1% ABV.
8. Actual Brewing Co. – Weiner-Munchen – The Wife & I went to Actual for the Weiner-Munchen Festival prior to a Columbus Crew match. This beer is in the same boat taste wise as North High Oktoberfest as it is also meant to celebrate that same holiday. There are some taste differences though as they used less malt varities (two instead of four) and more malt quantity (since the ABV is 6.3%). There is a possibility that they used the same hops but Actual doesn’t use the hop name but does note that it’s in the same hop family as is used in North High’s Oktoberfest. I enjoyed this one just half a stein more hence the 8 slot instead of 10.
7. Hoof Hearted Brewing – TeleTrillDonics – Since I only did this post in 2014 (I had planned on it last year but never got to it), Hoof Hearted was still out in Marengo OH with not a lot of coverage in Cbus itself. Late last year, they opened a brew pub here in Cbus and it’s, shock of all shocks, easier to get their beer now. I’ve stopped in a number of times since their opening and have enjoyed quite a few of their beers. As with the other choices on the list, this one was my favorite. It is a Wit Bier so it was a bit surprising with the bit of citrus tang that it had. It’s extra surprising to see that IBUs aren’t even listed on Untappd so they used great touch to achieve that flavor. It also has that great refreshing Belgian flavor that comes from a Witbier. It comes in at 6.0% ABV so it doesn’t hit you over the head. Now to figure out how they named this beer…
6. Columbus Brewing Co. – Thunderlips – Another Pale Ale makes my list, but not the one that I have touted before from CBC which is their normal Pale Ale. They came up with another fantastic recipe. I’m starting to recognize that I like Mosiac hops, which were in another favorite beer that didn’t quite make the top 10. CBC also uses Equinox hops, more than likely the bittering hops due to their high alpha acids. All of the hops comes to a low IBU count of 40. The ABV won’t knock you out either at 5.3%. So go ahead and grab one of these beers that will Thunder your lips with some tasty Mosaic hops.
5. Land-Grant Brewing Co. & Seventh Son Brewing Co. – Scorched Earth – This beer, quite obviously by the name, is a collaboration beer. Since they had two brewers, they had to go with a Double IPA. Not really but it makes for good word play. Most Double IPAs have a funk to them that I find to be over powering. I think they tamed that edge but using Agave nectar in the mix. It’s a sweetener that doesn’t have much flavor, unlike honey. Considering that this bad boy comes in at 90 IBU, the Agave is needed. They both brewed a batch and the only difference in the beers was that each used the other’s house yeast. I had the Land-Grant version so I listed their name first. I had intended to try the Seventh Son version but never got around to it. The one beer was enough to land this 8.0% ABV on the list. If a Double IPA made my list, it must be good.
4. Wolf’s Ridge Brewing Co. – Feuer & Wasser – I have been sleeping on Wolf’s Ridge since they came onto the Cbus brewing scene. I’d have a beer of theirs every now and again but had never gone to Restaurant or Tap Room prior to a couple of months ago. Shame on me. Placing this beer in this slot doesn’t make up for it, but my continued visits do. I did have this beer on my first visit though. Fire & Water is the translated title of the beer and it makes sense since it’s a Smoked Helles lager. As with any smoked beer, you need to be careful without the amount of smoke used. Considering that this beer is a light Helles lager, you have to have a deft touch. Wolf’s Ridge gets the balance right on point. It has a nice clean crisp taste from the malt aspect too. The IBUs are a nice low 18 so they don’t enter the equation for the taste much. The beer comes in at session levels at 4.8% so I could drink this one all day long. If I wanted to. But I will resist. Maybe.
3. Zauber Brewing Co. – Bominous – Zauber just recently released their beer called Ominous, a Belgian Stout. Earlier this year though, I tried Bominous which is the Imperial Stout version of Ominous. It also happened to be aged in Bourbon Barrels from Mill Street Distillery, which is in Utica OH. Unlike the last beer, this one is packed with a lot of everything. Do you want lots of malt? You get it to the tune of an 11.9% ABV beer. Do you want lots of hops? That comes in at a healthy 60 IBU. Do you like bourbon in your beer? Plenty of that in this beer too. You have plenty of play room with the bourbon flavoring unlike the smoking of a helles lager because the body of a stout has a much easier time standing up to big flavors. One can still over due the bourbon but this beer does not do that. It is just a really well rounded beer with lots of enjoyable flavor. When it comes around net year, I’ll be sure to try it again.
2. Zaftig Brewing – BamBaLam w/ Vanilla – This brewery was another one that I had not visited until recently and had just tried their beers when I was around town. We stopped in to try their beers shortly before they moved into a larger facility. They talk about brewing big beers and their Breakfast Stout known as BamBaLam (named from the song Black Betty by Ram Jam) is definitely among them. At 10.4% ABV, it’s a big beer. The flavor comes big and the vanilla flavor kicks it into over drive. They don’t list an IBU but it is not usually terribly high. Darker beers don’t normally have a prominent hop taste either. Much like Wolf’s Ridge, we’ve made Zaftig a more regular stop and will continue to do so in the future.
#1. Four String Brewing Co. – Ghost Ship Vortex w/ Raspberries & Vanilla – Let me get this part out of the way first – this beer is great on it’s own without the raspberries & vanilla. They just help this fantastic beer get kicked up an extra notch. That being said, this beer is a variation of a Porter called a Baltic Porter which I first had from Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland. I find them in general to be the right level of creamy thickness almost required out of a porter or stout and this one is no different. Going back to the raspberries & vanilla, they are a perfect compliment to the dark creaminess of the Baltic Porter. Neither taste overwhelm the dark richness of the malt. Speaking of which, there is plenty of malt in this beer to check in at 8.8% ABV. The IBU comes in at 30 IBU so the hops peek their heads up but again, aren’t the biggest part of this beer. – Kevin DiFrango
- All pictures are taken by Kevin DiFrango