Grandview Craft Beer Alliance High-Gravity Hullabaloo ’15

Grandview Craft Beer Alliance High-Gravity Hullabaloo ’15

by Ed Kowalski

“Dynamic. Exploding. Emerging. Surprising.”

When asked to provide a one-word description of the craft beer scene in Columbus, Ohio, organizers and attendees at this year’s Grandview Craft Beer Alliance High-Gravity Hullabaloo were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the growth of the industry in a city that is rarely associated with quality craft beer. Grandview Heights, a growing community nestled just to the west of the capital city’s downtown and Arena District areas, is rapidly becoming ground zero for beer geeks and casual drinkers alike. Several brewers have set up their operations (and tap rooms) in close proximity to each other, yet the whole area maintains a small-town vibe. Residents are hugely supportive of local businesses and bars and restaurants are eager to embrace beer as more than just a beverage for tailgating. The GCBA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the growth of great beer in Grandview Heights and throughout central Ohio.

grandview craft beer alliance hullabaloo columbus ohio
Mmmmmmm, beer!

This year’s Hullabaloo, advertised as “a celebration of strong beers and smoked meats,” was held on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 7, with a sold-out crowd taking refuge from the chill of winter in a warehouse filled with beer, food, and retro arcade games. It was also bigger and better than last year’s inaugural Hullabaloo – a total of nineteen local and Ohio breweries were on hand this time, serving up 47 brews ranging from 8-12% ABV (12% is the limit in the state of Ohio). After asking numerous attendees to name a favorite, it was unclear whether there was a clear-cut winner. The samples provided to ManBQue Columbus were all well-received, from the very nice Bourbon Barrel Elektron (with maple syrup and vanilla bean) from Actual Brewing to the whimsical Corn Snake Malt Liquor from local favorite Four String Brewing (served in the traditional brown paper bag). In a nod to the national champion Ohio State University football team and head coach Urban Meyer, local brewery icon Barley’s trotted out its Bourbon Meyer Buckeye Stout (8.6% ABV). The beer poured black with a nice beige head and had flavors of chocolate and peanut butter. Smoked beers seem to be catching on around central Ohio, and North High Brewing brought a very nice Ancho Chili Smoked Porter, which had just the right amount of spice and smokiness.

grandview craft beer alliance hullabaloo columbus ohio four string
Just when you think you don’t have to hide your beer choices in a brown paper bag anymore. Now if we could only get Billy Dee Williams…

My favorite of the night, however, was Jackie O’s Bourbon Barrel Wood Burner, an 11% stout with some really nice notes of caramel and coffee and just a hint of smoke. Fortunately, manning the ManBQue Columbus table and being stationed next to Grandview-based Honeykiss Bakery’s table, with their incredible selection of pies (extra-special shout-out for their peanut butter pie) afforded me the opportunity to offset the consumption of more than a couple glasses.

grandview craft beer alliance hullabaloo columbus ohio
Mmmmmmm, pie!

Central Ohio, despite a rich brewing tradition that dates back nearly 200 years is, as GCBA co-founder Doug Oldham puts it, an emerging market. As these breweries start to expand their operations from taprooms to canning and bottling to distribution, those craft beer aficionados outside of I-270 will get the chance to experience what we in Columbus already know: Columbus breweries make beer that can compete in quality and taste with the best of the bigger breweries.

grandview craft beer alliance hullabaloo columbus ohio
GCBA co-founder Doug Oldham helps pour for Actual Brewing

“The quality is there,” Oldham said. “The market just needs to develop.”
I spoke with several attendees at the event, including several from out of state. Their unanimous response was surprise that Columbus was home to such an unsung craft beer community. One guest, hailing from Chicago, was amazed that he had never heard about how great the beers were, assuming that local icons Columbus Brewing and Elevator were the only craft brewers in town because that was all he could ever find in the grocery store.
Once beer drinkers have access to central Ohio brands and get familiar with them, all signs point to Columbus being noticed as a top-tier beer city, and the Grandview Craft Beer Alliance is doing their part to let the craft beer world know about it. Next year’s Hullabaloo promises to be the best yet, and lovers of good beers are encouraged to frequent the GCBA Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as their website ( for information on future events.
(All photos by Matt Ellis)
grandview craft beer alliance hullabaloo columbus ohio