By Ed Kowalski
Quick: name an American city famous for its beer.
St. Louis and Milwaukee immediately spring to mind, if not for quality, then certainly for quantity. Denver? Sure thing! More recently, craft beer pundits have been singing the praises of Portland as a haven for great craft beers. And then there’s Columbus, Ohio …
Despite a long, rich tradition of producing quality beers for nearly 200 years, popular perception of Ohio’s capital city is that it’s a cow town, situated smack dab in the middle of nowhere, and that, were it not for the massive Anheuser Busch/InBev brewery on the city’s north side, it would have no beer identity to speak of (save for the restored statue of old King Gambrinus that stands guard over the renovated Brewery District).
Enter the Grandview Craft Beer Alliance.
Created to both unify and promote the craft beer scene in nearby Grandview Heights, where microbreweries have sprouted like those pesky dandelions, as well as craft beer in Columbus, GCBA is a non-profit organization that does beer festivals right: they kicked off their first event, the High-Gravity Hullabaloo (featuring beers ranging from 8-12% ABV) in February and continued the craft beer love recently with their Summer Session event, this time shining the light on local brews of 5% ABV or lower. The GCBA sells a limited number of tickets (usually 250-300) to their events, in order to keep the beer lines to a minimum, and beer lovers have taken note: both events thus far have sold out and have had a relaxed, casual vibe, featuring such eclectic entertainment as a retro video game arcade (Hullabaloo) and standup comedy (Summer Session).
“But what about the beer?”
Summer Session featured nearly a dozen central Ohio breweries, from A (Actual Brewing) to Z (Zauber Brewing), with an added bonus of a few Ohio brews, for a total of 16 breweries represented. In between stints hawking the fine food stylings of the men of ManBQue Columbus (Ghost pepper chicken, Smoked mac & cheese), we got the chance to sample several (OK, most) of the fruits of the brewers’ labors. Picking a favorite would be like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid, so we’ll touch on some of the highlights:
Smokehouse Brewing (Columbus): Katie’s Wheat – brewed with Traverse City (Michigan) cherries
Surely the late Wayne Woodrow Hayes must be spinning in his grave at the mere thought of brewing an Ohio beer with cherries from That State Up North (it’s an Ohio State thing). A nice little American wheat that drinks easily with a clean, dry finish, the cherries are only faintly perceptible, and seem to serve to give the beer color more than flavor.
Zauber Brewing (Columbus), Vertigo Hefeweizen
Zauber is a recently expanded up-and-coming craft brewery that stands poised to really break out not only in Columbus but beyond. As SNL’s Hans and Franz might say, “Hear me now and believe me later.” Their Vertigo hefeweizen has a banana-forward nose with the typical clove finish that pours a nice straw color. A very refreshing brew that pairs well with pizza.
Hoof Hearted Brewing (Marengo), Tub Life Farmhouse Pale Ale
Aside from the fact that it’s fun to say the brewery’s name, this hoppy Belgian session ale was a huge hit with damned near everyone I spoke with, and they ran out fairly early. They were kind enough to bring some over to the ManBQue tent in exchange for food, and we couldn’t have been happier about that.
Here’s hoping that the GCBA continues to carry the Columbus beer flag for many, many years to come!
Photos Courtesy of The Artful Pint