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Brews Cruising (Pt. 4): Back Home to the Locals

Winter was pretty much a no-show this year in Ohio...or so we thought
Like the dog referenced in the Devo song "Freedom of Choice," the Ohio weather can't make up its mind. On an otherwise uneventful return from the Music City to end our vacation, the cold hand slap of a winter that was many days late and several dollars short was more than evident (an actual dusting of snow would arrive the next day.)

Despite the chill and the long hours in the car, we were intent on dropping by two more breweries to close out our trip, each being a unique example of how the Columbus craft beer has grown over the past year.

We will admit to bias when it comes to Kindred Artisan Ales (a relative of ours plays a large part in this fledgling brewery's operations), open just barely more than a month now in Gahanna. A summation of our enthusiasm about Kindred (outside of the relational aspect) is documented in this well-written (614) Magazine article on the then up-and-coming brewery. 

Aspects touched upon in the story such as going big into the Columbus market from the start, the staff's previous collective experience with other Ohio-based craft breweries, and the unconventional initial beer lineup (no IPA to be found) are all things we are excited about as well. Evidently, this excited a lot of people in the community as well: the taproom's grand opening, on the same evening as our return to the Buckeye State, was packed to the rafters with eager beer lovers and well-wishers pretty much the entire night.

Once the hubbub settled down after that hectic first weekend, the true nature of the taproom finally came to life on my subsequent visits. There is a hint of cool elegance to the interior, with white slat rafters dotted with wire-framed rounded bulb, high stools at the tap area along with polished wood benches and tables. Helped by an operating garage door, the taproom has plenty of glass portals, allowing plenty of natural sunshine to filter in as well as giving visitors a peek at the barrel-aging room in the back. One lone TV is set off to the side, but on my visits, very few people paid attention to it, being more interested in actual conversation.

Of course, when it all comes down to it, the beer will tell the tale of Kindred's success, and so far the brewery has done a good job of providing a variety of taste profiles via its three flagship brews (which are all very solid in their own right) through the infusion route, plus a few Ohio-based guest taps to round things out. Similar to other area breweries, Kindred has adopted a rotating food truck schedule to give visitors a dining option.

Perhaps our greatest source of anticipation lies in Kindred's efforts at a dedicated wild and sour beer program, an aspect of the local craft beer scene that was largely missing up until now. It will be a few months of waiting (in fact, their first batch of wort for the program was just poured into barrels this week) but knowing that this option will be regularly available locally soon gives those of us who love these tart brews a reason to rejoice.

The day after our return, we dropped by what has become one of our favorite breweries in the Columbus area in Lineage Brewing, which was holding its first anniversary celebration. This little enterprise that could has accomplished quite a bit since my initial blog post in April 2015 shortly after their grand opening.

Firstly, the business has morphed from brewery with a few menu in-house food options to brewpub. The careful thought that went into their initial offering of very tasty hand pies (they still remain a brewery staple) has continued with the additional selection of lunch- and brunch-styled items to their menu, including their chilaquiles and pork jerk sandwich.

Lineage's beer selection has remained consistently changing and interesting; as frequent visitors, we can say we have rarely had a "meh" brew from them. The brewery has also added an educational aspect to their business with their "Beer Class 101" introduction to craft beer series, including one intriguing class (that I'd like to take in the future) on helping you identify off-flavors in beer.

Add in Lineage's active engagement with the local Clintonville neighborhood in community events and fundraising efforts, and it's not surprising to learn that Lineage Brewing was named one of the Top 33 New Breweries in the Country for 2015 by national publication Beer Advocate

Speaking of the locals, I actually want to refer to a vacation trip we made in 2014 down to Greenville, SC. On that journey, we happily realized that during our visit, this town of roughly 60,000 people would be celebrating its first ever craft beer week. As we sampled and enjoyed some of their inaugural events that week, a thought crept up in both of our minds: why didn't Columbus, a much larger city with many more breweries and beer-oriented venues, have its own such celebration?

Our wonderment was answered the next year, when Columbus came up with its very own version. And based on the sheer number of events this year (well over 280, according to Drink Up Columbus), it looks like this area is making up for lost time.
Since the inaugural craft beer week, the Columbus area and Ohio craft beer scene in general has much to crow about. Ohio breweries took home 10 medals at the most recent Great American Beer Festival and took home five more in the recently held World Beer Cup in Philadelphia. In addition, noted Akron-based beer blogger Rick Armon made a strong case that Ohio is making the best IPAs in the country based on recent trends. 

And the scene shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. In Columbus alone, breweries such as Four String, Columbus, Zaftig, and Sideswipe have expanded, and Marengo's Hoof Hearted has established a well-received brewpub location in the Italian Village neighborhood. In addition, a plethora of new breweries are setting up operations along the south and southeast side of the greater metro area, including the big dog from across Atlantic Ocean in Scotland's Brewdog. There's plenty to celebrate with this year's rendition, and I would suspect next year's would only be bigger and better.

In conjunction with the initial Columbus Craft Beer Week, a corresponding Columbus Ale Trail Passport campaign was launched. It turned out to be so popular (visitors who managed to visit all brewery locations got a free T-shirt), a new edition of the passport was printed this year. With new breweries in the fold such as the previously mentioned Kindred and Delaware's Restoration Brew Worx, it promises to be another fun journey this year. While the official Ale Trail kickoff party will be Friday May 13th at Wolf's Ridge Brewing, passports can be picked up at of the participating 28 brewery locations or the Experience Columbus offices.

And I personally think the reward for completing the trail is even cooler this year - one slick-looking playing card deck with logos of the participating breweries and sponsors..

Happy craft beer trekking to all of you participating in this year's festivities - Prost!

Columbus Ale Trail - Volume 2
Debuts May 13th during Columbus Craft Beer week
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Columbus Craft Beer Week
May 13 - May 21, 2016
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Kindred Artisan Ales
505 Morrison Rd (Google Maps)
Gahanna, OH 43230
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Lineage Brewing
2971 N High St (Clintonville - Google Maps)
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 461-3622
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