This weekend Christine and I had the opportunity to tour three local breweries. The tour was organized by Donnie Austin, owner/operator of House Wine in Worthington, and consisted of stops at Weasel Boy Brewing Company in Zanesville, Rockmill Brewery in Lancaster, and Columbus Brewing Company here in Columbus. While the central Ohio area has many breweries, these three offer a nice cross-section of operations with different styles, philosophies, and production volume.
Weasel Boy Brewing Company
Weasel Boy Brewing Company is owned by Jay Wince and his wife Lori in Zanesville, Ohio; it is the result of their long-standing love of homebrewing and their unwavering belief in what they do. While they started out brewing kegs of homebrew for friends and family, it was soon apparent they wanted to increase production. Lacking space in their house for a newly purchased brewing system, Jay and Lori found an old warehouse sitting atop the banks of the Muskingum River and Weasel Boy Brewing Company was born. While the brewery is always increasing production and distribution, Jay has no desire to grow faster than he and Lori can handle. He still maintains a day job and operates Weasel Boy out of his love for brewing.
Weasel Boy is a brewpub for the homebrew purists at heart: it’s a welcoming space where you can sit down and talk beer and all things brewing with the owners over any one of the several varieties they have on tap, including seasonal beers. We tried their Brown Stoat Stout, Plaid Ferret Scottish Ale, Mischievous Marten Maerzen, and Wiley Wolverine RyePA with plenty of options remaining for our next visit. If you don’t live in Zanesville, you can find Weasel Boy on tap in several Columbus area establishments, including Bodega, the OSU Union, Yellow Brick Pizza, Michael O’Toole’s (Weasel Boy is the house Scottish Ale), Local Roots in Powell, and Benny’s Pizza in Marysville. They also make periodic appearances at both Barley’s locations.
About 40 miles southwest of Zanesville and 30 miles southeast of Columbus lies the town of Lancaster and Rockmill Brewery. Working out of a beautifully restored farmhouse and stable, Matthew Barbee produces organic, Belgian-style ale in small production runs. Matt approaches brewing with a highly intellectual and spiritual passion. His philosophy of matching the beer style to available resources is intrinsic to the evolution of Rockmill: his step-father, a hydro-geologist, discovered the spring water on their property, filtered through layers of Black Hand sandstone, contained a high calcium content an almost identical mineral profile of water found in the Wallonia region of Belgium. So rather than changing the water profile to match the beer, Rockmill brews a beer that is complimented by the water already available to them. The result is four outstanding Wallonia-inspired ales: Whitbier, Saison, Dubbel, and Tripel.
Rockmill’s ambiance is more reminiscent of a winery than a brewery. Our group was welcomed by a table lined with stemware along with various cheeses, breads, olive oil, and chocolate. The cheese/beer pairing was a nice introduction to each of the Rockmill beers—the saltiness of the cheese highlighted the maltiness of the ale. The dark chocolate and pink sea salt paired with the Dubbel (a brown ale with ample body to stand up to the chocolate) was a very nice treat, indeed. Matt has worked with local chefs for multi-course dinner pairings. I look forward to attending one of these functions in the future as the character and complexity of his Belgian ales would pair nicely with many of Columbus’ chefs creations. Rockmill ales are available at select bars, restaurants, and retail locations.
Columbus Brewing Company
Columbus Brewing Company was by far the largest operation of the three breweries. The huge vats occupying the floor space of CBC dwarfed the kettles we had seen on our previous stops. Yet in the landscape of craft brewers, CBC is still a small brewery, as evidenced by their bottling station: bottles are filled and capped, two at a time. Brewmaster and owner Eric Bean shared some Summer Teeth (one of their seasonal offerings) with the group and discussed the evolution of the company as well as some insight and information on production. Columbus Brewing Company manages a solid line-up, the core of which is their Pale Ale, IPA (their IPA is one of my all-time favorite beers, conveniently brewed right here in Columbus), and Scottish Ale. They also have seasonal offerings and their latest endeavor, the Hop Odyssey series—a limited run featuring a different hop-inspired beer every month. Eric pointed out the bourbon and brandy barrels on the brewery floor, which he informed us were filled with Uncle Rusty, an imperial red ale and one of the Hop Odyssey featured beers.
While each brewer on the tour approaches the art of brewing with his own unique style, it was overly apparent that they all share a love of the craft. We are fortunate to have breweries like Weasel Boy, Rockmill, and CBC within distribution distance from Columbus; they enrich our already impressive food and drink scene. And it’s refreshing to know that there are business owners like Jay and Lori, Matt, and Eric out there; good people making good beer help make this a better world.