Devastating Fire in Garrettsville, OH

We arrived in downtown Garrettsville just before 1pm. The quaint little town was bustling with locals  enjoying the beautiful weather. We strolled into Main Street Brewing Company for an interview and photo shoot. Before we even had time to set up the camera, one of the waitresses yelled out “I think there is a fire across the street!” In disbelief we looked out the window to see smoke  pouring out of the small row of shops across from the brewery. Pete ran through a plume of smoke to move the car away from the building. Cristina raised her camera to capture the shots below.

Sirens roared as fire trucks arrived in groups, each coming from one of 34 different fire departments. Law officers kept moving onlookers further and further away from the buildings as the blaze continued to grow. Fear of gas line explosion promoted officers to move onlookers across a nearby bridge. We could feel the heat of the fire even from 100 yards away. We watched in awe as the upstairs windows burst, one at a time. As each window shattered fire would pour out engulfing the roof. Soon the storefront windows on the first floor were sucked in from the heat. Within what seemed like minutes the top of the building collapsed, sending fiery debris out onto the road; one piece landing right where our car had been parked. Crews fought the fire late into the night, pumping water from a nearby creek.

The entire town came together to support the effort. We watched a line of tanker trucks pumping water from the creek to feed the ladder truck as it sprayed water over the smoldering debris. A local gas tanker was driving between the fire engines to fuel their needs. Nearby restaurants and pubs provided food, coffee, and hospitality for the hard working police and fire crews. Before the fire was even fully extinguished, townspeople and business owners alike were already coming up with fundraising ideas to rebuild their town. The feeling of community and brotherhood in this time of tragedy was truly inspiring.

Thanks to the hard work and bravery of the local police and fire departments no serious injuries were sustained during this horrific fire. Our hearts go out to the townspeople of Garrettsville, OH.

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Zauber – Interview

Our interview took place around a card table in the empty space that would soon house Zauber’s new 20 BBL brewing facility. As we sampled Zauber’s delicious selection of beers, Geoff’s dad was hard at work painting the walls of the room; preparing for the arrival of the new equipment. Before we could even ask him a question Geoff excitedly started talking about the company, his history, and his passion. We could see the excitement in his eyes and hear the passion in his voice as he told Zauber’s story.

Z Beer

G: Geoff Towne – Owner / Brewer, Zauber

J: Jamie Hemphill – Investor, Zauber

P: Pete Koelsch – TapPullers

C: Cristina Koelsch – TapPullers

G: Zauber means magic or enchanting in German. Magic trick is magisch in German, while Zauber is something elusive, just out of reach, not quite understood. Fermentation is, in some ways, a belief in magic. Even at Budweiser’s level you are setting the stage and sending in a single cell microorganism called yeast to eat the sugars and burp off the carbon dioxide and alcohol. Just like your dog biting your neighbor, the yeast reminds you that it is a biological process. That’s where the brewer’s job comes in; to make sure it is consistent. But you are still setting the scene and hoping that in 5 to 10 days it comes out like it was supposed to. You still have to have that leap of faith. Otherwise you just spent seven hours of your hard labor and time, and pretty much a day’s worth of cleaning to be like “oh I hope it works out”. That’s the yeasts job. All we can do as humans is try to guide the yeast in the direction that we’d like it to go. Just like guiding our dogs to behave in way that it won’t bite our neighbor. If you were to starve your dog or mistreat it, you’re darn right it’s going to start doing some funny things. I like to think of how the yeast behaves as kind of like a party. If the temperature is to hot things get broken, girls run home crying with bad feelings and dudes get in fights. If the party’s too cold everybody’s bored and drops out before the party’s over and you are left with a lot of resources that are unused. Whereas at a well-balanced party, with the right temperature, the yeast will come in, eat all of the resources they can and leave happy and willing to come back again. So that’s what my job is; the magician that throws a good party.

P: I like that.

C: That’s a really cool way of looking at it!

G: Our stick is to try to focus on German and Belgian stuff, so short of having the size ability to do lagers profitably, we are starting out with German ales, alts, and kolschs. Belgian beers are also kind of our mainstay. Instead of having them as a side project, they are our core business. Truth be told, these are the beers that I fell in love with in Europe. I got into this industry a decade ago and the beers that I wanted to make at that time were more German. It just happened to be that as craft beer evolved around me it was more the American Anglican stuff. Now that I’m at the stage where I am doing this for myself, German beers are what I’m coming back to. Not just because I like them, but also because there is a market opportunity.

C: You said that you have been doing this for the last decade. What is your background?

G: By decade, that’s as long as I’ve worked in the field, but I actually started slightly before that. My father, who is painting the walls behind us, was in the packaging industry for my whole life. He called on big companies like Budweiser and Brown-Foreman who use glass and packaging to distribute their products. I always knew through watching Dad who these people were, what they were about, and how their businesses worked.  Leap forward to my experiences in Europe. I finished out my education in Austria, which is one of the coolest places on the planet.

P: Was your education a brewing education?

G: No at that time I was just trying to find an excuse to finish some German language credits and luckily my parents humored me to let me go. The beer education comes up in a second. Coming back from Germany and floating through a couple jobs, one of which was in the packaging industry, I fell in love more with what my customers were doing,  ie the small craft breweries of Pennsylvania than what I was. Usually the only time brewers want to talk to you is when something is broken. It wasn’t as fun of a job as I would have liked. There was a lot of travel. Slow sales cycles, so It’s not like there was a lot of “this is an awesome slam dunk sale!” It was more like six month of negotiating and coddling and kissing babies in order to get things done. I found myself enjoying my customer’s line of work more than my own. From there, my wife and I decided to allow me to use my education to get into the brewing industry. I went to the university to California at Davis. For us Midwesterners its like the Purdue of California. Davis is outside Sacramento, which is the state capitol for California. It had a really unique beer culture environment that I thought was really cool and really unique. When I went out there I was thinking “this is my ticket to work for the big guys” and it very easily could have been. Then I fell in love with Sierra Nevada and 21st amendment, and all the breweries that had popped up and had been successful businesses in Northern California. My brainstorm at the time was that if I could just do that in Ohio, that’d be pretty sweet. A decade later that’s where I am, here in Columbus. After graduate school I went to work for Great Lakes in Cleveland, which makes pretty good craft beers. I worked there for three years. At a certain point I felt like I needed to find some new experiences and branch out a little. I put my name back out there and was recruited by Boston Beer, which makes Sam Adams. I worked in their production facility in Cincinnati as an assistant brewery manager. That meant that I was one of two guys who were responsible for managing the brewing process through 23 union men and women. This was also a very great learning experience  and a big step up.

P: It was a union production facility.

G: Yes, that was also one motivation to leave. My wife didn’t want to go to Boston so that was out of the question. Dealing with union employees can be a challenging environment for anybody, particularly when you’re half the age of half the staff. There were a lot of challenges to it that didn’t need to be there. As a previous brewer for Great Lakes I was like “this is the job I did at Great Lakes guys”. It just got old after a while. Then my wife got a job offer we couldn’t refuse to move home, here to Columbus. This is where my family resides and my wife’s family’s always been from. We’ve always been kind of circling Columbus as a really good place to start because its demographically perfect for craft beer.  With a high percentage of over educated under employed 25 to 35 year old men and women. In Grandview there’s a particularly high concentration of them.  So that’s the reason why we are where we are.

P: An expanding tech scene and a lot of young professionals.

G: Exactly! And there’s a lot of the early adaptors to craft beer and people who get it, who understand it.

C: So did you know you wanted to end up here; a brewer?

G: In a round about way looking back on it. I’m not sure that when I was a fresh grad of college bumping around trying to figure out what I wanted to do that it was so clear. More importantly once I got deeper into the beer industry, I definitely figured out that I had more of a temperament and personality for entrepreneurship. That has made me at times a tough person to work with, because I always want to do it right, do it fast, and get it done. Not having a bureaucracy between me and getting things done seems to work much more efficiently. Monarchies work really well when your the only king of your only castle, but in reality, part of it is I always wanted to create a business environment similar to what I’d found in California, which was a lot more forward and progressive thinking, less hierarchical, and more of everybody in it for the common good. That you really do believe your part of something and your willing to concede that it may not be the highest paying job around, but you get a lot of job satisfaction out of it. Beer is an unusual field where you not only get the fringe benefits of access to inexpensive alcohol, but also literally make people happy for a living. Beer is unlike wine and spirits. Wine tends to be more of a private beverage between intimate people; whether at a dinner party, a couple, or out at a restaurant. Beer is a public beverage that you drink between common parties, bitter enemies, and perfect strangers. Hard alcohol and cocktails tend to be more antisocial, one step away from trouble. Beer is a public beverage that you can drink and keep under control. The other thing about beer is that it is as close as you can get to immediate satisfaction. The brewing cycle is 2-3 weeks; its not 8 years like you wait for scotch. Beer takes patience but it takes less. With beer we can be a little more flexible. Unlike wine and spirits, it’s a lot easier to manipulate flavors and spices to add interesting notes.

J: I’ll give you another metaphor that occurs to me as I think about craft beer. What makes a garage band a real band?  A garage band plays music that they like and they try to play it authentically and as soon as their musicianship gets to a level where they can mimic it really well they next want to play something a little bit different. They play something that’s more their own and they get famous as soon as they stop doing covers and start doing their own music, right?  So a good garage band grows to that. A micro brewer starts off brewing the recipes from the old country whether its from England, or Belgium or Germany. He’s going to get that right, but as soon as he gets that right his urge is going to be to try and experiment a little bit. The noisiest people in the craft business right now are the ones that are turning the amps up on the hops, making this hoppier, and that hoppier. That’s not the niche that we are going to serve. We like a beer that tastes so good you want your friends to try it, not tastes so weird you want your friends to try it, but tastes so good you want them to try it.

G: To continue Jamie’s analogy with the band, you know it’s hard to become famous as a cover band, whereas if you create your own unique sound that resonates with people the sky’s the limit.

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North High Brewing – Interview

North High Brewing is a brew-on-premise and brewpub in the Short North district of Columbus, OH. We stopped in for an interview with the owners Tim and Gavin. We also joined in on the Columbus Brew Adventures tour of the brewery! North High had a wide variety of beers available for us to try and even more available for customers to brew. We were told that due to their small batches and large beer inventory, the beer menu has been known to change 2 to 3 times per day.

Pete Sitting at the bar before the interview


T- Tim Ward, Owner

G- Gavin Meyers, Owner

P- Pete Koelsch, TapPullers

Tim (left), Pete (Center), Gavin (right)

T: So our start up story, Gavin and I, we met in Grad school and there was a group of 4 of us guys who all wanted to start a business. Long story short it started off as four guys wanting to start a consulting firm to two guys starting a brewery. We were kind of inspired by an event we went to at Middle West Spirits, which is right around the corner. It was an entrepreneurship event. Some local businessmen and businesswomen were talking about their start up story, trials and tribulations of starting up their own business. That was the night Gavin and I were like “you know what let’s do a brew on premise.” The brewing industry at that time had double digit growth for the last two years or something like that and was continuing to incline, so we were like “Yea lets do a brew on premise, a brew pub, and bring that beer experience to the customer.” That’s what we wanted to do to make ourselves unique, to stick out. The brew on premise part of the business it hasn’t grown as quickly as we would of thought it would, but our whole sale of beer has taken off, and we can’t keep up. That’s the reason we are expanding. We are delivering it at probably at least 10 kegs a week right now out of the back of our trucks.

The sign in front of North High Brewing

P: That’s awesome! So is the expansion plan to continue distributing?

T: Well its a two fold thing, the expansion will allow us to bring more brew on premise customers in and allow us to distribute more. You saw our fermentation room, pretty full right? So we’re reaching that tipping point here soon where we either are going to have to limit the amount of customers that come in or cut back production of our beer. I’d rather do neither of those two so we are moving our production off site. It will double what we can accommodate for customers, and if we double the amount of customers coming through here we’d be very happy guys.

P: So I wanted to talk a little bit about how you guys have constructed your brewery with a lot of reclaimed items, and the history behind those items, how did you get into building your place with those items and what do those treasures mean to you guys.

T: Well I’m sure Gavin explained everything to you on the tour (he did! see ** below), where stuff came from. The goal is just to keep the feel of the building old. It was built in 1917 as a ford dealership, why not use recycled repurposed stuff to fill and decorate the space? It gives it a real warm dark feeling. A lot of the things, like the windows above the bar, we had for like a year before we actually put them up there. The day we built the beam to hang those it was like “fuck yea man, those look awesome!”  The money order window was in Gavin’s kitchen for probably two years. So yeah, they are just cool little things we found, none of them are like sentimental I guess, but it’s become a part of the brand.

** The windows above the bar are from Brown Hall, the old school of architecture, at The Ohio State University. An 1800s train rail is used as the footrest under the bar. Growlers are used as light shades. A local artist hand made the mug club glasses from pint glasses that had broken in the brewery. The tap handles are wood from seats in the 1922 Ohio Stadium. The seat numbers are still visible! The blinds are made out of old Ohio State bleachers.

P: Moving into the present day, you guys do a lot of brewing with customers here, I wondered which you guys enjoy more. Is it the brewing aspect or the teaching aspect that really drives you?

T: For me… I’m not a teacher, you know? I’m a doer. So for me its more of the brewing process, and the reward of starting off with the beer, 3 weeks ago brewing it, hard work, then pulling it through the tap for the first time. It’s awesome. It’s a craft.  You have to pay so much attention to detail. I mean anyone can make beer, but to make a product for selling, and then seeing your customers enjoy it, that’s what gets me. Getting great feedback about the product, that’s what keeps me going. But its great to teach people too because then they’re doing more than just drinking beer, they understand what goes into it. That’s another cool thing. We have some great brewers who are great teachers.

P: How many brewers do you have here?

T: We have, I think six brewers plus myself. I brew at least twice per week.

P: You guys have a small system. Are you pretty much constantly brewing?

T: We’re brewing on it 5 days a week and a couple of those days we are brewing two batches. Charlie or myself or one of the other brewers will start the first brew and then someone else will come in around noon to start the second batch. It’s a long day; it can’t be done by one person.

P: Do you guys have a favorite anecdote or startup story? Something that may have went wrong, but is funny to look back on?

(Happy customers yell their thanks to Tim as they leave the brewery and board the Columbus Brew Adventures tour van.
Gavin enters for the second half of the interview)

T: They had a good time haha. Favorite startup story… It’s always funny to think about money. I remember when Gavin was like “we can do this for like $20,000. Just buy some brew pots and go;” this coming from not a process guy, but a sales and marketing guy. I’m sure Gavin has a better story than I do.

G: The whole build out of this place was kind of a comedy of errors. Nothing really went according to plan, or schedule, or cost, or anything. I guess that was just part of the journey. I don’t know if there was anything that went wrong that ended up being a fun anecdote. I think one of the unexpected things is how much fun it’s been getting to know our regulars and how many of them I now hang out with outside of the bar.

T: I’ve gone to hockey games with regulars.

P: So your customers have become friends?

T: Absolutely!

G: Yea, we’ve got a good customer base. Best customers in the world!

P: Gavin, Do you enjoy the brewing process more or the teaching process?

G: For me it’s more about the experience. It’s more about the education of the customers. I don’t brew.

T: We don’t want him to brew.

G: We want the beer to taste good like it does, so I just enjoy sharing the experience with the customers. I give basic brewing education with some of the tours. Once they get here it’s sharing the experience of how our customers brew and telling them the story of how this place was built. They really enjoy hearing that stuff.

T: Only two people on that tour had been here before.

G: The Groupon tours are the same way. We have anywhere from 2 to 20 people come for a tour. It sold out. We sold 400 of them in 3 days.

The taps behind the bar

P: Can you talk a little bit about what the future holds for North High?

G: Expansion plans. We hope to franchise the brew on premise model a couple years down the road. We also want to get on tap at more places. Right now we have about 40 active accounts. The plan will be to ramp that up to 400 in the first year and then packaging.

P: Just in the Columbus area?

G: In the beginning, but then we would explore the possibility of partnering with a distributor to get outside of Columbus.

P: Do you guys have one word or phrase that defines your business?

G: I think the word would be experience. Our customers can literally experience all sides of the brewing process. From watching us brew, to brewing themselves, to tasting the beer. We also do Firkins, cask conditioned ales.

Cask Ale at North High Brewing
T: They each (Pete and Cristina) had the Firkin today

G: Did you like that?

P: It was amazing!

G: Crazy isn’t it?

P: Delicious, very smokey. I just want to eat some barbeque right now

G: The word experience pretty much sums it up.

Interview at North High

Winter Warmer Fest – Cleveland, OH

The Ohio Craft Brewers Associated hosted their annual Winter Warmer Fest March 1st in Cleveland, Ohio.  The unique “Ohio only” beer festival attracted brewers from across the state. Fred Karm of Hoppin’ Frog Brewery told us that his favorite part about the Winter Warmer Fest is meeting and serving beer with the nearly 10% of attendees who own or work in Ohio’s breweries.

Hoppin Frog Crew

The beerfest was divided into separate rooms filled with breweries along each wall. The rooms were packed with thirsty patrons enjoying old favorites and exclusive fest only beers.  The outdoor area had food trucks, Great Lakes Brewing Company, and a large selection of unique cask beers from many of the breweries in attendance.  The cask tent had a laughable moment as they showered themselves with beer while tapping one of the casks.  They quickly got it fixed, as patrons raved to one another about the variety of casks available to sample; including a stout by Catawba Island Brewing spiced with ancho, poblano, and habanero peppers.

The cask tent was not the only area sporting unique beers. Inside we tried Motley Brew, a Belgian strong ale containing raisins and rosemary. The unique brew was collaboration between Fat Head’s Brewery and Columbus Brewing Company. Another of our favorites was Buckeye Brewing Company’s Turbo Ninja Cow. The stout’s creamy sweet coffee flavor of made it taste like it could soon be served at a Starbucks near you.

The beerfest was serenated by Austin “Walkin’ Cane”, filling the venue with “damn fine blues”. Luke from Great Lakes even joined in for a few songs.

Main Street Brewing Company brought their own party including party blowers, a birthday banners, and a Kool-Aid Jammers chugging competitions.

For a cold winter day it was a great way to spend the afternoon, getting lost in our favorite beers, meeting some great people, and forgetting about the upcoming snow storm, if only for a few hours.


The TapPullers

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Wolf’s Ridge Brewing – Interview

Wolf’s Ridge Brewing is Columbus Ohio’s newest full restaurant / brewery. The brewery offers a unique dinning experience that incorporates their beers, as well as beer ingredients, into many of their dishes. TapPullers sat down with the father and son team who own Wolf’s Ridge brewing to talk about their new business.

B = Bob: Wolf’s Ridge Owner (son)

A = Alan: Wolf’s Ridge Owner (father)

P = Pete: TapPullers

 Starting Up

P: I wanted to start out at the beginning. Could you talk about the background of the brewery, the start up story?

A: I’ve always had a love of craft beer. With my previous job I did a lot of traveling and had the opportunity to go to a lot of craft breweries and brewpubs. I really enjoyed it and I got into homebrewing. I had a lot of fun with that. The more that I thought about it, the more that I thought it might be a good business opportunity.  So I started looking at building out a brewery and doing research on it. During the course of the research, I came to the conclusion that it really needed to have a restaurant as part of the operation.  That’s where Bob came in.

B: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to run a restaurant. I have been very interested in the hospitality side of things. I worked at a hotel for a while, really got excited about the overall guest experience of the establishment.   I lived in Chicago for a while and I really got into the food scene out there, went to really cool restaurants, and experienced a new kind of dining, that’s starting to take on here in Columbus a little bit, its more of the casual, but upscale type of food. That’s something that we wanted to bring here, and our chef Seth is a huge part of that. The entire kitchen and staff in general are a huge part of creating that environment for us here.

P: I think it’s unique that you guys are working as a father son team. That’s a really cool aspect of the brewery. Can you talk about what it’s like to work together as a father son team?

A: You know, I think that in a lot of cases it’s a positive thing because I’ve known him all his life (haha) and I think we have complete trust with each other. Doesn’t mean that we don’t butt heads over ideas. You’re going to have that when you have strong opinioned people right? In terms of the partnership, the trust is phenomenal and we can turn things over to each other and I have complete trust and confidence in that relationship. I think any family business is going to have its challenges because you are family and family tends to be opinionated.

P Always a little more passion there.

A; Yeah and I think it’s worked really well the way that we’ve structured it. Bob he’s a partner and he also runs the restaurant. That’s his passion, that’s what he wants to do, and I want to run the brewery. I’m running the brewery and obviously there’s a lot of cross over between the two, but I think we’ve got a pretty good division. I try to help out in the restaurant when they let me and we haven’t grown the brewery that much, but Bob’s passion is to make sure the restaurant is supporting the overall mission of the brewery.

B: It’s really helped the way we have gotten started with this. During the initial planning we worked together, but I was still living in Chicago. Since Nov. of 2012 we both quit our jobs and have been on this full time. So we were 10 months construction, and we were heavily involved in that. We built all the tables together; we had a lot of time to kind of get those major working together things out of the way, disagreements and things like that, but it’s all positive. I think we both are opinionated but in a good way, so it’s good.

P: I think it’s awesome that you’re able to work together. I usually think of a family business as something that’s passed down from father to son. It’s really cool that yours is built by father and son.

A: Yeah we’re really building it for Bob actually (haha) because I’m going to be getting out before he is. In addition to Bob and Lauren, my other daughter Lisa and her husband Aaron are partners as well. Lisa and Aaron are investors. Bob’s sister, my daughter Kathy, works here in front of house. She’s going to be the front of house manager. My son Paul works here assisting and my son Steven works here a little bit too.

P: Wow!

B: Everybody, and my mom works here too. She quit her job and is here full time, definitely a family business.

P: Certainly, can you talk a little bit about the name Wolf’s Ridge and what it means?

A: Sure, we were originally Dublin Brewing Company and were looking for a space up in the Dublin area. As we talked through the business model, we came to the conclusion that we needed to scale up a lot more than we were originally expecting. We decided to come downtown and try to be a part of what’s happening downtown. Obviously that old name wouldn’t work any more so we started looking around and found a couple of articles that reference this area as Wolf’s Ridge. Prior to this being Columbus it was an unsettled area. It was an undeveloped area next to Franklinton and it was known as Wolf’s Ridge.

P: Did you guys have any troubles at startup that you can look back on and laugh?

A: I don’t know if we are far enough along to laugh about it yet (haha).

B: I think construction was relatively smooth while we were in it, but there were things that came up. Dealing with the city here and there was somewhat difficult at times. We had a really good group of subcontractors that did an incredible job. It made that a little bit easier to handle. We learned a few things but it’s really nothing major.

A: I think the biggest thing was keeping things moving during the construction phase. That was the major challenge. We both lost a ton of weight and worked our tails off. We learned a little bit about juggling engineers and architects and city building officials.

B: That’s a good point. We were heavily involved in the demolition and construction. Our executive chef Seth has been involved from the concept up through developing the menu. He was in here helping us winter 2012-2013 taking down drop ceiling, taking out walls, pulling up carpet. From then on we’ve been filling in cracks.

P: The whole team helped in the build?

A: Yea!

B: Seth is very passionate about food. He’s been on board since we got started.

The Wolf’s Ridge Team

P: You’re one of the only new breweries in town with a full restaurant. Can you talk a little bit more about the team that you’ve built and how it’s helped make Wolf’s Ridge a success?

B: It’s like my dad said earlier. It was really important for us to have a restaurant to act as a brand for the brewery, especially when we got up and running. My passion for the experience, we wanted to take that and build a staff that could support that. I knew right away that Seth would be a good fit. He’s been a homebrewer for a long time so he knows beer, knows how to work with beer, and does so very well. If you look through the menu there are a lot of things that incorporate beer. Not just on a cursory level, but very in depth in a lot of the dishes. He uses beer pretty seriously, and beer ingredients. Hops and things like that. He was the first piece of it and he was able to find some really talented guys. Sous chiefs Andy and Chris are both really passionate about everything that we’re doing in the kitchen and that just trickles down to the entire kitchen staff. Front of house, I can’t say enough good things about everybody. We were pretty honest about what we were trying to do with all of our interviews so they understood the concept; they knew that this was going to be a fun place to work. But at the end of the day it all comes down to guest experience and we want to make sure that everybody has a pleasant experience here. They just do an incredible job. It was really important to make sure that they understood that while this food may look up scale, some people may not respond well to that. They are the perfect delivery to make that food more presentable, more approachable, and less pretentious than it may look like from the outside.

The Concept, the Food, and the Beer

A: Do you want to tell him a little more about your inspiration? This is a relatively new menu concept and approach to this kind of food for Columbus.

B: Yea. We knew that it was going to be. Some of these dishes you may see at other restaurants in the city, but buy-in-large the things that Seth has created are new to this city and a little bit different. We wanted to make this food approachable, but give people a little bit of adventure, let them explore a little bit. Things like the stout braised venison, perfect way that Seth uses our stout and braises the venison and that is a unique dish. Hop brined chicken. He creates a concentrated hop liquid and brines the chicken in that. These things that are a little bit different but tie well with everything we are doing in the brewery. We thought that Columbus would respond well and they really have; very, very positive about everything that we are doing here.

P: You’re making me hungry! You jumped ahead a little bit to my question about how your beer plays into your food and vice versa. I don’t know if the food plays back into the brewhouse. Could you expand a little bit more?

B: It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing. Seth is starting to look a little bit more forward and create ideas and we would possibly do beers off that. Initially it started out with what we had available. We started brewing some of the styles that my dad had been working on for many years. Seth took that and ran with it. Using our IPA in the muscles instead of white wine like a lot of places will do. [He] made whole grain mustard using the IPA, which was our first beer. Once we got the Notty Brown he started using that. Made some syrup out of it. We have a Hop cider glaze that we use in the pork chop. He dry hops the cider. You can see the progression is becoming more using the bare ingredients. We are really excited. We have a Belgian series that is coming out. We are going to have three Belgians: a Belgian Tripel, Double, and a Belgian pale. Once they all come out we are going to do a Belgian dinner and pair some foods.

P: I may have to come back for that. I’m a big fan of Belgian beers.

A: You know we look at the food and the beer as part of a continuum. They are not a separate parallel. They are part of a continuum of craft food and craft beer. That’s what we try to leverage. Have people come in and experience the beer as part of the meal, not in conjunction with their meal. That’s where Seth’s been really good. When we look at the beer that comes through the taps, he’s probably one of the biggest users. He’ll come out and get two gallons at a shot and take it back to the kitchen. It’s definitely a part of the menu.

B: We haven’t yet mentioned Ryan. He’s our brewer. He and Seth are definitely talking more and I think they may start collaborating a little bit more and creating some interesting things. Seth and his brother actually worked with Ryn on the imperial IPA, which turned out to be a really wonderful beer.

A: Yea it was Seth and his brother’s recipe. Ryan modified it a little bit making it a true collaboration beer.

P: Do you think Seth may start sneaking some kitchen ingredients into any of the batches here soon?

A: You know we did do that with the holiday. We had a holiday-spiced ale that was very well received. Yea, I think as we continue on we’ll start looking at maybe some summer wheats and do some things there.

B: Again, it really helps that he [Seth] has a background in homebrewing. On some levels he understands it almost as much as he understands food.

P: Has starting a restaurant and brewery at the same time lead to any added challenges?

B: Dealing with various departments of the city that we needed to open the brewery is one thing, but adding a commercial kitchen to that. Fire suppression systems, hoods, all that stuff adds another layer. I think we put how many new penetrations in the roof here?

A: 18 new holes in the roof; roofers cringe I’m sure.

B: It was taking this building, which is well suited for what we did in it, but completely gutting it: New pluming, new wiring, whole new HVAC system. The construction was just a lot when we look back on it. That was the biggest thing.

A: In addition there are a lot of details when putting a brewery together, but there’s probably ten times more details when putting a restaurant together so that was a significant additional challenge.

P: I know starting either on its own can be a big challenge.

A: Right. We were starting it from scratch and we got a space that was a bare space.

B: That’s a good point. Operationally it’s a whole different ball game to keep the consistency, which is something that we’re focused on pretty heavily. To make sure not only the food, but the service is consistent. So when people come back they have the same great experience they had the last time. We employ about 40 people and to have that right off the bat and do as well as it did, I can’t say enough about everybody here who has done an incredible job the last five months.

P: You employed 40 people right off the bat?!

A: Yea.

B: It’s grown, but we started off with a pretty heavy staff. Our initial payroll kind of shocked us.

P: All right we’ve got to sell some food and some beer. Quick!

A: Exactly! But luckily Bob and the restaurant operations have gotten some really positive and significant press right out of the gate. We won best new restaurant of 2013 by Columbus Monthly Magazine. So getting that kind of recognition has really driven the volume. People are passionate about craft beer. People come here to Columbus from all over the state and it’s a lot of fun talking with people who really care about their food and beer. They are really excited about what we’re doing.

The Future

P: So when we were here last you told us you’d been open for about 4 months.

B: It will be five on Thursday.

P: So what does the future hold for Wolf’s Ridge?

A: Growth! We are just trying to keep up with it. We are building out a taproom in the back, converting our warehouse into a taproom so that will about double the number of seats in the building. We are not going to have a full service restaurant back there. We still have to figure out what we can do from the kitchen.

B: We’ll have food on some level, we just don’t know. With the restaurant up here being the focus and whatever the kitchen can comfortably manage without any experience of suffering up here, We’ll try to do back there. It just depends. We’re really excited about that space. It’s going to be more casual, more beer focused. Again this is definitely more dinning centric up here. You can see the brewery and that’s great, but back there it is going to be something that’s a little bit more craft beer friendly.

P: Any plans on packaging or releasing your beer around town?

A: Yea. Distribution was always part of our plan. We’ve sized the brew house significantly over what we needed to support what we imagined here. That is definitely part of our plans. We are looking at sometime in the next several months trying to start that process. Initially we will be distributing kegs to bars and restaurants and eventually we will add bottling / canning as part of that. There is a mobile canning operation. We’ll probably leverage them to package a few different styles.

P: That seems to be popular right now.

A: There are a few different things that lend themselves to that. Summer beers that you want to take on picnics or take them out to the lake. You don’t want to bring bottles you want to bring cans. It’s a lot more amenable to an outdoor, summer agenda lifestyle.

P: Do you guys have one word or phrase that you could use to define your operation?

A: Our motto is “Experience the craft of food and beer”.

B: We really want to showcase the food alongside the beer and as my dad said, they are a continuum of one another. Craft beer isn’t just beer, its experience, its community, that’s one of the things that makes craft beer what it is. The entire craft beer community around the world is so supportive of one another. Such a small piece of the pie, everybody is really trying to elevate beer. It’s great when we work together. A lot of incredible things have happened.

P: Any plans on collaborations with any other local breweries?

A: I’m sure; especially once we get the taproom opened we will do that. When we initially opened we did have several local breweries beers on tap. One of the first things we did before we were even opened was a charity event that was organized by North High [Brewing]. The first annual bike the breweries tour. We are certainly going to do those kinds of things. It’s a small community here. I joke about when Bob and I were up to our elbows in dirt and dust during the construction phase on a hot summer afternoon this apparition would appear on the stairs with a six-pack under his arms. It was Dick Stevens from Elevator! He came down with a six-pack “You guys look like you need a beer!”

Four String – Interview

Over the weekend we sat down with Dan Cochran, owner of Four String, for an interview.  Dan shared a glass of delicious cask White IPA and some great stories with us.

P = Pete Koelsch, TapPullers
D = Dan Cochran, Owner: Four String Brewing Company

P: Can you talk about what you did before owning a brewery?

D: I’ve been a homebrewer since 1994. I started homebrewing on OSU’s campus. I had a roommate who was an engineering student and a beer kit that was a Christmas present of my father’s that he never used. My roommate being an engineering student said, “let’s make beer”. This [opening the brewery] was something that I’ve always wanted to do and I thought using dairy equipment on a large scale for beer would be a way I could afford to do it. So in 2010 I started acquiring different equipment from throughout the Midwest. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done

P: Getting all the components put together?

D: Getting everything done to open a brewery, by myself, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I think people underestimate honestly how tough it is. It’s tough.

P: What was your career leading up to this?

D: I played music for quite some time. Did some touring. Did some recording. My last job, I was working as a rep for a commercial photography studio. I’ve done all kinds of good stuff.

P: So what were the early days of brewing like?

D: So I had 3 grundies as fermenters and two European tanks, around 200 gallons each, that I called space hogs. We would have to crash the beer in the cooler, so we would literally roll tanks in and out of a walk in cooler. On the hot side I built the mash tun out of an old dairy tank I found in Wisconsin and we fabricated screens in the bottom. The kettle was a newer dairy-processing tank. We put a forced gas burner under it. 10-barrel brewhouse, kickass brewhouse, we just grew it from there. Kegging in that cooler and then we would get around 12 half-barrel kegs per batch. I would deliver them in a Volvo SUV, pick up the checks and buy more grain and brew more beer.

P: Can you think of something that happened in the early days that at the time may have seemed like the worst experiences ever, but looking back it’s kind of a funny story?

D: We had a manway gasket. Once we got our bigger tanks we had one of them under pressure. It’s a 1000 gallon horizontal dairy tank and the manway gasket slips and we had this fountain of beer spraying into the brewery, that flooded the brewery. I think it was 300 gallons of beer… That was a bad day… That was a crazy day… Really stressful at the time but kind of fun to look back on it now.

P: Yea… You can imagine taking a shower in beer might be fun until it actually happens.

D: You know I was soaked from head to toe. Head to toe soaked in beer. That wasn’t the challenge. The challenge was all the CO2 coming out of that tank. It made a cloud this [spreads his hands the length of his arms] big around the manway. So when I ran to the manway to try to push that gasket back in, I huffed a bunch of CO2 and almost fainted. I had to step back, collect myself, hold by breath, go back and then I pushed on the top and our head brewer Nick flipped the gasket. Then it was just stone quiet like drip, drip, drip. There’s beer dripping from the ceiling. I’m all short of breath. It was just fucking crazy. I bet we lost a third of the beer.

P: What’s the best part of your day.

D: I just love the brew days. I love coming in here in the morning after the guys have mashed in. I love the smell of the beer in the boil. Honestly that’s the best part of my day. Getting to be at work and smell beer brewing. 310 gallons

P: is there anything you dislike about owning the brewery.

D: No. Not really. I dislike it when the farmer brings my grain barrels back with horse shit on them, cow shit on them, pig shit on them, but other than that no.

P: Most of your grains go to local farms for feed?

D: A local farmer picks up the grains three days per week. Feeds hogs, chickens, and cows with it.

P: Are there any other programs that you do for sustainability?

D: We do actively recycle. When I first started researching I wanted to buy all Ohio ingredients. I was not able to do that. We are not growing much if any 2 row. You need to have it malted. It just wasn’t practical to do in any real scale. But I do like to keep things as local as I can.

P: How would you say that your personality has played into the business?

D: I’m a bass guitar player, which has four strings, and the tap handles are bass guitar necks. There are 4 main ingredients in beer, 4 strings on a bass guitar. It’s kind of a personal brand for me as a bass guitar player and a brewer.

P: Do you have any other names that were tossed around or has it always been Four String?

D: I had one other good name, but I’m not going to tell you. I’ll probably use it for something, maybe a band name or something later in life. It’s funny because it was given to me as a really good band name, which you promise you wouldn’t use it. Someone told me this name in like 1993 and they never did anything with it and I never did anything with it. You could use it for a brewery or a band or some other business.

P: So you talked about how much you enjoy brewing. We heard that you have an interesting story behind your Brass Knuckle beer. Could you share that story with us?

D: So Brass Knuckle American Pale Ale, by style is a hop forward aromatic American pale ale, just under 6% abv. Originally I had planned on it being a little bit more sessionable, but we cranked the abv up until we felt the beer was right. The story with the name… my good friend Dave does all of our branding and logos and design work. We had the name Backstage blond. We originally came out with two beers; we had Backstage Blond and Brass Knuckle Pale Ale. The reason I only came out with two beers was because I wanted the Columbus drinkers to be able to identify with the beers. Identify enough with one of the beers to say “hey that’s my beer”. So, I knew one of those brands would kind of become our flagship beer and that’s what Brass Knuckle has done. Knowing it’s our pale ale, it’s our main beer, I always thought about the Rogue Dead Guy. When people go into a bar and they see the skeleton on the barrel they say, “I’ll have a Dead Guy”.  A bunch of those people probably wouldn’t even relate it to Rogue who’s the brewery. Dead Guy, in some markets as a brand is bigger than Rouge. I wanted a name of a beer that was as good as the name of the brewery. Someone can identify with it. We sat in Dave’s studio for probably 2 hours just looking at each other. It’s hard to come up with good names! We had nothing. So we went to this bar in Grandville, Brew’s Cafe, and as soon as we sat down at the bar Dave looked at me and said “Brass Knuckles”. I said “That’s fucking perfect man. It’s perfect. But let’s call it Brass Knuckle because Brass Knuckle Pale Ale sounds better than Brass Knuckles pale ale”. But I don’t even know what a Brass Knuckle would be. It would be like a ring you know what I mean? So that’s the story behind Brass Knuckle Pale Ale. We still make the tap handles with the brass knuckles on them. We are putting that beer out in cans in April. It’s a big deal. We are working with a mobile canner to release it in cans.

P: Can you talk more about your canning plans?

D: We’ve been all draft for 2 years so we’re excited to get packaged beer in the stores. I’m a fan of craft cans. We are in planning, right now, for our next facility and I’ve decided that I’m going to buy a canning line as opposed to a bottling line. So in the meantime we’re working with an Ohio company, Buckeye Canning, to can the beer. Pale Ale coming out in April, White IPA soon there after. I’m just so excited to have cans. I’m so excited to have beer that can be taken home. It’s fresh when you open it. It’s not the same with a growler as with a package of beer that you take home. I’m super excited for my friends to be able to get it at the local grocery store.

P: I’m a real fan of craft cans also. It lets you experiment with the artwork, you can take them with you to the beach. I know we don’t have a beach around here but…

D: Yea but its fun. There’s plenty of stuff to do outside with a beer in your hand. It’s a lot easier with cans. They will have a prototype to me in 10 days. 8 weeks after that we’ll have cans and we’ll have beer and the canners ready to can. He’ll roll up in his truck and roll a canning line into the brewery and hook up to the brite tank and start making pallets and cases.

P: Are you guys sticking in Columbus for now or are you looking to expand across Ohio?

D: We plan on distributing in the greater Cleveland area. Akron, Canton this year.

P: Does your personality play into your brewing recipes?

D: I am not the main brewer. Nick is our head brewer and we have 2 guys working in the brewery with him. So I guess you could say my personality played into the first couple beers because those are recipes of mine. We brew beers that we like to drink. Period. We don’t brew stuff that isn’t the style that we’re a fan of. So hopefully we’ll go all the way across the spectrum in the next 30 years as our tastes change. Beer is personal and we don’t like to brew stuff that we’re not a fan of the style.

P: if you could pick one word or phrase to describe your brewery what would it be?

D: Rock and Roll Craft beer man. Rock and roll craft beer…

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North High Brewing

North High Brewing is found in the heart of the Short North in Columbus, Ohio, it is filled with personality and offers a very unique experience; the opportunity to brew beer! Behind the bar is another room, which sports eight copper brew kettles, a couple of brite tanks, and small bottling area. The brewery recently celebrated its 1000th batch of customer-brewed beer. In addition to the brewing area North High has a full bar, a light food menu, and plenty of delicious house beers on tap.

The brewery is located in an old Ford dealership that has been beautifully restored and filled with antique treasures. Staying true to their Ohio State roots the owners have reused doors and windows from historic campus buildings. Members of the brewery’s mug club store their exclusive drinking vessels in an old post office locker salvaged after hurricane Katrina. Even the footrest surrounding the bar has a story; an old railroad rail.

When we arrived at North High on a chilly Saturday afternoon, the brewery was packed. Every type of bar goer had been drawn to this one location; young professionals, old professionals, sports fans, families, and barflies all toasting glasses side by side. The sweet smell of boiling wort and fresh hops welcomed us as we joined the carefree crowd. Gavin, one of the owners, was holding out a cup of whole leaf hops, explaining the brewing process to an enthusiastic group of new brewers. Large windows behind the bar revealed groups of thirsty patrons sipping on fresh beer as they tossed ingredients into their brew kettles, for the day they are all master brewers.

Visually Exploring Craft Brewing

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