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Beyond Beer

Beer might just be the perfect gift. Unlike the kitchen kitsch, no-good knickknacks, and other wrapped crap we tend to exchange, beer is simply shared and enjoyed, leaving nothing behind but fond memories and a few bottles or cans in the recycling bin. But there are also hidden perks to one of our city’s most [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Beer might just be the perfect gift. Unlike the kitchen kitsch, no-good knickknacks, and other wrapped crap we tend to exchange, beer is simply shared and enjoyed, leaving nothing behind but fond memories and a few bottles or cans in the recycling bin.

But there are also hidden perks to one of our city’s most pervasive beverages, personal relationships that become partnerships and interconnected industries that make the unseen economic impact of beer more than just a smooth pour or six-pack.

“There are a lot of local businesses I work with as a brewer. We’re working with One Line Coffee in the Short North,” explained Chris Davison, head brewer at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing. “Just for the brewery, we order hundreds of pounds of coffee for all of the beers we do. The restaurant uses some, too. and we cross-promote each other. I know sometimes when I walk in, their guys are wearing our shirts. They send customers our way and vice versa.”

Agricultural infusions aren’t as ordinary as they used to be. Brewers often trade finished product with the suppliers of some of their unexpected ingredients. Wolf’s Ridge exchanges ale with a local pumpkin producer for their supply of the seasonal gourd that goes into the beer. There was also a blueberry barter that didn’t quite work out this year, which Davison hopes to revisit next summer.

Then there’s the matter of the mash, the mix of spent grain that quickly rots if left unattended. Wolf’s Ridge is one of many local breweries that has standing arrangements with local farmers who gladly pick up the mash to feed their livestock. The next time you order a local burger, bratwurst, or barbeque, you’re likely supporting your local brewery as well.

“As a brewer, it’s great not to see it go in a dumpster or landfill. It’s free waste removal for us, and free feed for them,” he noted, as well as the less formal exchanges that belie the food and beverage business. “We’ll throw them a six-pack here and there and they’ll bring us some eggs. It’s a reciprocal relationship.”

Brewing is also more than just what goes in a beer. It’s also what the beer goes in. Those woody and boozy accents aren’t accidents.

“We get almost all of our brewing barrels from Watershed. We get fresh barrels when a lot of breweries can’t,” Davison added, though there are some exceptions.

“Today in our taproom we have an event where I took our Coconut Howling Moon Imperial IPA and we aged it in a rum barrel from a little local distillery called 451 Spirits. I didn’t even know they existed until a few months ago,” Davis admitted. “The distiller came in to talk to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re really small, fairly young, and a lot of people don’t know much about us—so I want to give you a barrel for free if you’ll age a beer in it and promote us on social media.’ We took a chance and the beer came out really great, so we’ll be serving it in the taproom today along with some cocktails made from their spirits.”

Smaller brewers sometimes have an edge over larger ones when it comes to expensive or exclusive ingredients. Bigger batches inherently mean more raw material, which is often in scarce supply.

“When we buy, we typically need bulk—not consumer, or even restaurant quantities. I was recently looking for 20 gallons of local honey and the supplier for the restaurant found a source, but told us it would be two-to-four weeks and would be insanely expensive,” he explained. “We did source 40 gallons of maple syrup from Chardon, Ohio for a beer, and it was like $1500. One of the things we’re still struggling to measure is the premium for local ingredients. It’s hard to tell sometimes what value people put on that connection.”

Amy Noltemeyer wasn’t trying to tap into the loyalty of the local beer scene when she founded Growlers Dog Bones. She was just struggling to find a meaningful occupation for her son with autism. But what started as a part-time project was quickly embraced by area brewers, most of whom now sell the bags of beer-based dog bones in their taprooms.

Growlers Dog Bones are made from a recipe of beer mash, peanut butter, eggs, and rice flour, then pressed, prepared, and packaged by teams of students and young adults with developmental challenges that pose barriers to employment.

“Even when we’re not selling back to the breweries, when I go to the farmers markets, people want to know what we’re all about,” Noltemeyer explained. “Having the names of each brewery and baker on the bags gets their attention and sets us apart.”

That connection proved crucial in establishing the authenticity of the brand—both in the name recognition of the breweries by prospective customers and the personal recognition it creates for the bakers, who often start through one of several local transition-to-work programs. The social enterprise has set up shop at the Food Fort, an innovative incubator for culinary entrepreneurs with a similar mission to serve communities that also lack adequate opportunities.

“We really do market every single brewery. They are the ones who fill our buckets,” she said. “Occasionally, I’ll meet someone who is very enthusiastic about our product and the opportunities we create, who then says, ‘But I don’t have a dog?’ I tell them, ‘All of these breweries support us, so if you want to support us, you should support them.’”

Asked whether the sale of some beer bones over others was due to the preference of the people or the preference of their dogs, she was initially confident, then quite coy.

“I can tell you one of our bakers tasted them all and he says they’re pretty much the same,” Noltemeyer chuckled. “I’ve tried them, too. From one wet barley to another, they really do taste ab out the same. But with dogs—I don’t know for sure.”

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Food & Drink

Brewery District bakery to close after 10 years

614now Staff

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The Brewery District will be sans a bakery in just a few short days.

After 10 years, Kolache Republic will be serving its last pastry on Saturday, February 8.

"We are truly grateful to our community of customers, friends, family and staff who have supported us in our pursuit to bring a unique food experience to this vibrant city as Columbus’ first and only kolache bakery," wrote Kolache Republic on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/Kolacherepublic/posts/3438844786142628

Other than deciding it was "time to hang up our oven mitts and start a new chapter," the Czech pastry shop did not provide a reason for the closure.

If you're planning on showing a lot of love for Kolache Republic before it closes, Kolache recommends calling ahead for any orders of a dozen or more.

Kolache Republic is located at 730 S High St.

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Food & Drink

Hilliard looking to tap into its first brewery soon

614now Staff

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Orlando-based Crooked Can Brewing is targeting a February launch for their new taproom and brewery space in Hilliard, according to Drink Up Columbus.

The 4,000-square-foot taproom will be joined by a 7,000-square-foot patio, which will provide outdoor seating for the brewery as well as Hilliard's Center Street Market, which is expected to open in March.

The taproom will also feature large viewing windows where patrons can get a behind-the-scenes look at Crooked Can's new 16,000 square foot brewing operation.

Once open, Crooked Can Brewing will be located at 5354 Center Street in Hilliard. For more info, visit Drink Up Columbus.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week: High Bank’s $20 deluxe comfort food menu doesn’t disappoint

Regina Fox

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If you've sequestered High Bank into strictly a booze category, you're missing out on one of the most well-executed comfort food menus in Columbus, especially during Restaurant Week.

Weighing in at a mere $20 per person, High Bank's three-course menu is so tantalizing, you'll struggle to pick just one dish from each. Believe me, I certainly did.

Course 1: Choice of Garden Salad, Nacho Fries, Loaded Baked Potato, Five Ways Spaghetti

With great power (being tasked with choosing just one starter) comes great responsibility (making sure I pick the best). Luckily, there really is no wrong move.

Ever had Taco Bell's Nacho Fries? High Bank's are better. Crispy, battered fries smothered in melty queso, seasoned beef, refried beans, and a generous heap of sour cream make for an elevated, indulgent, heavyweight starter. The portion is definitely big enough to share, but I wouldn't blame you if you didn't.

Course 2: Choice of High Bank Bacon Cheeseburger, Queso-Rito, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, High Bank Bowl

Since stick-to-your-bones food is officially back in season, you have to get down to High Bank for their fried chicken menu items. The chicken is battered using an incredibly light and crunchy buttermilk, fried, then dusted with cayenne that leaves a warm glow on your palate—not too hot, not too mild.

Restaurant Week features two chicken entrees: the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the High Bank Bowl.

The sandwich is an instant comfort food classic, but the High Bank Bowl is like the designer version of KFC's Famous Bowl. The mashed potatoes are perfectly salted and buttered, the sweet corn adds just the right amount of sweetness and pop, and the cheese and gravy culminate into a savory sauce. Colonel Sanders would be impressed.

Course 3: Choice of Mint Chocolate Sandwich, Snickerdoodle Sandwich, Oreo Sandwich

At this point, I was almost too full to function, but I had to press on. To absolutely no one's surprise, High Bank's third course did not disappoint.

The Snickerdoodle Sandwich came with two perfectly under-baked snickerdoodle cookies bookending a lump of hard-dip butter pecan ice cream. Drizzles of white chocolate over top sent this dessert into the winner's circle.

I can't remember the last time I felt so repleted, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and so should you. At just $20 a head, this is a deal you can't afford to miss.

Click here to check out High Bank's Restaurant Week menu. To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

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