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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

Burger Bonanza: New restaurant opening in downtown tomorrow

614now Staff

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Burger fans in Downtown Columbus will soon have a new option to enjoy, according to a report from Columbus Business First. Belly Burger, a new concept from restaurateur Jeff Kover, will open this Friday at 26 N High St.

The location is the former site of Oliver's, which Kover purchased over a year ago from previous owner Yavonne Sarber.

Belly Burger will expand on Oliver's burger-centric menu while providing an update to the look and feel of the space. Once open, the menu will feature straightforward offerings with single, double, and triple three-ounce patties, a chicken sandwich, and fries for a side. Boozy milkshakes are also on the menu.

For more information, visit the Belly Burger on Facebook.

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Food & Drink

Portia’s Diner takes root on High Street

Regina Fox

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One of Columbus' favorite vegan restaurants has taken root in a new location. Portia's Diner is officially open at 3269 N High St. in the former Whole World Natural Bakery and Restaurant in Clintonville.

https://www.facebook.com/PortiasCafe/posts/3132161976810359

Portia's Diner offers comfort foods like pancakes, waffles, hamburgers, and burritos—all made with the same high-quality vegan, non-GMO, organic products customers have come to expect from Portia's.

Portia's Diner is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8am- 3pm. Visit portiascafe.com for more information.

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Food & Drink

Local nonprofit catering company announces new downtown cafe

614now Staff

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Nonprofit catering company and workforce development program Freedom a la Cart has announced plans to open its first full-service cafe + bakery and survivor resource center in downtown Columbus next summer at 123 E Spring St.

A nonprofit catering company and workforce development program that empowers and employs survivors of human trafficking, the Freedom a la Cart Cafe + Bakery will serve fresh-baked pastries, scratch-made meals, and locally roasted coffee under the direction of Consulting Chef BJ Lieberman. The menu will feature Freedom a la Cart favorites from the catering menu, as well as additional “a la minute” selections such as avocado and tomato tartini and house made brioche cinnamon toast.

The flagship cafe + bakery is expected to employ about 20 survivors, doubling the current number of survivors in Freedom’s workforce development program. The cafe also allows Freedom to extend its workforce training program to include valuable front-of-house job skills like point of sale operation, customer service education, and barista training, thereby broadening survivors’ marketability to transition into jobs in the community.

Skill-building and bonding will extend beyond the kitchen to the new “Freedom Home”—2,500 square feet of program and office spaces on the cafe’s second floor for survivors to call their own. The space will include a lounge area, a computer station for job searching and educational assistance, a trauma counseling office, and an area for group gatherings.

“In less than ten years, we’ve seen Freedom a la Cart evolve from a food cart to a successful catering operation, and now, a full-service cafe and community resource center,” said Paula Haines, Executive Director of Freedom a la Cart. “The Freedom Cafe + Bakery will not only allow us to share Freedom a la Cart’s delicious menu offerings with more of the community but will also broaden our outreach and advocacy efforts for human trafficking survivors throughout Columbus.”

Starting in the Summer of 2020, Freedom a la Cart Cafe + Bakery will be open to the public for breakfast and lunch from Monday through Saturday from 7am- 3pm. Catering orders will continue to be accepted at freedomalacart.org/catering/ or by phone.

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