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Cocktail Curiosity

Chad White doesn’t look like what you’d probably expect from the founder of the Ohio Rum Society. He lacks the sailor’s swagger and pirate’s pedigree some mistakenly associate with the world’s most versatile and diverse distilled spirit. Also absent is the alienating ego that easily identifies pretentious experts in elixirs as unmistakably as a parrot, [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Chad White doesn’t look like what you’d probably expect from the founder of the Ohio Rum Society. He lacks the sailor’s swagger and pirate’s pedigree some mistakenly associate with the world’s most versatile and diverse distilled spirit. Also absent is the alienating ego that easily identifies pretentious experts in elixirs as unmistakably as a parrot, an eye patch, or a peg leg.

Instead, you’ll find the modest charm and Midwestern demeanor of a kid from Toledo, captured by the allure of Columbus more than a decade ago, who carved out his own corner of the local craft cocktail scene in a category that stretches far past the fabled shores of the Caribbean.

“I was the victim of really great niche marketing,” White confessed of his college years at Ohio University and an early affinity for rum. “It wasn’t until I ordered a flight of premium rums with a friend at a rum bar in Cleveland that I realized there was more out there.”

The most familiar names in American rum aren’t awful, but aren’t exactly transparent either. Adulterated by artificial flavoring and coloring, many are more like alcoholic soda pop than true spirits. Luckily, White and his future wife’s shared love of travel afforded him the opportunity to collect interesting bottles from exotic locations, a hobby that quickly escalated, perhaps out of hand.

“It wasn’t long before my suitcases were coming back filled with rum,” he chided. “My wife told me I either had to drink it or share it—not just the rum, but my passion for it.”

Columbus has a knack for finding or following the next new thing. From coffee and cocktails to breweries and barbecue, White knew he couldn’t be the only one in town experimenting at home with his spirit of choice. What started as just another Facebook group to exchange articles and opinions on the emerging rum scene didn’t stay there long.

“That online conversation soon evolved into inviting friends to my house for tastings,” he recalled. “If there were a bunch of bourbon drinkers, I’d start out with something dry and well-balanced, but with a little weight, obviously aged, with bold flavors.”

Further reinforcing the notion that everyone already seems to know everyone else in Columbus, that first formal gathering at Grass Skirt Tiki Room quickly grew to connections and subsequent soirées at Curio, Denmark on High, Blind Lady Tavern, and The Light of Seven Matchsticks. It turned out there was quite a bit of quiet dabbling behind local bars as well, substituting rum for traditional base spirits.

“It connected me with all of these underground rum geeks—bartenders, proprietors, but also curious cocktailers—people who love brown spirits like bourbon, or white spirits like tequila. People who love the craft of fermentation and distillation.”

White is a recruiter for the tech sector by day, a knack that clearly extends beyond his keyboard. Unlike similar ‘societies’ that simply need to usher a readymade community into the same room, White had to educate and elevate rum among the masses while roping everyone into the same orbit.

Two years in, there’s no slowdown in sight, with meetings nearly monthly, an updated membership program, and a new name—recognizing the greater geographic reach and influence of his growing group of self-described ‘rumheads.’

“We began as the Central Ohio Rum Society, but soon started pulling in members from around the state for our tastings. So we’re now the Ohio Rum Society, even though our interest is really international.”

Themed meetings from “January in Jamaica” to “Rum, Beer, and Revolution” tap into the convergence of history and chemistry, as well as practical and tactical conversations, like getting rum into the country a little easier by flying back through Puerto Rico for a less onerous trip through U.S. Customs.

“I have three bottles of rum I ordered from Europe that have been waiting for weeks in Customs in Chicago,” he explained. “Importers are still figuring out if there is enough interest in the States to distribute here. So that’s part of the hunt.”

Speaking of flights, no conversation about rum would be complete without one. Like most, I know what I like even if I lack the keen palette or industry jargon to put it into words. But that’s where White and his fellow rumheads earn their reputation as approachable connoisseurs, not another class of liquor snobs. Chad carefully curated a collection based on my beer and bourbon background. In fact, he could easily spot each style and brand at a glance, an impressive feat after more than an hour of cocktails and chit-chat in a deliberately dim tiki bar.

He described the origin and attributes of each as I sipped and swished, noting the time and terroir evident in the sweet heat and woody finish of the aged rums before moving up to the bright bite and botanical nuances of the rhum agricole, made from distilled cane juice, not fermented molasses. The journey from 60 proof to 120 was dangerously delicious, and it’s a flight that might require a copilot to get home.

“Rum is a shapeshifter,” he explained. “That’s what we love about it.”

Obsession over such subtleties may sound like the musings of wine wonks. But as an admitted rum amateur, the flavor profiles actually fit right in line with my inner coffee geek—sometimes spicy, earthy, or even floral, but never one note.

We wrapped up with shots from his personal stash (a rare bottle from Barbados actually signed by the distiller) and a couple more classic cocktails, further burnishing the depth and breadth the right rum can bring to nearly any glass—not just those with a garish garnish or bawdy boat drinks in your buddy’s basement.

“None of these rums were available in Ohio when I started,” he revealed, noting the reach of the Ohio Rum Society in creating demand from restaurants to retail. “It’s why rum is still so shrouded in mystery for most, past the major brands. But that’s why we’re here. Columbus is a trendsetter, and we’re fundamentally changing the way people think about rum.”

For more on the Ohio Rum Society, find them on Facebook.

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Food & Drink

Taft’s on Draft: Cinci Brewporium opens first Columbus location in Franklinton

Linda Lee Baird

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After hearing all the hype about Cincinnati’s up-and-coming Over the Rhine neighborhood a few years back, I went to see it for myself. The first stop was Taft’s Ale House, a gigantic brewery inside of a church originally built in 1850, fully renovated for guests’ reveling pleasure. After spending the next few hours sampling beverages and snacking on beer cheese pretzels, I was inclined to believe the neighborhood hype. Did I fully explore OTR that night? I don’t actually remember. But I’m certain that I had a great time at Taft’s. So when I found out that Taft’s was coming to Columbus, the news sounded even sweeter than their Maverick Chocolate Porter.

Taft’s Brewpourium Columbus spans nearly 6,000 square feet in the Gravity development, including over 2,000 square feet of patio space. Like the development itself, Taft’s is building an artistic theme into its new offering. “Our actual design is going to be kind of focused on ‘80s/‘90s pop art,” said David Kassling, Managing Partner for Taft’s Brewing Company. “Being that Franklinton definitely has its art roots, we think that’s a great way to ingrain ourself in the community.”

Kassling said that the word brewpourium literally means the place where the brew is poured. That they’ve chosen to make “brewpourium” part of their name tells you everything you need to know about what Taft’s wants to be known for: its carefully crafted suds. The brewpourium will have at least 10 taps serving Taft’s original varieties, including its signature Gavel Banger IPA, which was voted best beer in Cincinnati last March by the city’s residents.

Taft’s will offer a full food menu as well. Kassling is particularly proud to introduce New Haven-style pizza to Columbus. “We’re recreating a style that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Ohio,” he said. (The style is also known as apizza, which is pronounced "a piece," as in, I’d like a piece of that crisp coal-red cheesy goodness right now, please.) Kassling describes it as a cross between New York and Neapolitan style. Taft’s version features our and tomatoes imported from Italy.

Rounding out the menu is another ‘90s-inspired treat, this time in dessert form. Remember Dunkaroos, those cookies that came in a package with icing designed for dipping, perhaps consumed while you watched episodes of Saved By the Bell? Taft’s will serve up Taftaroos, its unique take on the snack.

Kassling plans to use the brewpourium’s large space to offer patrons activities beyond food and drink. The stage will be open for games of darts when not in use for performances. On the floor, guests will find shufflepuck and Killer Queen, an arcade game utilizing 8-bit graphics in line with the old-school theme. Video game fans will also find gaming stations inlaid in the bar, with several retro options to choose from.

With three Cincinnati locations in operation, Kassling is not new to the business. Even so, expanding to Columbus marks a milestone, and one he wasn’t always seeking to meet. “We didn’t necessarily look at this as we needed to expand to a new city or we needed to expand to Columbus,” he said.

But when the opportunity to join the Gravity Project presented itself, Kassling said it proved too good to pass up. “We’re really excited, not only because of the nature of the building being so modern and unique, not just to Columbus, but to anywhere. But also the shape of our space is funky, and that led to different ideas in what we wanted to do with our build out.”

Kassling acknowledged that in coming to Columbus, Taft’s is joining a few of our communities: the community of Franklinton, to be sure, but also the well-established community of independent breweries operating across the city. An installation built into Taft’s countertop will pay homage to this fact, incorporating crushed cans and packaging from breweries like Seventh Son, Land-Grant, and North High. “It’s gonna be totally an art piece,” he said.

Rather than focusing on the potentially competitive aspect of the brewing scene, Kassling emphasized the camaraderie and common goals within the industry. “At the end of the day, craft beer is a great way to bring people together,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we’re all preaching community and good times.”

While Taft’s new location may not be in a church, Kassling’s words are the type of preaching that I can get behind.

Taft’s Brewpourium Columbus is located at 440 W Broad St. in the Gravity project. For more details about Taft’s, visit taftsalehouse.com.

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Food & Drink

New “relaxed” wine house now open in Dublin

614now Staff

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Next time you're in Dublin, make sure to stop and smell the rosé at the city's newest wine bar. Coast Wine House recently opened at 75 S High St., offering a contemporary wine bar + bottle shop inspired by a blend of the spirit of coastal California and traditional wine country cafés, markets, and bodegas, according to the website.

Coast assures they don't take themselves too seriously "in contrast to the conventional wine world," describes the website.

"The mood is decidedly relaxed. The wine is pleasantly chilled," Coast says.

The wine bar is run by Dustin Snow, who his wife, Molly, believes brings a "warm and relaxed" feel to Coast.

"A visit to our house is by no means fancy, but Dustin makes it special, because he genuinely wants to make you feel at home," she wrote on Instagram. "And since Coast is an extension of our home you will have this same warm and relaxed experience."

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2r1Q5OgbAT/

Coast is open Wednesday and Thursday from 12pm- 9pm, Friday and Saturday from 12pm- 10pm, and closed Sunday through Tuesday. To learn more visit coastwinehouse.com.

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Food & Drink

Get a sneak peek of Columbus’ new “urban” diner and bar

614now Staff

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The final touches are being put on Columbus' newest restaurant, and we want to get you inside for a sneak peek!

The Woodbury will open at 215 E. Town St. in the near future, offering an "urban" diner setting and "vibrant" bar scene, according to the restaurant's Facebook. Lunch items and dinner entrees will be offered, as well as breakfast favorites all day long.

Join (614) on Monday, December 16th from 5pm- 7pm at The Woodbury for an exclusive sneak peek preview party before they officially open!

Be the first to try samples from their menu! Including the following food and drinks:

Meat Option:

  • PB&J Wings
  • Crab Rangoon Dip
  • Chicken Hotcake Taco

Vegetarian Option:

  • French Toast Casserole
  • Rings of Fire (battered fried hot pepper rings)
  • Vegetarian Ravioli Lasagna

Drinks (choice of 2):

  • Jack Daniels Mule
  • Old Forrester Old Fashioned
  • Jack & Cola

Keep up to day with The Woodbury by following them on social media at @woodburycbus.

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