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4 brewers talk past, present future of C-bus beer scene

Mike Thomas

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With the rise of craft beer, celebrations of America’s most popular alcoholic beverage are nearly as plentiful as the varieties of suds found on supermarket shelves.

Whether it’s a day set aside in honor of a given style (IPA day is observed Aug. 2) or a pseudo-holiday cash grab from a major international brewery, (Arthur’s Day is not a thing, Guinness) beer fans have plenty of occasions throughout the year to toast their favorite drink.

In honor of Columbus Craft Beer Week (May 17-25), (614) spoke to Columbus brewers Colin Vent at Seventh Son Brewing, Dan Shaffer at Land-Grant, Craig O’Herron at Sideswipe Brewing, and Chris Davison, at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing in order to explore the beginnings of brew in the capital city, where it stands today, and what the future might hold.

(614): When you think of Columbus beer history, what comes to mind?

Vent: The recent history is pretty young. We were 7th or 8th six years ago, and now there’s over 50. Barley’s, Smoke House, Elevator, Columbus Brewing Company—those were around for 10 or 15 years, then all of the sudden, Four String, us, North High, and soon thereafter Land Grant popped up, and from there it’s just been crazy. Obviously all of Columbus [beer] history goes back hundreds of years; there used to be major production. Hoster was one of the largest breweries in the country.

Shaffer: I think of Barley’s, CBC, the people that were there at the beginning. We’re all standing on their shoulders. Obviously it’s all come a very long way. I’m trying to think of what the first craft beer I had in Columbus was. It was probably a CBC IPA.

(614): What are some prevailing trends that you see happening with beer in Columbus today?

O’Herron: I feel like we’ve gotten over a lot of the recent trends. We saw a lot of the New England IPAs, and then Brut IPAs to a lesser extent. I don’t know if there’s a trend that’s happening right this moment, but I’m sure we’ll see something new and wacky come around.

Davison: The national trend has been IPA, IPA, IPA, and I think Columbus is a microcosm of that. Ohio is an IPA state, and Columbus is an IPA city even more so than some other cities in the state. We’ve got a lot of the top-tier IPA breweries right now, a lot of people making really good IPA. I think that’s going to continue to rise, and I think we’re going to continue to see more styles [of IPA].

(614): What does the future hold for Columbus Beer? Have we reached a saturation point on how many breweries the city can sustain?

Vent: I don’t know that Columbus could take another 10 or 20 Land Grants and Seventh Sons, but I think it could take another 10 or 20 [breweries] that just want to have an awesome neighborhood brewpub. As many breweries as an area can sustain, that’s what there will be.

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Davison: I think it all comes down to what those breweries are trying to accomplish. Trying to be a production brewery that’s distributing cans across the entire state is going to get harder and harder, not that some won’t continue to grow and do that. I think there’s a ton of room for local brewpubs that don’t even want to sell their beer outside of their own bar. Every bar in this city could theoretically brew its own beer, and there’s no reason the city can’t sustain 500 breweries that are tiny like that.

Shaffer: Obviously people are gravitating towards local. I think it’s really cool that every neighborhood, instead of a watering hole, can have a local brewery. I think we’ll probably see more sours, probably more specialization. IPA’s aren’t going anywhere—there will be more IPA variants. When there is this much competition, you can’t afford to be a generic beer brewery anymore. There has to be something you’re passionate about, whether it’s Belgian or English styles, or pilsners, high-gravity stouts—whatever. There’s got to be something that you can say “this is what we’re all about.”

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Review: El Lugar and Alpine bring Spanish, German tapas to German Village

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Displayed proudly along the wall behind El Lugar’s bar are rows and rows of canned seafood—not the ingredient of choice one might expect from an upscale tapas and pinchos restaurant, located in a city with a culinary scene that typically fawns over either traditional American, or fresh and local food. Nevertheless, the Espinaler cans of tuna, razor shells, and cockles reside there like a dare for those with adventurous enough appetites to try some of the finest seafood in the world. 

Photos by Julian Foglietti

El Lugar is a shared effort by co-owners Enis and A.J. Ndreu and Elidon Hizmo to bring new and authentic European flavors to Columbus. Their two new restaurants, El Lugar and Alpine, sit next door to one another and provide different, yet complementary experiences of Spanish and German cuisines. One side boasts a more family-friendly selection of meats, cheeses and hearty vegetables, while the other is fresh Mediterranean flavors of citrus and seafood. Both share an intriguing selection of signature cocktails. 

In contrast to El Lugar, Alpine features cuisine that showcases flavors from across Germany. Nicholas Paxton, the executive chef at both restaurants who was tasked with transforming the owners’ vision into menus, is neither German nor originally familiar with German food, so he brought in consultants more familiar with the region to help develop the recipes. “I love the authenticity that we provide here on the Alpine side,” Paxton said. “There’s a broad spectrum of what German food can be.”

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Alpine is continuing the tradition of authentic regional food that has helped characterize German Village, where it and El Lugar are located. The two restaurants replaced Juergen’s Bakery, a community staple that provided Columbus with Bavarian-style fare for 50 years. Co-owner A.J. Ndreu said they’d been looking for a spot in the area to open up another German restaurant (they also own Wurst und Bier in Worthington), so when the opportunity presented itself, they jumped.

“I used to buy all my pastries from Rosemarie [Keidel, Juergen’s Bakery’s owner],” A.J. Ndreu said. 

“We just connected and she’s like, ‘I’d love for you to take over and make a German restaurant out of it.’ ”

With that, he and his cousin launched into bringing to life their concepts for German and tapas restaurants, which they’d been developing for a decade.

One of the most instrumental sources of inspiration for A.J. has been traveling around Europe. He lived in France, where he fell in love with French food. But once he experienced all the different ways Spanish cuisine used seafood, beef and pork, he was convinced otherwise. “I thought French food was the best cuisine in the world until I started going to Spain.”

The simplicity of Spanish food is a challenge for Paxton, who says his tendency when developing a recipe is to mess with its components. Spanish cuisine, in contrast, consists of ingredients that can speak for themselves; all Paxton has to do, he says, is figure out how they work together and wait for inspiration to hit.

Back in 2008, Anthony Bourdain traveled to Catalonia for his show “No Reservations” to explore the same flavors that intrigued Ndreu and Paxton. At a little bar about half an hour outside of Barcelona, Bourdain tried Espinaler’s canned seafood, and asked, “How can any chef do better for you than that?” Ndreu was captivated.

“I was like, ‘What the hell is he talking about? It’s canned,’ ” Ndreu puzzled. “So […] I went, and I was amazed. It’s unbelievable. It’s some of the best seafood I ever ate.”

After that, A.J. spent years trying to find a way to bring Espinaler’s products to Ohio, and he finally uncovered an opportunity in El Lugar. But besides the seafood, El Lugar also features Vermut Lacuesta—not the vermouth used for lining a martini glass, but a wine-like drink to be enjoyed on its own or in a cocktail. It also offers the Spanish serrano and ibérico hams, which can be cured for years. The more expensive of the two, ibérico ham comes from black pigs fed an acorn diet and can take up to five years to reach peak flavor.

Next door, Alpine’s menu describes dishes like leberkäse (a meatloaf) and wurstteller (a selection of sausages). Diners can also order raclette, available by the scrape, over any meal. But not forgetting that it’s still in the United States, Alpine offers a handful of American classics during happy hour. These include mini cheeseburger sliders, tater tots with beer cheese dip, and fried chicken wings, among others. 

Alpine and El Lugar present their guests with foreign foods that encourage diners to explore the culinary diversity of Europe. Portion sizes, particularly at El Lugar, may be a bit smaller, but Paxton hopes Columbus diners will recognize the value in great, unique-tasting food and finding excellence in unexpected places.

“We don’t want you to fill up on it. We want you to taste some amazing flavors that nobody else is doing,” Paxton said.

Alpine and El Lugar are located at 525 S 4th St. in German Village. Find out about Alpine at alpine614.com and El Lugar at ellugar614.com.

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They’ll be nothing to wine about at these 9 local wineries

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Everyone knows that Columbus is a craft beer city, but fortunately for those who never got acclimated to the yeasty drink, there’s wine. We may not have the best climate for grape growing, but these nine wineries around Columbus are breaking down barriers and serving up delicious bottles to vino lovers.

Camelot Cellars Winery | 901 Oak St, Columbus

Camelot Cellars, an award-winning Urban Boutique Winery, handcrafts all their own wines sourcing premier juices from vineyards all over the world. Offerings include retail wines by the bottle, wine tastings, flights, and event spaces.

Via Vecchia Winery | 2050 S High St, Columbus

This family-owned, urban winery is tucked away off a private lane and hosts 7700 square feet of exclusive venue space. With original exposed brick archways, wood ceiling beams and limestone walls, every experience is sure to be unforgettable.

Wyandotte Winery | 4640 Wyandotte Dr, Columbus

Wyandotte Winery is the first and oldest winery in Central Ohio, conveniently located just miles from Easton Town Center. With wines made from Ohio grapes and a beautiful patio to enjoy them on, you’re sure to enjoy your experience at Wyandotte Winery.

Signature Wines | 3816 April Ln, Columbus

Unlike many urban wineries, Signature Wines makes wines predominantly from whole grapes  and juices brought into Columbus from predominately California and Ohio using traditional, small scale winemaking techniques.  Stop into the Winery to enjoy a glass of wine in a comfortable atmosphere.

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Hidden Lakes Winery | 650 Winchester Pike, Canal Winchester

Hidden Lakes offers a delightful selection of house-made, award-winning wines and unique craft beers. Along with beverages, enjoy food from the newly-updated kitchen while taking in the scenic lakeside view.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant | 4230 The Strand, Columbus

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants celebrates moments that matter with chef-crafted food, award-winning wines, and life-long friendships. Outstanding wine, modern fare, Napa-inspiring tasting room: Cooper’s Hawk.

Good Vibes Winery | 2 S State St, Westerville

Good Vibes Winery is an urban winery located in Uptown Westerville, offering guests a wine experience, bistro samplings, and a beautiful environment to be enjoyed by friends and family.

Plum Run Winery | 3946 Broadway, Grove City

Plum Run Winery is a family-owned winery focusing on small batches of quality wines made from locally sourced fruit. A 3-acre vineyard located five miles south of the winery provides many of the grapes for the estate wines. Stop by and enjoy the wine and hospitality!

Powell Village Winery | 50 Liberty St, Powell

As one of the first wine négociants in Ohio, Powell Village Winery sources, blends, and produces small lots of high quality vinifera wines from America’s notable grape-growing regions. From bold & dry to sweet & fruity, they strive to create a diverse range of distinct wines for every taste.

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Tuttle Mall getting a lot sweeter thanks to 2 newcomers

614now

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Malls have changed a lot over the years. Remember Waldenbooks? Was KB Toys your go-to as a kid? Heck, even Sears will soon be nothing more than a memory.

While mall establishments are frequently lost to the sands of time, it’s rare that you see a former retailer return to a mall it’s already vacated once. Well brace yourselves, sweets fans, because a gooey, sugar-frosted favorite is making a comeback at Tuttle Mall.

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Of course we’re talking Cinnabon, which was last in operation at Tuttle some years ago, and is now listed as “coming soon” on the mall’s directory. But wait! As tempting as it will be to fill up on cinnamon rolls after this long absence, you’ll want to save room for this other coming attraction: it seems Duck Donuts is also setting up shop in Tuttle.

Hop on the treadmill and give your dentist a heads-up, mall lovers—sweets are back at Tuttle in a big way!

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