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Survival guide: Winter Beer Fest edition

Steve Croyle

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Beer festivals can be a fun and rewarding experience where old favorites can be compared to bold new offerings, but you’ve got to know what you’re doing. Wander into a beer festival on a whim, and you’ll find it to be an obnoxious affair full of frat boys, some well into their fifties, chest bumping everybody because they just earned another badge on Untapped.

This is especially true of winter beer fests, where cabin fever can bring out the worst in people. With this year’s edition taking place February 8-9, there’s little time to prepare, and with people eager for any excuse to get out, this festival will be a madhouse. Smart patrons will preview the beer list and formulate a plan of attack, but like Mike Tyson said, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.”

So what do you do?

Book a Hotel

You’re already dropping some coin here, so just go all-in and make a weekend on the town out of it. Stay within walking distance of the Convention Center, and just blow a month’s pay on the good life. Eat, drink, be merry, and gain 25 pounds. The austerity you have to practice after the splurge will help you get back to your fighting weight, and the kids will forgive you for blowing their tuition savings, someday.

Go Early

That means pop for the early admission ticket, or even that VIP package, and go on Friday. Avoid the Saturday crowd at all costs—that’s the day you run into more of the party-time types. They’ve probably done a little pre-gaming en route to the festival, so it won’t take long for the aforementioned chest bumping to begin.

There are a lot of good people who go on Saturday because they have no other choice but you should take a vacation day, check into a hotel on Friday, and plan to queue at the door no later than 6:30 Friday evening.

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Swim Downstream

Most people like to work their way up to the heavier beers. The logic is sound, but flawed. Big beers don’t really wreck your palate—it’s hops that will dull your senses. While that first wave of people is lining up for lagers, you can partake in those big, barrel-aged stouts that will draw a crowd later in the night, which is when you can start sampling the lighter beers. Sours are best if you same them for last.

Or Just Volunteer

There are people who will be paying almost 100 bucks for VIP treatment, and those people still don’t get treated half as well as those who volunteer. Volunteers get free admission, free parking, free food, and swag. Not just festival swag, but sometimes the brewers will sweeten the deal and hook up their volunteer pourers with cool stuff. You have to put in a five-hour shift, but it’s fun.

Volunteering completely flips the script, too, because Saturday can be extremely entertaining when you’re on the other side of the tasting table. Slots tend to fill up quick, but you can always get on the list in case somebody bails. Volunteers also have access to special bathrooms—clean bathrooms with no waiting.

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Clintonville Brunch Crawl: We dare you to squeeze all 3 stops into 1 day

614now

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Clintonville is lovely this time of year, especially when you make three separate stops for brunch. 

Whether the weather is gracing the charming little burgh with a healthy dose of vitamin D or giving it a couple spins around the Lazy Susan that is Ohio’s climate, a trifecta of morning food destinations is sure to keep your mood afloat.

BLunch  • 2973 N High St.

blunchcolumbus.com

Yes, we know that Columbus now is home to a Drunch AND a BLunch.

Snicker all ya want—if you do, you’d be missing out on one of the culinary scene’s welcome newcomers—a half-day cafe that carries the comforts of a First Watch, but with the sophisticated execution of Tasi or Katalina’s.

The White Family has decades of hospitality under their belt—the family owned Galena’s Mudflats until recently, and dad Jeff has been running the OSU Faculty Club for the past 20 years.

Those two were training grounds for son Jeff, once a young, eager dishwasher and now head chef for the White’s new “daylight eatery and bar.” Mom Jane, despite her own admission that in the family’s tavern-running days breakfast didn’t get served until halfway through afternoon, now relishes an intimate spot where people can maintain their own balance between booze and breakfast.

A full-bar at brunch is a rarity in the peculiar little burg, and positioned near Lineage, Old Skool, and Condado, BLunch could be the perfect starting point for a casual Clintonville crawl.

Then again, you may not have another stop after Chef Jeff gets done with ya. He and the White family have concepted a bennies-and-batter focused menu, where you’ll be sure to come back after a healthy amount of indecision. Me? I’ve been dreaming about the Bananas Foster pancakes (topped with ice cream) and the huevos rancheros over masa cake for weeks. – Travis Hoewischer

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Dough Mama • 3335 N High St.

Dough-mama.com

Dough Mama is the top of my list for my favorite breakfast joint. I love so much about this place.

The atmosphere is super chill, laid back, and inviting. The food is so so good. I would call it comfort food with an extra sprinkle of love and thought.

From pie to salad, it’s all good.

They use a variety of local and seasonal ingredients and support some of my favorite local delicacies with Dan the Baker bread and Thunderkiss coffee … YUM! They also have a variety of vegan and gluten-free options.

I am smitten with the Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy muffin. This place is my go to for a yummy drippy egg, roasted potatoes, salad, a sweet treat and a perfect cup of coffee.

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My husband loves Grammie’s Sammie and a piece of Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. I somehow manage to splurge here and feel really really good about it.

Their menu has some great staples but they also always have specials that look and are amazing.

Right now they serve both lunch and breakfast during the day and I’ve heard it through the grapevine that they will soon be open in the evening and serving dinner. I cannot wait to see what delicious dishes they create for that menu. – Jana Rock

Baba’s • 2515 Summit St.

babascolumbus.com

Baba’s is my go-to breakfast spot in Columbus. You can grab a breakfast sandwich on their homemade griddle muffins (aka little pillows of heaven), order a rack of ribs, or in the spirit of Alabama Worley, have a slice of perfect pie and a cup of Thunderkiss coffee.

Their delicious baked goods are made in house, they smoke all of their own meats and their produce and coffee are all sourced locally, though their espresso will send you to the moon.

The service is fast, their team is super-friendly and there are never any pretentious vibes in the super chill atmosphere they have created on the corner of Hudson and Summit.

They’ve made a beautiful impact in their short existence in the SoHud neighborhood, fostering local artistic connections and bringing beautiful new mural art that rotates different artist from the community throughout the year. Don’t forget to grab one of their perfect cinnamon rolls for later. — Vanessa Jean Speckman

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Harvest Pizzeria sowing last seeds in German Village

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Eight years ago, Harvest Pizzeria cropped up in a small space in German Village. Today, the local pizza chain announced the closure of its flagship location.

Harvest Pizzeria German Village will open its doors for the final time on Saturday, April 27th.

“Despite the success of Harvest in German Village and our strong ties to the neighborhood, the owner of the property will not honor our renewal of the lease,” wrote founder Chris Crader in an email. “…the landlord’s demands for a new lease at a higher rate would not allow our little pizzeria to remain viable.

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Crader added that he is proud of the strides Harvest German Village has made over the years, and thankful for the community that’s supported it. He hopes they can return to the neighborhood when the right spot presents itself.

As far as the employees go, Crader wrote that with the success of the other locations, the German Village workers will be able to join a team at another restaurant.

“Harvest sincerely thanks all of its loyal supporters and we hope to see you at our other locations soon,” wrote Crader.

This news follows the announcement of the Grandview Harvest closing back in February. Read more here.

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Crawfish boils claw their way into Columbus Saturday

Mike Thomas

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What’s the deal with crawfish boils? Sure, they’re delicious, but as a true land-lubbing midwesterner, my knowledge of this particular culinary phenomenon is fairly lacking.

That said, I definitely can’t tell you why there are multiple crawfish boils going down this Saturday. Best not to overthink it—just enjoy the experience!

Pecan Penny’s |113 East Main Street
Saturday at 4 PM – 7 PM

Sponsored by Brewdog, downtown BBQ joint Pecan Penny’s is kicking off patio season with an all-you-can-eat Crawfish boil, complete with giveaways and a DJ.

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Rehab Tavern | 456 W Town St
2 PM – 6 PM

Rehab’s own 4/20 crawfish boil kicks off at 2:00. Your $15.75 entrance fee will net you a pint of beer in addition to all-you-can-eat crawfish and fixins’!

Can’t make either of these, or want to try the boil experience before committing to a large-scale event? Check out Kai’s Crab Boil or Boiling Seafood Crawfish—both on Bethel Road —for first-rate seafood experiences you won’t soon forget.

Why are there two crawfish boils on the same day? Why are there two crawfish restaurants on the same road? We may never know, and honestly, who cares? Crawfish is the bomb! Just put on your bib and get crackin’!

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