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Four Loko finally joins the pack of local hard seltzer offerings

Mike Thomas

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You go to sleep one night, and seltzer is just the fizzy stuff in big glass bottles that clowns used to hose fools down with in old cartoons. You wake up, and it’s the hottest beverage trend since India Paled its famous Ale (or whatever).

While the drink predates this calendar year, there can be no doubt that the summer of 2019 belonged to hard seltzer. Whether you were getting “Truly” hammered, or disregarding all laws with White Claws, surely these fizzy intoxicants were a fixture at many a summer function you attended.

A hit with the fit crowd for their low calorie count and negligible carbs, the alcoholic seltzer sensation has washed over the nation like a carbonated, mango-flavored tsunami. Popular though they may be, these beverages are not without detractors. One article in the San Francisco Chronicle called spiked seltzers “the summer’s biggest scam,” pointing to the fact that in spite of marketing to the contrary, the drinks are not in fact seltzers, but carbonated malt beverages (like Smirnoff Ice and Zima).

With enormous international companies such as Anheuser Busch getting in the hard seltzer game, it was only a matter of time until the forward-thinking minds in our city’s booming beverage scene put their own stamp on this latest and greatest toastable trend.

While not native to Columbus per se, Cleveland’s Platform Beer Co. has won a spot in the hearts of local craft brew fans thanks to its hoppin’ downtown taproom and the consistent quality of their products. Platform is also one of the prominent regional brands to embrace the spiked seltzer phenomenon wholeheartedly.

Available in six-packs, Platform’s rotating series of hard seltzers features some flavors that will be familiar to regular drinkers of the national brands, such as black cherry. Where the brand finds a leg up on the competition is a slate of unique offerings like Passionfruit, Ginger-Lime, and Blood Orange Yuzu.

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Platform’s seltzers clock in at the industry standard 5% ABV, and retain the same near-clear, bubbly appearance as most competitors. While a respected craft brewery dipping a toe in this segment might get the mustaches of snobbish craft beer purists twirling, Platform has never been known for playing it safe—and they’re not the only ones.

Seventh Son Brewing sports ample draft handles in their multi-tiered taproom, giving pilot batches of “out there” brews a place to shine among the pleasing regular lineup. With so much room for experimentation, it’s no wonder that Seventh Son has cracked the hard seltzer puzzle.

A departure from the norm in several ways, Seventh Son’s “Kitty Paw” is a raspberry-flavored seltzer crafted with 100% real fruit juice and zero artificial colors or flavors added. The striking pinkish hue of this feline- inspired booze water also helps Seventh Son’s creation stand out from the pack. Opaque and bursting with tart berry flavors, Kitty Paw should be a hit with fans of fruit-flavored lambic beers. Available on-tap only, this initial offering is just the first of a planned series of hard seltzers being cooked up by the Seventh Son team.

No hard look at hard seltzer would be complete without mention of Four Loko, the “blackout in a can” hooch concocted by a group of OSU grads that mixed copious amounts of caffeine (since removed from the recipe) with alcohol, fueling all of your worst college-era mistakes.

If the notion of alcoholic water at first seemed too absurd to believe, leave it to Four Loko to take that absurdity to the most extreme possible end. In a Twitter post dated to August 11, 2019, the company teased their own accursed foray into the hard water game with a beverage that would pair “a hint of blue razz” with a daunting 14% ABV. At the time of this writing, no such drink has appeared on store shelves, for better or worse (…better).

[Update: After much delay, Four Loko announced the release of its hard seltzer product—a 12% ABV black cherry-flavored drink—on November 5, 2019.]

Only time will tell if spiked sparkling water will make the move from passing fad to permanent grocery cooler staple. Refreshing and all-too- crushable by nature, typically gluten-free, and with a fraction of the calories of even the lightest beer, it’s easy to see why summer drinkers were drawn to the spiked watering hole in droves. With companies big and small experimenting in this increasingly-crowded segment, water may just be the hottest new beverage in town.

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Food & Drink

We Sheet you not, Sheetz is coming to Columbus

Mike Thomas

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Regional gas station chains seem to accumulate cult followings of loyal customers. While word of a new convenience store coming to town may not seem like a big deal at first, just ask your friends from Pennsylvania about Sheetz.

The popular chain of convenience stores and coffee shops headquartered in Altoona, Pennsylvania has announced an expansion into the Columbus market with this remarkable hype video posted to Facebook:

Sheetz locations offer fresh, made-to-order food options that set the chain apart from the usual gas station fare.

No open date for the Central Ohio location has been announced at this time. For more, visit www.sheetz.com/

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Raising the Steaks: Ruth’s Chris returns to Columbus with new Short North digs

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With no shortage of local competitors welcoming carnivores, Ruth’s Chris Steak House has opened its doors in the Short North. After shuttering its Crosswoods location in 2016 due to “market changes,” the Florida-based steakhouse is back in the Bus.

The new restaurant promises a fine-dining experience tailored especially to the Columbus market and its location.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

“Knowing that we are across from the convention center, this is one of our bigger locations to allow room for a larger bar, private dining rooms and main dining room,” says Maria Policastro, general manager of Ruth’s Chris Columbus. “We kept the Short North Arts District culture in mind during every step of the design process as well, making sure we included elements that incorporated the downtown skyline and ever-present Ohio buckeye trees.”

Indeed, the entrance feels homey and features local art on display to bring some “Columbus” to the space. The building was once home to a hotel, and while undeniably formal, the dinner-only restaurant nevertheless offers a warm and welcoming feel. The waitstaff has its service down to an absolute science. Hand-polished wine glasses top each table and every element of the dining experience is expertly attended to.

Regardless of whether diners care to indulge in one of its more than 250 wines or a vintage-inspired craft cocktail, the main event here is the food. Its extra-thick-cut, wet-aged USDA prime steaks are broiled in a trademark 1800-degree oven and served sizzling on a 500-degree plate so every last bite stays warm.

“From our food to our service, Ruth’s Chris really stands out on its own,” said Policastro. “Ruth believed in treating her guests and employees as family, so that’s how we treat them too—by being warm and welcoming and paying attention to every little detail.”

Ruth Fertel mortgaged her home in 1965 and purchased Chris’s Steak House, a 60-seat restaurant located in New Orleans. After a fire forced her to move locations and rename the restaurant, she settled on Ruth’s Chris Steak House, hence the somewhat strange moniker.

Fertel, who died in 2002 at 75, would likely be shocked to see the size of the private dining rooms in the Columbus restaurant that bears her name. “Our private dining rooms are some of the largest at any Ruth’s Chris,” says Policastro. “When designing our private dining rooms, it was important to us that we made enough space to accommodate our customers in this busy area, along with larger parties who choose to dine with us after visiting the Convention Center or coming from the Ohio State University nearby.”

The private dining rooms each have their own unique Columbus vibe, with names like the Goodale, Victorian and Buckeye Rooms. Which is fitting because, “we’re around the corner from Columbus’ historic Goodale Park, we’re part of the Victorian Village, and we are in the heart of Buckeye nation,” Policastro said. Ruth’s Chris Steak House Columbus is already seeing its private rooms booking up for upcoming events and holidays. “We cannot wait to host these special moments for those who live in and visit the Short North Arts District.”

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is located at 511 N High Street. Learn more at ruthschris.com/restaurant-locations/columbus.

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Easton’s “dramatic” rooftop bar and restaurant opens this week

614now Staff

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Heads up, Easton, a snazzy new concept is opening this week. Restoration Hardware, or RH, will open The Gallery at Easton Town Center and RH Rooftop Restaurant & Park and Wine & Barista Bar on Thursday, December 12, at 11am.

According to a release, The Gallery "represents the brand’s quest to revolutionize physical retailing," with "immersive experience features artistic installations of luxury home furnishings in a gallery setting."

The three-story, 55,000-square-foot space will serve as "one of the most comprehensive collections of luxury home furnishings in the world."

The "dramatic" Rooftop Restaurant will offer "a year-round, skylit garden escape offering a timeless, ingredient-driven menu beneath a soaring atrium with retractable glass walls, and sparkling crystal chandeliers.

The restaurant will open onto a landscaped park with outdoor lounge spaces and trellised London plane trees.

Situated just off the grand stair, the Wine & Barista Bar will serve craft espresso, fresh-baked pastries, and artisanal wines to enjoy in the Rooftop Park.

This development will act as the anchor for Easton's new $500 million expansion.

RH Columbus, The Gallery at Easton Town Center is located at 4120 Worth Ave., Columbus. For more information, visit eastontowncenter.com.

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