While fans of The Ohio State University practically bleed scarlet and gray, there’s more to Ohio’s capital city than the famed Buckeyes or the state’s iconic peanut butter and chocolate candy bearing the same name. Columbus is overflowing with new breweries. Half of the nearly 40 breweries that call the city home have opened in the past five years, and like any good beer city, there are more on the way.
Having front-row access to this burgeoning beer scene makes a visit to Columbus key right now (not to mention that if you get stamps in the Columbus Ale Trail booklet from all 37 breweries by May 2018, you’ll receive a locally crafted wooden flight tray and five tasting glasses). Plus you can be one of the few in the country to sip these beers, as many of the breweries don’t distribute widely outside the Columbus area yet.
Check in at Hotel LeVeque (50 W. Broad St.), a new boutique hotel in LeVeque Tower, an art deco-style building that dates to 1927. The hotel puts you within easy access of numerous breweries (along with the Scioto Mile, a paved recreational path).
Start your weekend at Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus (161 N. High St.), located in an 1897 building that’s on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks. Although you can visit its nearby taproom, the restaurant with its mosaic tile floor, stained-glass windows, decorative ceiling and mahogany bar is a must. The brewery features 12 to 14 taps, and four additional taps are reserved for the house-brewed root beer, ginger beer and draft cocktails.
Stop for lunch around the corner at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing (215 N. Fourth St.) where its reputation for food is as strong as its beer. The brewery’s Snow Cone extra pale ale is hopped with whole-cone Mosaic hops). With vintage windows and natural light, the taproom in the back is also worth visiting (it opens at 3 p.m. on Fridays).
Although all 37 breweries are on the Columbus Ale Trail, six have the distinct honor of being on Brewer’s Row, including the two you’ve just visited. Now it’s time for the third, Barley’s Brewing Co. (467 N. High St.), a Columbus establishment for over 20 years. Every Friday, Barley’s taps a firkin of cask-conditioned ale.
Take a break from beer tasting to peruse the Pizzuti Collection (632 N. Park St.). Even if art isn’t your thing, this three-floor collection of modern art will intrigue you, as it features eclectic pieces by established and emerging artists from around the world.
Knock out the fourth brewery on Brewer’s Row at Hoof Hearted Brewery & Kitchen (850 N. Fourth St.) where a pool from an adjacent fitness center sits off the outdoor patio. Brewery guests can visit the pool or spend time in the sleekly designed brewery with its ’80s vibe and whimsical artwork. Order a flight of four “hoofy” drafts, each with its own playing card, and make sure to try the Jacuzzi Shortz Cuz pale ale or Musk of the Minotaur IPA.
Dinner tonight is at another new gem, Rockmill Tavern (503 S. Front St.). Rockmill operates a brewery in Lancaster, about 30 minutes outside the city, but recently opened this farmhouse-style tavern to highlight its Belgian-inspired beers. For an after-dinner cocktail, head to Curio (495 S. Fourth St.) where you’ll find unique craft cocktails plus a rotating tap, often from an Ohio brewery.
There’s only one place where you’ll find a restaurant with “Peace, Love and Pancake Balls” as its mantra, and that’s Katalina’s (1105 Pennsylvania Ave.), a funky eatery in a 100-year-old former gas station. It’s such a hot spot that the tables–you can dine in or out year-round–fill fast, so arriving early is wise. Katalina’s emphasizes locally sourced, high-quality products like Thunderkiss coffee from a small-batch roaster. And while you can’t go wrong with the Shagbark Black Bean Tacos, you have to try the Original Pancake Balls, filled with Nutella, dulce de leche or pumpkin-apple butter.
Even though your tummy may be full, head next to North Market (59 Spruce St.), a public market where you can stock up on spices, cooking products, coffee and, yes, beer. Stop by The Barrel & Bottle to shop or sip a pint from its three rotating handles.
Land-Grant Brewing Company (424 W. Town St.) in the up-and-coming Franklinton neighborhood is your next stop. Making friends is the name of the game here, as 24-foot communal tables let you mingle with other beer lovers. The brewery features 18 taps (tap number 13 is always a sour), and playing cards give you specifics about each creation. Gluten-free folks will appreciate the dedicated gluten-free tap, which was serving Mad Moon Hard Cider at press time.
No beer weekend is complete without pizza, and you’ll find some of the best at Harvest Pizzeria (495 S. Fourth St.) at its flagship location in German Village, a cozy eatery where you can watch pizzas cooking in wood-fired ovens. Harvest has two beers on tap, including its Harvest Pale Ale (brewed by Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing Co.) and the Harvest Moon Nut Brown (brewed locally by Seventh Son Brewing).
One of the year’s biggest beer stories was undoubtedly the opening of BrewDog’s 100,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters in Canal Winchester, Ohio. It’s about a 25-minute drive there, but it’s a can’t-miss stop, as BrewDog (96 Gender Road) is a destination with a full kitchen and gaming area with shuffleboard and pinball machines. The 170-barrel brewery has 24 taps in the DogTap tasting room, eight in the retail merchandise space and another eight at the patio bar (and, of course, the patio is dog-friendly). BrewDog is opening a hotel, which will also include a souring facility, in late 2018 on its site and a tasting room in Franklinton by the first of 2018. A dog park is also in the works.
Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail at North High Brewing (1288 N. High St.) in Short North, the fifth brewery on Brewer’s Row. The atmosphere is so inviting you’ll feel like you’ve walked into your neighborhood pub. Grab a seat at the mahogany bar and choose from almost 20 taps, including its award-winning Pale Ale.
Then treat your taste buds to dinner in Victorian Village at Basi Italia (811 Highland St.) where you can dine in the cozy interior or the outdoor terrace. Choose from Mediterranean and Italian dishes, complementing your meal with a wine from Basi’s extensive list or a beer from one of its two taps, one of which is a local brew from Seventh Son Brewing.
Speaking of Seventh Son (1101 N. Fourth St.), that’s where you’re heading next to complete your Brewer’s Row tour. This is a popular late-night spot so don’t be surprised if it’s an elbow-to-elbow crowd. Fortunately, there are two patios, one more of a beer garden, where you can enjoy creations like the Humulus Nimbus, a strong pale ale, or the Scientist, a “constantly shifting” IPA.
Need a nightcap? Hit the Keep at LeVeque Tower (50 W. Broad St.), a chic French brasserie and bar with a surprisingly extensive list of local drafts.
Your day begins at Fox in the Snow Cafe (1031 N. Fourth St.), a popular bakery coffee shop with community-style seating. Get your sweet tooth ready, as the bakery churns out delectable, monstrously sized delicacies like the croissant morning buns and cinnamon rolls. More traditional breakfast palates might enjoy the egg sandwich or housemade granola.
Breweries here waste no time opening early in the day, and one of the first—it opens at 10 a.m. on Sundays—is Platform Beer Co. (408 N. Sixth St.), headquartered in Cleveland. Its Columbus location opened late last year in a former meat processing facility with a roughly 30-seat rail and dozens of community-style tables. Platform features 26 taps, including small-batch ones brewed at the Columbus location, with a wide profile ranging from IPAs to sours and ciders.
Now that it’s lunch time, head to The Guild House (624 N. High St.). This new upscale eatery is so popular that reservations are a necessity. For dessert, walk a few doors down to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (714 N. High St.), a Columbus icon known for eclectic flavors like wildberry lavender and hard cider sorbet.
Your last stop is at Four String Brewing Co. (985 W. Sixth Ave.). Four String brews what it calls rock & roll craft beer, thanks to its founder’s roots as a bass guitarist. Beers are poured courtesy of tap handles shaped like guitar necks, ensuring you end your beer weekend on a good note.
Karen Asp, an Indiana-based journalist, travels frequently for beer and counts it as her favorite travel souvenir.