Where to Drink in Columbus, Ohio

Destinations by | Jun 2014 | Issue #89

Illustration by Sam Brewster

It wasn’t long ago that the beer scene in Columbus was dominated by the local Anheuser-Busch brewery on the north side of the city, which cranks out 10 million barrels of Bud Light, Busch and the like each year. In fact, only two craft breweries in the city date back more than 20 years: the Columbus Brewing Company (1988) and Barley’s Brewing Company (1992). Over the last five years, however, more than 20 breweries have opened in Central Ohio, and Columbus is at the heart of the state’s craft beer boom.

From Homestead Beer Company’s classic 10 Penny Amber Ale and 1805 Session IPA, to the more experimental flavors from newcomer Seventh Son (like Thunderkissed Nimbus Coffee Pale Ale, a beer infused with cold brew from local roaster Thunderkiss), the region’s diverse beers are well represented in Columbus’ bar scene. Old-school dives have added craft taps, while new venues have sprung up—from locals like Elevator Brewing, to franchises, such as World of Beer, with its 50 taps and stellar selection. Hit the streets on your own, or sign up for a tour with Columbus Brew Adventures, which will take you to four Columbus breweries, or on a day trip to Rockmill Brewery and Jackie O’s in nearby Athens, or Buckeye Lake Brewery, Homestead Beer Company and Granville Brewing Company in the Granville area.

Every January and August, the Columbus Beer Fest pours more than 300 craft beers for 10,000 attendees. Add to that the Ohio Craft Brew Festival in September, Oktoberfest in the fall, plus several smaller festivals, and there are plenty of opportunities to try great craft beers in the city throughout the year.

101 Beer Kitchen
Every month since January 2013, craft brewers from around the country visit this Dublin-based bar and restaurant to host a dinner with beer pairings. Capped at 65 people, tickets to April’s Brooklyn Brewery dinner sold out in two hours. The bar’s 18 beers on tap and 100-bottle list include a selection of English- and Belgian-style beers, with a number of unusual craft beers on tap you just won’t find anywhere else in town.

Barley’s Brewing Co.
If you’re a CAMRA fan, head over to Barley’s Ale House #1 for some award-winning real ale. They always have a couple of cask-conditioned ales on the menu, and on Firkin Friday, they add a third (while it lasts). Nine house drafts and three guest taps (think Jackie O’s and Thirsty Dog) run the gamut from Scottish Ale to Russian Imperial Stout. A legend of Central Ohio brewing, Angelo Signorino has been with Barley’s for more than 20 years. Find Barley’s second location in the Grandview neighborhood, where they hold a Real Ale Festival every spring.

Bob’s Bar
Known as “The Cultural Hub of the Midwest,” you’ll find locals and beer geeks playing darts or pool at this neighborhood bar. Bob’s has a selection of 240 beers, including 36 drafts and one cask. Along with standard light lagers, they have a rotating selection of regional crafts (try Columbus Brewing’s Brewno or Three Floyds’ Gumball Head) as well as domestic classics, like Stone Ruination.

Located in the chic Short North district, Bodega is one of the most popular happy-hour spots in Columbus. It was completely renovated this spring, and features 49 taps pouring craft and Belgian beers. Sound overwhelming? Let one of the Cicerone-certified servers make a recommendation. If tasting has you hankering to brew your own beer, take a five-minute walk up the street to North High Brewing, where you can brew and bottle your own recipe at the brew-on-premise kettles.

Inspired by its namesake—the oldest bar in Dublin, Ireland—this pub aims to re-create the charm of the Emerald Isle, complete with a bar and fireplace brought to Columbus from Ireland. On Monday nights, draft Ohio beer—like Lancaster’s Rockmill Brewery and Columbus-based Four String Brewing Co.—is only $4. Four String’s brewery is just around the corner, as is Zauber Brewing’s new taproom, which opened in January as part of the two-year-old brewery’s expansion.

Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus
Located downtown in the National Register-listed Columbia Building, the restaurant features 12–13 house drafts, including their award-winning Mogabi American Wheat. Their brewery is just three blocks east on N. 4th Street, with a tasting room open on Saturdays.

Schmidt’s Sausage Haus
A fixture in Columbus for over 125 years, Schmidt’s serves imported and German-style beers in a former livery stable on the brick-lined streets of historic German Village. Try their signature Bahama Mama sausage platter or their half-pound cream puff with a Paulaner or Warsteiner. The sausage house partnered with Columbus-based Elevator Brewery to create rotating seasonal beers and two house beers, a Dortmunder and a Dunkelweizen.

St. James Tavern
A corner bar in the Italian Village, St. James Tavern has been in place for close to 20 years. The bar features 13 rotating taps, with standards such as Bell’s Two Hearted IPA and Columbus-based Barley’s Brewing Company Raspberry Winter Wheat for just $4.

Surly Girl Saloon
Here find Tex-Mex-inspired cuisine and two-dozen beers on tap, divided into organic, women-brewed, high-ABV and Ohio-brewed styles. The focal point of the saloon’s pirate- and Southwest-influenced décor is a large chandelier hanging over the bar. If you’re picky about the music you drink to, Surly Girl has bring-your-own-vinyl nights on the first and third Mondays of each month.

The Crest
The herbs and vegetables on your plate may have come from The Crest’s rooftop garden. What was once a local dive bar has been reimagined to focus on locally sourced ingredients, quickly making it a fixture in Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood. Of the nearly 60 taps, more than 20 feature Ohio beers. The bottle list includes 45-plus American and imported bottles, cans and bombers, like The Bruery Rugbrød, a sweet, spicy Rye beer.

The Pint Room
Located in the suburb of Dublin, The Pint Room specializes in gourmet burgers and craft beer. It has 99 beers, two meads (from local favorite Brothers Drake) and one root beer on tap, and the rotating selection means a new beer menu is printed every day. On a typical visit, you may find breweries from 16 states and six countries represented in the draft list, with at least 25 taps devoted to local brews, like Great Lakes Eye of the Tiger and Fat Head’s Shakedown Stout.

The Short North Pint House & Beer Garden
Another stop in Short North is The Pint House, which opened in 2013. This bar’s high ceilings and picnic tables give it the feel of a German beer hall. The 50 beers on tap, and 30 – 40 in bottles and cans, include some Trappist and Belgian-leaning imports, like Westmalle Trappist Tripel and Omnipollo Leon. A mile away is Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, which has plans to open a taproom this summer.