To seek out more authentic Christmas weather, I made my way up north with Danielle to visit her family in the Buckeye state. Also TIL (or rather Over Christmas I Learned) that a buckeye is a nut produced by the buckeye tree which is naturally the state tree of OH. Put in context, this really doesn’t explain Ohio State’s mascot, but I digress. In the cooler climes of the Midwest, there was much family time to be spent, but I was determined to also get in some beer time.
We flew into Columbus to stay with Danielle’s sister and her family. This meant there would be lots of play time with her almost 2-year-old niece AKA Squirrel. We arrived at the airport before my sister, so I grabbed a Columbus IPA at the nearest bar. This ubiquitous IPA leans towards West Coast style with a nice balance and piney grapefruit finish. As an easy to find OH go-to IPA, this is a great option. After my sister landed, we all headed to Danielle’s sister’s place north of the city and settled into their nice home. I was pleasantly surprised that they had fully stocked their beer fridge for us with an impressive array of local beer. Hoppy highlights of the night were Jackie O’s Mystic Mama IPA and Mandala Single Hop Imperial IPA, both very dank and delicious. I haven’t had a lot of beer from Jackie O’s, but everything I’ve tried has been very good. On the holiday ale front, Great Lakes Christmas Ale was exactly what I want from the style: full of holiday spices, some dark berry flavors, and even some added sweetness from being brewed with honey. These beers combined with several more made for a great and relaxing night to begin my Ohio holiday getaway.
Friday would bring a trip into the city accompanied by the informative tour guide, Danielle’s sister. Our first destination was North Market, the oldest remaining public market in Columbus dating back to the 1870’s. It was chock full of all types of vendors and a feverous energy. We mosied around the expansive space and eventually found a bottle shop with a nice curated draft selection. I had The Brew Kettle L’Hazy Mango IPA, a cloudy NE style IPA with fruity flavors, and a Hoof Hearted It’s Been A Grip Since I’ve Had A Thug Nap, an excellent Black IPA. This sadly forgotten about style is very enjoyable when it’s done well, and Hoof Hearted pulled it off excellently with enough hop character to shine through the roasty malts. I also picked up a couple bottles to go as the shop had a nice selection. Lunch was had at Happy Greek, and I washed my gyro down with the ever present Columbus IPA. A return trip to the market for dinner supplies gave my sister and me an opportunity to dip into Barley’s Brewing Company, conveniently located across the street. I had their Russian Imperial Stout which held true to its origins as a malty and heavily roasted stout. I tried a taste of my sister’s Blurry Bike IPA, and it was pretty solid. With more time, I would have liked to try some other offerings, but it was time to head towards home to put Squirrel to nap.
After a quick recharge at the house, we headed back towards the city. For this trip, I had one requisite brewery we had to go to, and now was the time to check out Hoof Hearted. I had never had any of their beer before the Black IPA earlier, but I had always heard great things about them. Being a hophead, I had to try some fresh juicy brews from the source, and try I did. First up was Did We Just Become Best Fwendz?, a delightfully juicy and tropical DIPA. The hops exploration was just beginning. Next was their most well known beer, Konkey Dong. Having your most popular beer be a knockout like this is always a good sign for your brewery. Yes Or Maybe? was an amazing triple-hopped kolsch with tangerine and vanilla. I didn’t know so much flavor could be packed into a light beer like a kolsch, but Hoof Hearted did it amazingly well. I also had a sour IPA, a dry-hopped gose, two other IPAs, and a 14% vanilla maple coffee stout, all of which were very good to great. I came away seriously impressed with Hoof Hearted, and it wasn’t just because of their sophomoric sense of humor that permeated their beer names. Everything I tried from them was awesome, and they were brewing a good variety of styles. One of these days I’ll make a can release at their brewery north of Columbus and get to check that out. I naturally purchased some cans and a teku to go before we left the brewery.
We headed home for the evening where I had a couple more beers. One of them was Avery’s Tequilacerbus, a woody tequila barrel sour I had bought at the market the day before. The entire barrel aged series from Avery is great, and this was no exception. After a day of drinking, bedtime was the appropriate activity.
The next day would bring some culture along with the necessary beering. A lazy morning was followed by lunch at Valter’s at the Maennerchor, a German restaurant in Columbus. I got to relive my Oktoberfest glory days of months ago by devouring some delicious wienerschnitzel almost as good as the real stuff in Germany. My beer choice of a MadTree PsycHOPathy was slightly less German but nonetheless satisfied my love of hops. After lunch, we went to the Kelton House Museum to learn about Victorian living as well as the Underground Railroad of Ohio. The house was a well preserved throwback to the Victorian era of living, and I’m glad that I don’t have to live in those times. A lack of electricity and running water just doesn’t sit well with my modern sensibilities, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t brewing hazy tropical NEIPAs back then. As the house was used as a safe place along the Underground Railroad, there were informative installments and stories telling the history of the movement helping runaway and freed slaves flee to safer locations. The museum was an insightful window into that period in history, and I recommend anyone who wants to better understand that era pay a visit to the Kelton House.
Having experienced some historical culture, we would now partake of liquid culture by visiting Wolf’s Ridge Brewing. I had 2 flights and got to taste both Danielle and my sister’s beers, and there was not a bad one in the bunch. Standouts were Clear Sky Daybreak (a very flavorful coffee vanilla cream ale), the 10% Howling Moon DIPA, Night Method espresso milk stout, Terre Du Sauvage golden sour, and the Wolfmann stout. Impressive variety done well was the impression I got from the brewery, and a private tour from the very friendly Korbin helped put everything in place. Wolf’s Ridge had a growing barrel aged program in the basement brewery beneath the restaurant’s floor, and we got to explore their nice facilities while Korbin answered all my questions. While we did not eat in the restaurant, the food looked very good, and judging from the attention they put in their beer I’m certain their food would be well thought out as well.
Danielle’s brother in law got a free pass that evening, and we all went out to downtown Westerville. Temperance Row Brewing was located inside a deli and was full of energy. I tried their Christmas Ale, full of all the seasonally appropriate ingredients, and the Scofflaw Scottish Ale, a restrained take on the typically boozy scotch ale. We also stopped by the divey Jimmy V’s, a sports bar down the street. I was surprised to see Shiner Cheer on draft, and the Texan in me couldn’t pass up the novelty of drinking a Texas Christmas beer in Ohio. Eventually the group got tired, and we caught an Uber home for the night.
The day of Christmas Eve involved a drive up north to Elyria where Danielle’s mom lives. Naturally I suggested we stop by a brewery on our drive, and JAFB Brewing was conveniently (mostly) on our way. They caught my eye for having some good IPAs, and the experience lived up to my expectations. I sampled six different IPAs they had, and all were very good at the worst. My favorite was Single Forever, a take on the popular NEIPA style. Hazy and full of smooth citrus flavors from the single Ekuanot hop, it’s a beer I wish I could drink more regularly beyond my probably-to-be-infrequent trips to Wooster, OH. During our trip, we made our way through Amish country, and my sister had her mind blown when we passed horse and buggies on the road. She was shocked to learn that this was something that truly exists in modern times. If the Amish had seen us Snapchatting them on our phones as we passed, they probably would not have been too happy.
Eventually we made it to Elyria and relaxed for the rest of the evening. I enjoyed a couple beers I had bought earlier. Scrip from Jackie O’s was a lovely take on a grisette, funky and full of subtle flavors imparted from wine barrel aging. Bourbon Barrel Aged Impending Descent from Troegs was not so subtle with chocolate, vanilla, and a healthy dose of boozy heat.
Christmas Day would also be a relaxed affair with more time spent with Danielle’s family. In addition to the wonderful traditional Christmas dinner, the younger family played white elephant with the ~$20 gifts we had bought. In an ingenious move, I ended up stealing back my own gift, a set of ice sphere makers. I wanted those things! There were also self-gifts of the beer variety, and I especially enjoyed Whiskey Rebellion by Warped Wing Brewery out of Dayton. There’s nothing like taking a photo of a beer in snow!
On the day after Christmas, I was heading back to New Orleans. Despite the hours of delays, I finally made it home all in one piece. A successful trip of hanging out with Danielle’s family had been had, and my sister even got to integrate with her family. I got to drink some good beer and experience more of what OH has to offer in the craft beer space. I still need to make trips to Jackie O’s and Hoppin’ Frog, but those will have to wait until another trip.