Through the hopvine: beer culture livens fest
Published: Monday, September 17, 2007
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
|Recent OSU graduate Gabe Woolum sips a beer during the Columbus Microbrew Festival in the Short North's North Market.|
With the exception of not getting carded for alcohol, this was no fraternity party and the scene bore little resemblance to what most Ohio State fans are used to seeing on a gameday - let alone what most OSU students experience in college.
The North Market's second annual Columbus Microbrew Festival held in the Short North welcomed an expected crowd of about 1,200 people (average age, late 30s to 40s) to try beers from half a dozen microbreweries located throughout Columbus and a new one from Zanesville, Ohio.
Jay Wince, who with his wife recently started the Weasel Boy Brewing Company in Zanesville, said it is the departure from the normal and the typical that inspires people to try what - in beer-people jargon - are called "craft beers" or "microbrews."
"We all got tired of Wonder Bread and Budweiser, all the generic brands - McDonalds - and so we all got together," he said.
Wince is anything but generic. An amateur brewer for the past 13 years, the man with longish, grey hair who prefers "stouts and porters" named his brewery after his and his wife's adoration of their pet ferret - a member of the weasel family.
And it is in part this appreciation for the alternative selection and the crave for personality that brings the brewers and drinkers (who are often the same people) together as a community.
"It's a very close camaraderie," said Chris Alltmont, head brewer of the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company. "If you don't know somebody at a brewery, you probably know somebody who does. There's one, at most two, degrees of separation."
Many of the brewers at the festival said one thing that distinguishes small microbreweries from the larger, more corporate producers is the lack of "cut-throat" competition.
"The more people there are [drinking craft beers], the better for us," Wince said. "Once someone tries a craft beer, they're more likely to try another one, and someone from another brewery might say, 'Hey, I know this other place that has a great pale ale,'" Wince said.
Using a catch-phrase popular among OSU promoters, Wince said there is extensive diversity in the types of people - bankers, lawyers, scientists and others were his examples - among those who he has known to gather around "a good beer."
"You get all these people who have nothing else in common and then you all get together around the beer and find all this other stuff you have in common," Wince said.
Microbrew beer culture certainly has its elitist side, and while some, such as festival attendee and recent OSU graduate Gabe Woolum, avoid the label beer snob, others wear it as a badge of honor.
"Really it's people who gravitate toward good beer and finer dining," Wince said. "You may not be able to go to Hawaii, but you can buy better food and better beer."
Pouring one out for the students
Seated next to the Columbus Brewing Company stand at the festival, Woolum and a few of his friends still studying at OSU casually drank while the beer-laden crowd bustled into lines.
But for a crowd so close to campus showing so much school spirit, there was a conspicuous lack of the younger-age-group variety.
Several of the brewers said they had trouble estimating how much of their market was college students, simply because they expected most of their business to come from older generations with more robust incomes.
"My experience is that college students don't have the money even if they like [the beer]," said Victor Ecimovich III, brewmaster of the L. Hoster Brewing Company. Ecimovich added probably not as many students are turning to microbrews as "might have been maybe 10 years ago."
Woolum's friend John Seifert, an OSU senior in welding engineering, said typically the microbrews appeal more to the "older college student, because when you're a freshman, you kind of take what you can get."
"When you're older, you can go to the store and spend a half an hour looking at beers," Seifert said. "When I turned 21, I don't know that I would have necessarily come down here."
But for those who like supporting the local breweries, going for the small-town brews can be a little closer to home than those reminiscent of college.
"Especially around here in Columbus, you can relate to [the breweries] a little better," Seifert said. "We've kind of known about Hoster's since we were young."
The Brew Review:
Beer: Märzen Brewer: Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Review: Billed as "a dry, auburn-colored Bavarian lager with a mildly sweet finish," the Märzen offered a quirky but solid taste. At 5.7 percent alcohol content, this is a smooth beer tasty enough for when drunk, but strong enough to feel when sober.
Beer: Buckeye Red Ale Brewer: Elevator Brewing Company Review: More mature than one might expect from a Natty-guzzling Buckeye crowd, Buckeye Red Ale takes advantage of a slightly smokey flavor to produce a flavorful beer that the drinker will not tire from after only one glass.
Beer: Barley's Pilsner Brewer: Barley's Brewing Company Review: Like most pilsners, Barley's version has a light, clean feel. Though not a weak beer, it is definitely one that lets you catch your breath. It is good for a while, and a person could drink it all day, but there is really no reason to when Barley's offers so much more variety. Have one, enjoy it and then move on.