Et Tu?

Roman Polansky.
Bill Cosby.
Jeffrey Epstein.
Harvey Weinstein
C. K. Lewis.
Fred Lee?

I am still in shock. You’ve probably heard the accusations by now. (If you haven’t, go here.) My thoughts are all over the place right now.

When I joined the craft beer community over a quarter century ago, as one of the first to open in Columbus, I helped many subsequent breweries find their footing. I was proud to do so, and continue to help anyone who reaches out to me. When I got into the craft beer community, there were just over 200 brewpubs and microbreweries (as they were called then) in the entire country. Today, there are about 50 just in the Columbus metro area.

In this time, I have found the participants to be friendly, supportive and collaborative. The craft beer industry is one I’m passionately proud to be a part of. As craft beer has become big business, I have noticed that the communal spirit that I grew up with now has a few exceptions. Players who don’t have the entire community in mind. Nothing too alarming, though.

Until yesterday.

I read a few social media posts about some, frankly, horrible things. Then, Columbus Alive posted their cover story on line.

Multiple women accuse Actual Brewing founder Fred Lee of sexual assault

At this point, all we know is there are accusations. It looks like a lot of them. It is unfair to make premature conclusions at this time. But the news makes me sick to my stomach. To protect privacy, I won’t name names. But I know women first hand who have experienced sexual assault (unrelated to this case.) They will never get justice. Even if they could, they carry trauma with them for the rest of their lives.

I write this for two reasons. First, I want to make you aware that the vast majority of our beer community is not like this. I know most of them. If you are a casual craft beer fan, you probably subscribe to the stereotype that craft brewers are bearded and wear eccentric clothes. Fred Lee fits this description. So do many other brewers in town.

Please, don’t paint our entire beer community with one brush. The vast majority have families, and have the same dreams and desires you do. They work hard. Don’t forsake the whole tree for one alleged bad lemon.

The second reason I decided to post is that I sincerely want to turn a lemon into lemonade. There’s no good way to do this. This stain is out in the open. The best course of action is to learn from the past and make for a better future.

Many of you know that I operate both Smokehouse Brewing Company and Commonhouse Ales, a more recent endeavor. I set up Commonhouse Ales to be a socially responsible business. We set up an account through the Columbus Foundation called Commonhouse Shares.

It’s funded through sales of Six One For Good Ale. $1 from every six pack sold goes to Commonhouse Shares. To date, we have funded around $20,000 and have granted about $10,000 to local charities.

Today, I have directed the Columbus Foundation to cut a check for $1,000 to Gracehaven, our first charity to get a second grant from us.

Gracehaven’s mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in central Ohio and provide rehabilitative, trauma informed care to survivors. What got exposed yesterday is horrific. But evil has to start somewhere. It’s starts with the children.

There are over 1,000 children who are sexually trafficked in Ohio annually. Really.

I spoke with Sara Tate, development director for Gracehaven, today. Gracehaven is expanding space available to house girls rescued from the streets, from six beds to 24. These girls are traumatized. Many are admitted as addicts. Rehab is no sure thing. It takes a long time of patient care, which Gracehaven does spendidly.

Let me tell you about one girl in Gracehaven’s care right now. She was sold out, at age 8, by her mother to her uncle. 8! She recently got off the streets and is 12 years old now. She’s slowly doing well. Do you doubt, though, that she’ll be scarred for life? Never sure who to trust? Evil. It’s all around us.

Evil. We must fight it, with every ounce of our energy.  This is my feeble attempt to use  light as disinfectant.

I won’t judge what happened until all the facts are out, in broad daylight, but I do have a question:

Et tu, Fred Lee?

Lenny Kolada
aka Brewdood

P.S. I leave you with the lyrics to Get Together, by the Youngbloods. It makes me feel better to read the lyrics today. I hope it does the same for you.

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now
If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold


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Birth of a Beer: The Backstory

Happy New Year! I find it hard to believe I don’t blog as much as I should. Real life gets in the way. In any case, I’m overdue. You may want to crack open a beer before you read this. It goes on for a bit.

Today, I  fill you in on how it came to be that we’re coming out with our first new beer since Commonhouse Ales started production, a bit over a year ago.


If you’ve ever started up your own business, one of the first things you pay attention to is what tracks and what doesn’t. While patience is a virtue, reality has to enter at some point.  You are probably aware that our start got an abrupt wake-up call when our distributor’s warehouse completely burned to the ground soon after we started production. One of the witnesses to the fire said the exploding kegs sounded like something more appropriate in a war setting.

We started over, brewing again in the face of a major disruption in our supply chain. We got back on track, but in the end, our distributor couldn’t quite get back on it’s feet. They were much more of a casualty than we were at the time.

Against this backdrop, we brewed more Six One For Good, our flagship Amber Ale, and eventually brewed our winter and spring seasonals for distribution early in 2017. Those seasonals were IBU UBME, our imperial IPA and Hoptopus, our pale wheat ale.

Because our distributor was still regrouping from the fire, sales of the two seasonals flagged. Soon, it became apparent that we would make a switch to another distributor, not willing to wait for the ship to right itself. In late spring of 2017 we made the switch, partnering with Columbus Distributing Company.

As a part of that switch, CDC elected to not purchase IBU UBME, because it was due to expire. They took on Hoptopus as well as Six One For Good. Unfortunately, Hoptopus didn’t sell into the market well as we transitioned to an entirely new team.

We decided to concentrate on selling Six One For Good. It’s the only beer that we offer year round, and it’s our Beer For Good where a portion of proceeds is donated to local charities through the Columbus Foundation. To date, we’ve funded about $17,000.

A tougher decision was to not brew Summer Sesh, our session IPA that won the King of Ohio competition, judged best session IPA in Ohio. With a new distributor, we concentrated on Six One For Good and waited for our fall seasonal, Punkt, our imperial pumpkin porter. Fortunately, Punkt sold out quickly. We were finally back on track. Then we brewed our winter seasonal, Imagine, a spiced winter ale. Imagine sold out by the end of November. We were finding our stride. Finally, a year after we’d opened.

With IBU UBME, Hoptopus,  Summer Sesh and Winter Sesh being shelved, at least for now, we were down to three beers: Six One For Good, Punkt and Imagine. If you notice, that’s a half year that we’d only have one beer to sell. Not good.

Of course, we knew our predicament roughly around May 2017. That’s when we started planning for a new beer.


We got together to discuss what we should brew. It became obvious that it would be an IPA. Of course, that doesn’t make for an easy decision. You know that there are a bunch of sub-styles and variations than you can shake a hop at. We’d have to select one.

For those of you who have been following the Commonhouse Ales story, you know that we use our brewpub, Smokehouse Brewing Company, serves as our tap room and as our R&D facility. Every beer that makes it to Commonhouse has been brewed and vetted at Smokehouse first.

In the 20 years that Smokehouse has been in existence, we have brewed around 20 different IPAs. Easy peasy. Pick one that sold well and brew it up big time. Arguably, Centennial IPA is our most popular IPA. It’s got to be a contender.

Coincidentally, and before we concluded that we’d be brewing an IPA at Commonhouse, we brewed MOHBEE at Smokehouse. It’s our version of a New England style IPA. We brewed it just because. It turned out that people really liked it. We really liked it. Could this be it?

A part of the NEIPA style is that it is opaque. The intense haze is similar to orange juice. Ours was hazy. Our fear though, is that over time, this beer would start to clear. We can’t control what accounts do to our beer after it leaves our distributor’s warehouse. This was the only reason we decided not to go forward with MOHBEE.

What should have been a fairly easy decision now mired us in indecision. We had so many recipes available to us, we couldn’t decide. It’s now autumn. We want an IPA for early 2018. Time’s running out.  What to do?


We made a bold decision. We would brew three IPAs simultaneously and throw it up for a vote and we’d encourage written comments. We would let our community decide.

We came up with three recipes, using different combinations of hops and we brewed them. We code named them IPA C, IPA M and IPA H. (CMH is our airport code.) We wouldn’t offer up any descriptions. We’d let the beers speak for themselves.


It was now late autumn 2017. We were still hopeful that we’d be able to get a winner brewed in time for 2018. In two weeks time, we had about 300 people fill out comment cards after trying a flight of all three. Not public at the time, the favorite (though not overwhelmingly so) was IPA H.

As a part of this effort, some of those who filled out their comment card would be in the running for participation in a private beer panel session, where we’d take a deeper dive into these beers, with discussion. Additionally, we randomly selected other beer geeks through social media.

On December 4, 2017, we conducted the beer panel session. About 35 people attended. The slate was five different IPAs. Not known to the panel, the beers were, in addition to IPA C, M and H, Centennial IPA and a well known locally brewed IPA not brewed by us were also included. (Gulp!)


At the end of the session, the IPA that emerged as the favorite was… IPA H. (Second place was the well known locally brewed IPA.) Two times it emerged on top. We had our marching orders. With only minor recipe tweaking, we will be brewing IPA H at Commonhouse Ales on January 8.


Concurrently, we were working on packaging design. We needed updating anyhow to reflect that we’re no longer a B Corporation Pending, and we wanted to include the Independent Craft logo. Additionally, we wanted our packaging to pop better when placed in a sea of craft beer.

Regarding name, we decided we had enough on our plate, so we settled on Commonhouse IPA. Simple.

After a protracted process, we finally had our design. At the 11th hour, we were second guessing our decision to go with the simple name.


At the 11th hour, we discussed how awesome the process was involving community to help us decide what the profile of our IPA would be. This was truly an IPA By The People.


In return, we are calling our newest beer IPA For The People. Fitting, don’t you think? In about a month, IPA FTP will hit watering holes and shelves throughout central Ohio.



We are thankful to everyone who had a hand in creating Columbus’ newest IPA. We really appreciate the enthusiasm and support. Time will tell how it’s received. We’re pretty stoked about it right now, though.

One more thing. We’re always messing around with beer. Quietly, and with no one aware, we did a home brew batch of a pre-Prohibition style pilsner recipe. We never intended to even serve it at the brewpub. It’s just something we do as a part of deep R&D. We wanted to see if a pilsner could be remarkably different than what’s available these days. not knowing what we’d do with it. It turned out pretty good.

We decided that we’d serve this as a “cool-down” beer at the beer panel session, after we were done with the IPAs. Yeah, I know, serving a pilsner after a session of nothing but IPAs?

When we announced that we’d be serving a pilsner as a bonus, there was audible groaning from the panel. “Why do you want to ruin a perfectly good evening?”

We did it anyhow. I’m not kidding, it was a magical moment. Skepticism turned to bewilderment, which in turn turned to confusion, and finally to accolades. Actual comments from that night.

“I would never have thought a pilsner could taste good after a bunch of IPAs!”
“Brew this now, and take all my money!”

Before the evening was over, the tasting panel participants told us this should be a future beer at Commonhouse Ales. Surprised, yet delighted, we have scaled up this pilsner and brewed it at Smokehouse. It should be on tap at Smokehouse around the first week in February, about the same time IPA For The People hits the streets. Let us know what you think.

Beer. There’s an adventure around every corner. A fire that created circumstances that led to an IPA. And an IPA that led to a pilsner. Now you know the rest of the beer story. We love our jobs!


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Letting Go To The Deep End

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
— George Bernard Shaw

First, an apology. You will read a mix of “we” and “I” in this post. It’s because what you are about to read is both “we” and “I,” intertwined. There’s no separating the two. OK, here we go.

Big day, today.

Some think that love is about holding on, but it isn’t. It is about your fingers holding on to the edge, then letting go, one finger at a time.

We take a deep breath today—as we prepare to drop. It’s not my first time here, yet the motion is still a bit unsettling, the thrill of the flight. That headlong dive into the deep unknown. Just go with it, right? Today is the day we take on another lover.

If you’ve followed my years in Columbus craft beer, you know my passion is biased toward an inviting brewpub setting. Since the dawn of civilization, beer has been a social beverage. A little drink, a few friends and lots of laughs. The ultimate “let your hair down” setting.


Today, over 23 years since I started this journey, my horizons have expanded. I’m BFFs with yet another craft brewery, this time on the production side.

At this point, the desire to start another endeavor is much different than it was when I was in my 30s. Then, I had something to prove–to myself, as well as to you. Today, there may still be an ember of that motivation. But it’s not the driving force.

In today’s world, it is all too easy to be pessimistic. We’re not victims, though. It’s still possible to remain positive, right? Even though it may feel like swimming upstream?

We’re going to find out. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you Commonhouse Ales, Columbus’ newest a craft brewery. We plan on brewing kick-ass beer. Under the hood, though, we aspire to do much more.

commonhouse ales log bw

Commonhouse Ales is an exploration to see if a business can ensure its own viability while expanding the definition of what success is, and what a corporate citizen can be. We will not just focus on the bottom line, important as that is. We will also apply equal focus on the well-being of our employees and our community.

Excuse us as we discover along the way how we’ll make this happen. We haven’t even been on our first date yet. Exhilarating, this is a journey without an end destination in mind; we’ll form our actions based on what we learn along the way.

Make no mistake, though. We have formed our DNA in a way such that we’ll be held accountable for straying. A little background, first.

Smokehouse Brewing Company has been in existence for over 17 years now, as a brewpub. That will continue. In fact, it may even be a cooler place to visit than ever. In addition to what you know as the ‘House, it will also become the incubator for beers that will progress as production beers at Commonhouse Ales. 2015 saw 16 new beers, an effort that exceeds even that of a startup brewpub. While maybe not at that pace, look for those efforts to continue. The Smokehouse is now the experimental incubator for an ever-evolving craft beer scene in CBus.

Why the different name? First, Commonhouse is different ownership than at the Smokehouse. Also, we’re not smoking anything at Commonhouse.

Commonhouse is stocked with Smokehouse veterans. Dan Pollock will continue as General Manager at the ‘House, while serving a Business Manager at Commonhouse. Sam Hickey has been promoted to Brewmaster of both Smokehouse and Commonhouse. Alex Kolada has been promoted to Head Brewer at Smokehouse, and will serve as Assistant Brewer at Commonhouse. I’ll keep doing what I do, whatever that is.

We both have “House” in our names. Commonhouse Ales is the new name, because despite us all being unique, we also all have something in Common.

Written into our operating agreement, we will adhere to a “triple bottom line,” one that places equal focus on our crew, our community and our own selves. How will we do that?

  • Employees: We’ll give our crew say in the course of our business. We’ll try like heck to provide compensation above industry standards, and we’ll work to create a positive, exciting work environment.
  • Community: We will strive to be environmentally conscious. We’ll consider hiring those who need a leg up and who show a willingness to join a team. And we will also contribute to those less fortunate in our community.Our flagship ale, Columbus Common, will be available year round. $1 of every six pack sold will fund Commonhouse Shares, our charitable account managed by the Columbus Foundation. Once funds are deposited, we have committed that we can’t take that money back. These funds will eventually be granted to Central Ohio charities that show great need. We have kick-started this fund with $10,000 of our own funds.

We are also a certified B Corporation Pending. Led by B Lab, an independent third party organization that will hold our feet to the fire through annual audits, they will ensure that we benefit not only ourselves, but our employees and our greater community. We are the first craft brewer in Ohio to do so. You may have heard of a few other B Corporations. Here in town, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is one. New Belgium Brewing Company is another.

We have been planning this launch since May, 2014, when we first held a discussion with Eric Bean about acquiring his assets at the former Columbus Brewing Company location. Yep, we purchased his equipment there, and will continue to brew there, in the Brewery District.

Our planning is almost done. It’s time to start executing. We will start transforming at this location as soon as we get the keys later this week. We expect to hit the streets of Columbus no later than May of this year. Woot!

So… Hello, Columbus!

We all know beer is good. But Beer for Good is better. We hope you are as excited about this as we are. Visit us as, and follow our shenanigans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art. Write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And we hope, somewhere this year, you surprise yourself. Let go of that ledge. Fly.


“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.” – David Bowie

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Long Time, No Post

LK sketch3
My apologies. It’s been a year since my last post. We’ve been busy at the Smokehouse, and otherwise. No excuse, though. Consider this a pre-post. I will make my first official post of 2016 on Tuesday, January 19. Stay tuned…



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Please Allow Us to Introduce Himself

Changes are brewing at Smokehouse Brewing Company. The start of 2015 finds us with a new Head Brewer.

Sam Hickey is a Columbus native who left ten years ago to pursue culinary training in Cincinnati. He eventually relocated to Boston, where, after working for a few years in casual and fine dining, he met the owner of Mystic Brewing Company, a microbiologist and brewer, and used his home brewing experience and Cicerone certification to score a volunteer position at the brewery. In the three years since, Sam rose to second in command in the brewery, playing an instrumental role in the evolution of Mystic Brewing.

A decade after leaving CBus, he’s back — this time as Head Brewer at Smokehouse Brewing Company, succeeding long-time brewer Angelo Signorino, Jr. Here are some highlights from a wide-ranging and fun conversation I had with Sam last month.

brewdood and samBrewdood with Sam Hickey, Head Brewer at Smokehouse Brewing Company


Being a brewer was something I never considered when I was young. I was pretty ADD. Every other week I wanted to be something else when I grew up. Two considerations were priest and auto mechanic.

I’d wish I could have dinner with (beer writer) Michael Jackson, Louis Pasteur and my brother Ben. Ben’s included so I’d be sure I had a good time.

My musical tastes are eclectic. Bluegrass, blues, I’m not picky. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say Simon and Garfunkel.

If I had three wishes, I’d wish for “Do what I love,” “Get paid well,” and “Have time for family.”

I was 7 or 8 when I had my first drink. My Mom let me have a small taste. It was Labatt’s Blue.

If I wasn’t brewing, I’d be cooking and looking. Looking for something else.

If I could have one superpower it would be super-vision. I work a lot with a microscope, and it would be cool to just look at the slide without squinting. No, not supervision.  I’m not interested in middle management.

My favorite thing to whip up in the kitchen is anything French cuisine. Escoffier is a hero to me. I can only afford to do that about once a year, so my other favorite thing to do is walk into my kitchen, look at what’s on hand and create an amazing dinner that leaves my fiancée  asking, “How did you do that?”

I’ve done a lot of things before settling on brewing. I like the challenge of wearing many hats. A brewer’s job is 95% janitorial. He’s also a plumber, mechanic, scientist, chef and critic. I like that.

My favorite beer? It changes season to season. I have had two beers in my life, though, where the entire world shut down around me while experiencing them.

The first is Field Mouse’s Farewell, a farmhouse ale brewed by Pretty Things  Beer and Ale Project. Dann Paquette, owner and brewmaster there is a genius.

The other is Rose de Gambrinus from Cantillon Brewery, a kind of bastard style. They didn’t want it to be confused with modern-day framboise lambics, so they called it a rose. It’s a beautiful lactic-balanced sour ale.

My fridge right now includes some homebrew, one pancake, condiments, a bottle each of Ephemere Cranberry white ale from Unibroue and Mastermind Double IPA brewed by Fiddlehead Brewing Company out of Vermont. Oh, and egg nog. You have to have egg nog, right?

The best part of creating a new beer is tasting it for the first time.

A beer I haven’t brewed yet? OK, this is hypothetical. I have been intrigued with brewing a beer that includes consommé.  This seemingly simple broth includes, among other things, ground meat and egg whites, which are essential to making it clear. I’m intrigued to see if using albumen would clear out a beer.  I haven’t done any test batches, though, because I haven’t been able to find a source for pig’s blood.

My proudest accomplishments so far are receiving the ACF Presidential Medallion while in culinary school and that gold medal at GABF for Vinland II, an experimental beer brewed using yeast cells isolated from a wild Maine blueberry.

(When asked where he sees the craft beer industry heading in the next decade, we expected an answer that had to do with emerging styles. Instead, this was his response.)

We are in an absolute beer bubble right now. Sometime in the next ten years, this bubble will burst. The shakeout is already starting to happen.  At the same time, craft beer lovers will become open to lesser known styles. These aren’t weird styles, but rather, traditional styles that haven’t been seen in the States.

Brewing great beer is 100% democracy, rather than a dictatorship. Advice and feedback are invaluable.

My local hero (in Boston) is Will Meyers, brewmaster at Cambridge Brewing Company. He’s been there for 20 years. Some of his beers have been years ahead of everyone else. (Ed. note. If there’s a single reason Brewdood got into the craft brewing industry, it’s his visit to Cambridge Brewing Company 24 years ago when they were only one year old. Mind-blowing.)

We asked him, “Do you have a beer in mind that will rock CBus?”

I’ve got some big shoes to fill here. Angelo has been the preeminent brewer in Columbus for forever. I’ll wear my own shoes and we’ll see where that takes us.

Evolution not revolution. That’s how I plan to influence Smokehouse Brewing Company and craft beer in central Ohio.

It’s your last day on Earth. What’s your last meal? My fiancée  Brittany’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Brownies. With milk. Don’t complicate things.


Brewdood here. This interview was a blast. Sam’s enthusiasm and thoroughness makes me wish his was starting today. (This interview took place on December 9.) Trivia: Sam could have had a brewery job at Russian River Brewing Company, working directly with Vinnie Cilurzo, owner and creator of Pliny the Elder. Sam chose us. That’s killer cool.

I think Columbus will find Sam to be friendly, personable and a brewer of the highest order. I think we’ll find Sam to be exactly the brewer required to succeed Angelo.

Evolution, not revolution. But I know stuff you don’t know. CBus, fasten your seatbelts.


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Anatomy of a New Menu

We went live with a new menu yesterday.  It’s one we’re really proud of, and it was three months in the planning.  We hope you agree that we came up with exciting new items that you end up loving.

We think that you might enjoy reading about what goes into a menu change.  We won’t recite all the new menu items, because they’re on the menu tab of our website, and you can see for yourself when you come in.  Let’s talk why we do what we do instead.

Since we first opened, we have always strived to do better. Before we start deciding on what we’ll take off the menu and what we’ll add, we discuss in what direction we want to go.

We arrived at two goals this go-round:  we committed to changing our menu seasonally, and we committed to pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.

For the longest time, we’d update our menu once a year or so.  The reason for that, in a nutshell, is because planning and executing a new menu is a lot of work.  Over time, though, this has proved to be unsatisfying.  Though not a huge restaurant sin, it kind of bugged us, for instane, that the meatloaf that served us well when there’s snow on the ground was also on the menu when it’s sweltering hot.

We wanted to solve that, and discussed what’s the optimal amount of menu updates in a year.  We almost committed to three menus a year, something we still might do in the future, but we decided that going forward, we’ll do two a year.

So, around April 1 and October 1 of each year, our menu will change.  (Now you know we were a month late in coming out with this menu!)

This will allow us the opportunity to use seasonal ingredients that aren’t always optimal year-round.  On this menu, we’re using ingredients such as fresh strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus.  We’ve got corn on the cob on the menu, as well as dill potato salad, utilizing fresh dill.


This fall and winter, we’ll be imagining root vegetables, hearty sauces and comfort food. Two menu changes a year allows us this flexibility, and it should lead to exciting future offerings.

Since we’re now committed to an updated menu twice a year, it also allows us the opportunity to stretch and take risks.  We know that many of you love what we do and would rather we leave things alone.  We get that.  It’s traumatic to see that your favorite item is missing from a new menu.

But, as Steve Jobs once said, “You don’t know you need something you’ve never had before.”  We get that too.

Since we’re changing our menu every six months, we can take some risks.  If it turns out that we misjudged the popularity of a current item that we pulled, we can get it back on soon enough.

Case in point:  our barbecue nachos.  We knew that there would be howling if we took it off the menu.  We were right.  However, as great tasting as it is, we weren’t satisfied that you were getting the best nachos we could provide.  We weren’t happy that when you got to the bottom of the mound, it’s mostly chips.  Because reworking this item to our satisfaction required time that was being used for new items, we decided to give them a rest.

Be assured that nachos will be back on the fall/winter menu, improved and exciting.

For us, the elephant in the room is always pricing.  Since we opened our doors, we have wanted to be a value proposition, in addition to providing kick-ass microbrew and barbecue.

As you know from frequenting grocery stores, food prices have gone through the roof. That hits us too.  Sometimes harder than the local shopper.  It’s a part of the business, and we don’t whine about it.  Not that we like it.

So here’s what we do.  Rather than just increasing all our prices and calling it a day, we double down on our efforts to bring you exciting new items that are cost effective and we drop those items that we can’t bring in a reasonable price.  Also, we sometimes just take the hit on some of our popular items, leaving the price where it was.

Case in point:  Smokehouse wings.  We left our Wing Nite pricing at 60 cents.  It’s harder and harder to do, but we want to keep our value position.  Next time you’re at Kroger, do a little research.  Look at the price of a pack of raw wings, then count how many wings you get.  We did that a couple of months ago, and it came out close to 50 cents a wing!

When you consider we brine, smoke and grill our wings, while everyone else in town just drops their’s in a deep-fat fryer, our wings truly are a value proposition.

Against this backdrop, we still want to give you bang for your buck.  We did two things starting with this menu that we’re really proud of.

We changed most of our bread to locally sourced.  While it costs us more, we are pleased that we now offer sandwich and burger rolls, and petite baguettes that are artisianally baked by Dan the Baker, right in our neighborhood, using no preservatives.

Most of our chicken is now locally sourced Ohio Proud, cage-free, hormone-free with no use of antibiotics.  We’ll continue to study how we can incorporate more items into this mix.

We’ll continue to look for other opportunities to do similar things going forward.

We’re committed to providing you the best we can offer on a daily basis. We’ll be doing two menus a year, and we’ll continue to research and plan for future items that will surprise, amuse and delight you.  And we’ll do it while always keeping your wallet in mind.

At the end of the day, you visit us because we make you happy.  There are plenty of options out there, and we’re working hard to make sure we compare most favorably. We’ll keep sweating out the details until we’re the doing it the best in town.


Part Art. Part Science. Part Magic. (TM)
It’s not just a slogan.  The art and science are up to us; the magic is for you to judge.  We want you to leave with a smile on your face.  As always, let us know what you’re thinking.



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We’ve been working really hard the last three months.  Really hard.

Today, we debut a new menu.  That’s the source for most of our planning effort this year, but we also did one more thing.  We changed our name.

So what are we up to here?  Everybody knows us as Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub. Why mess with that?  The change wasn’t done off-handedly.  A great deal of thought and discussion went into the decision.

logo oldofade

To clarify, I created and co-founded Barley’s Brewing Company downtown, in 1992.  The only craft beer in this town at that time was Columbus Brewing Company, solely distributing, and Hoster Brewing Company, a brewpub.  I have a bunch of great memories from my more than 20 years with them.  Them.  Still doesn’t sound right.

In 1997, I also created and co-founded Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub.  Exactly a year after we opened, my partner and I shut the doors.  For a variety of reasons (that I’ll save for my book,) it didn’t work.  My partner in the Smokehouse left, though maintaining her stake in downtown.

My dear wife, Saint Joan and I completely re-worked the Smokehouse and reopened three months later.  As we sometimes say around here, we opened in 1997, but we established in 1998.

With a lot of work, and a lot of help from a great staff over the years, the Smokehouse not only rose from the ashes, but has risen to institution status in CBus.

Just over a year ago, I sold my stake in Barley’s downtown to my partner.  The sale was entirely at my prompting.  (I wouldn’t want conspiracy theorists to get the idea that I was pushed out.)

Before the sale, I was involved in both locations.  After more than 20 years, just a little over a year ago, I was involved exclusively at the Smokehouse.

No common ownership between the two locations was a minor reason for the name change. The much larger reason for the change is that there is a lot of confusion between the two places.  The main reason is that both use Barley’s in their names.

While we have the legal right to keep “Barley’s” in our name at the Smokehouse, it’s become more apparent as time goes by that there’s confusion within the community using “Barley’s” interchangeably for both locations. We’ve had people show up to the Smokehouse to meet someone who’s waiting for them downtown.  If you look on Untapped, you’ll see beers that are only brewed at the Smokehouse represented as being brewed downtown.  And on and on.

So we’ve started the process of changing our name:  Smokehouse Brewing Company.


Now when someone tells you they’re  going to Barley’s, you know they’re going downtown. Of course, we’d be shocked if you didn’t respond, “Well, I’m going to the ‘House.”  (insert smiley face here.)

We’re less excited about our name change, which really isn’t a tectonic shift, than we are about our new menu.  Next time I come up for air, I’ll post about what we’re doing on that front.  No, I won’t bore you with describing new menu items.   Instead, I’ll fill you in on what we did, and what you can expect in the future.

same old

If you have any questions, just let us know. We’re here for you.


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My Woody Hayes Story

Tomorrow, we serve a firkin of Woody Haze 101 for our weekly Firkin Friday.  I’m sitting here doing computer work, and I got to thinking about Ohio State’s greatest coach (in my mind.)

I attended OSU during the Hayes era, and was in the stands the first time an untested freshman, Archie Griffin, set in formation behind Greg Hare (I think.)  The game was against North Carolina, and this unknown ran for 239 yards.  O-H, indeed!

The second half was a bit of a blur.  You see, back then we were young punks who would live forever.  We would smuggle a fifth of 151 to our seats.   We’d order a Coke, and brashly pour half of it out, right in front of the vendor.  Our cups half empty, we’d fill to the top with that fiery demon rum.  We’d do that until our bottles were empty.  When the game ended, we’d head to High Street and finish our evening with endless buckets of beer.  We’d dip our glasses into a communal bucket until it was empty.  Like our earlier rum, we’d repeat until we couldn’t do it anymore.  In other words, until closing time.

I digress with this story so you know that I was just one of thousands of students who would do their rendition of Saturday Night in Columbus.  I studied, mostly, during the week, then I’d partake in “campus life” on weekends.  In other words, I didn’t stick out during those years; I fit in.  One of many.

Back to Woody.  Though I was, and still am a Buckeye fan, I wasn’t fanatic about it.  I wasn’t the one who could spout stats and rattle off the starting lineups of all the teams in the Big Ten.  But I thoroughly enjoyed following the trials and tribulations of those Buckeyes on the field.  My team. (Funny that to this day I remember:  239 yards. North Carolina. First home game.)

Even though I was only casually informed, it was impossible to not follow stories, rumors and the like.  Woody had a show (on WTVN 10, I think) every Saturday night after a game. He would pontificate on that week, followed by parading in some of his players.  You think they were coached on the field?  I can only imagine how they were coached in preparation for this show.  Each one was scrubbed clean, in a suit and tie, and would politely answer questions posed to them by Coach.

It was a bit corny, even then, but we loved it.  We loved to laugh at how they’d better answer correctly and with the right intonation, or we’d imagine the hell that would be unleashed after.

Anyhow, we’d get news that the rest of the country wouldn’t.  Player troubles.  Things that went on in the dorms.  That sort of thing.  But we’d also hear about Woody going to Children’s Hospital to visit sick kids.  Woody helping someone who was down on his luck. Woody teaching a military history course that he’d make his players take.

Like all of us, there was plenty of good to go with Woody’s bad.  His tantrums.  Impatience. He was human.  He was loved, though. One year, his players got together and bought him a truck.  Take that, NCAA.

I remember thinking this guy’s actually pretty cool.  For an old man.

Back then, we were cocooned on campus, most of us didn’t have a car.  We’d hear about places in Columbus, but for us, Columbus was campus.  Period.  Once though, we were curious about the Jai Lai Prime Rib Restaurant that was located on Olentangy River Road. Someone had a vehicle, so we took the trip.  We didn’t get any further than the lobby when we saw Coach.  He was with some recruits, taking them to dinner.


Interior of the Jai Lai, in the days when it was expected you’d wear a suit and tie to dinner.

We froze in our tracks.  We couldn’t have been more dazed than if Mick Jagger was standing there.  Woody decked out in a suit and tie, as were the recruits.  The restaurant was rocking on a Friday night.  We were so intimidated that we turned around and left. Who were we kidding anyway?  We didn’t have enough money to buy dinner, and we were sure we could get our drank on cheaper on campus.

That night, I actually saw Woody Hayes in the flesh.  That’s not my Woody Hayes Story, though.

Fast forward to some time later.  I don’t remember the year, but it could have been about 1974.  Woody Hayes had his first heart attack.  The entire campus was shocked.  Would he be OK?  Would he retire?  This was big, kids.

It turned out to be a mild one.  He was out of the hospital in under a week.  Bullet dodged.

Shocker:  In 1974, I ran.  Not like a runner, mind you.  But I ran. Back then it was called jogging. I lived on 15th Avenue near Summit Street.  I would start there, run through the oval, then past the towers, headed toward the west side of Ohio Stadium, before turning to head home. That was my usual loop.

That day, I was heading north toward the west side of the stadium.  No one was around.  I think it was a Sunday morning.  In the distance, I could see someone walking from the stadium heading south.

Soon, the figure would get closer.  It was apparent I would be running past this person. The figure grew larger as we approached each other.  Holy Crap!  It’s Woody Hayes, fresh from his heart attack!  I was imagining he was watching film or just trying to get caught up. I was trying to think where he might be headed.

I had enough time to get my act together.  I decided I would say something to him.

“Good morning, Coach.  How are you?  You feeling good?”

Without missing a beat, he responded, “Son, it doesn’t matter at all how I’m doing.  The important question is ‘How are you doing?’ Are you studying?  Are you using your time wisely?”

OMG, I’m being coached!  “Yes, Coach.”

“Good.  You take care.”

I will never forget that 10 second intersection in my life. I remember it like it was yesterday.  Good guy, that Woody Hayes.  He actually made an impact on me.  All these years later, I still ask myself how I’m doing.  Am I living up to Coach’s expectations?

Corny?  Maybe.  In my book he’s the greatest coach that Ohio State’s ever had.  And yes, I’ve met Earl Bruce and Jim Tressel.  I’ve had conversations with them.  Both solid, upstanding guys.  You can just tell why they’d made it up the mountain instead of someone else.  Woody’s my main man, though.

All these years later, I find that Woody Hayes was born on Valentines Day.  In fact, I found out last year that he would have been 100.  Being a brewpub, we’re not exactly a go-to locale for lovers.  Especially on Valentines Day.

So Woody Haze 100 was born.  It’s my Valentine to Coach.  As are wont to say, we called it Woody because it was matured on sturdy oak; we call it Haze because it’s unfiltered.  Like the Man.

woody haze 100 cask

Woody because it matured on sturdy oak. Haze because it’s unfiltered. Like the Man.

Now you know the rest of the story.  When you order your snoot of Woody Haze 101 out of the firkin tomorrow, think about someone who was born in these parts on a cold February day and who would go on to be a legend.  We could do worse.



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Ed note:  Allegedly, Savor Growl, a local carryout, purchased all of the supply of Bell’s Hopslam from competitor Giant Eagle, with the intent of creating a shortage and reselling it.  This post is not to re-hash alleged events that happened on the last weekend of January.  You’ll have to read it all for yourself.  There’s just too much.  Links are provided.  This post is intended to clarify the motivation behind my role in said events.  


On Saturday morning, I was at my computer putting the finishing touches on my Address for our fifteenth annual Robert Burns Dinner to be held later that night.

Just then, a post came across my newsfeed on Facebook. It’s a link to a Reddit post.

The internet being the distraction it is for all of us trying to get work done, of course I paused to click on the link.

Hmm.  A local carryout is trying to corner the market on a very limited release of a seasonal beer that carries a hefty price tag ($17.99 a sixer.)  Shit.

Then another post popped up.  “Savor Growl employee attempting illegal purchase of beer from GE…” (Giant Eagle.)

I went back to tidying up my notes.  “Next, let’s turn to Burns the patriot and an outspoken critic of the wrongs of the State…”  My mind was multi-tasking now.  Wrongs of the State.  What about wrongs of the individual?  That’s where it starts, right?

I couldn’t get these posts out of my head.  Great, I thought.  What I need right now is a distraction as I’m getting ready for a big night at the ‘House.


I have been in the craft beer industry for going on a quarter century.  I have seen much as we’ve grown from zero to almost 3,000 micros and brewpubs today.  Well, 200.  That’s about how many there were when I got involved.

In that time, I have met the most on-the-fringe, bordering on lunatic, characters I have ever met.  If you put these characters in one room and didn’t know better, you might be scared for your life.

Individually, they are sharp-minded hard workers who have created a remarkable industry for you.  Perhaps the most remarkable industry in America.  They are, for the most part though, not Fortune 500 types.  They are rogues and rapscallions; artists and inventors; ziggers versus society’s  zaggers.

As a group, these characters are also the most upstanding, honorable people I have ever met.  This group collaborates.  They share.  They laugh.  They’re razor sharp. They don’t ask for handouts.  They know it’s their ideas, coupled with work harder than you can imagine, that will bring them satisfaction and possibly, success.

I am proud to be a small part of this movement, important in ways far beyond the contents in your pint glass.  I don’t think it’s hyperbole when I write that the liquid pleasure in your glass represents the American Dream.  It’s inspiration that leads to perspiration that results in innovation.  Our industry is very communal and sharing.  I can pick up the phone and can expect to get a call back from just about anyone in our business, including the heavy hitters.

Now I think: desecration.  My motivation in posting was to protect a really cool industry of like-minded individuals who, collectively is a gale-strength force.

Storm’s A Comin’

It’s not really a big deal, is it?  A retailer allegedly trying to corner the market.  I mean, capitalism and all.  Supply and demand.  The American Way.

Nope.  Alchohol is a highly regulated business.  The State of Ohio lets you know that obtaining a license is not a right.  It’s a privilege.  If what I read in the posts is true, Savor Growl broke the law.  Big Time.

We live in a three tier State, with laws written after prohibition to keep the alcohol that you enjoy–at your favorite watering hole or at your kitchen table–an orderly process.  The tiers: manufacturing > distributing > retailing.  Pick which tier you want to be a part of and stay out of the other two.  (There’s an exception for breweries, who can also self-distribute their products.)

Savor Growl allegedly bought product from another retailer for the purpose of creating even more scarcity and reselling it themselves.  That’s against the law.  More importantly, it’s just not cool.

You may not know, but we all scrap to get our share of sometimes very limited supply of a beer.  If that beer has a “must-have” reputation, it’s nearly impossible to get our hands on it.

So is the case with Bell’s Hopslam.  This IPA is one of the more sought-after beers in the country.  It’s ranked 19 in a list of the top 250 beers on At the Smokehouse, we were unable to get even one keg of it.  We understand. The beer is portioned out to the very best accounts.  Because we sell so much of our own beer, we don’t sell as much of others’ beer as we would otherwise.  We get it. We accept that we’re not going to get every gem that comes into our market.

Savor Growl is in the same boat.  Allegedly, they wanted to appear as one of those star accounts.  In the process, they broke the law.

Frankly, if true, it pisses me off.

We’re in a competitive enough business as it is.  But it’s a beautiful, even elegant business. We’d just rather play on a clean level playing field.


The Smokehouse really doesn’t have a dog in this fight.  We don’t compete with Savor Growl.  But I don’t like someone taking a public shit in my world.

So I decided to post on our wall.  On Saturday morning I posted, “We don’t normally get ‘political,’ but this is just despicable. Not to mention illegal. We are getting reports that they are reselling at $3-4 per bottle.”  I linked to the Reddit thread.

What happened next can only be described as surreal.  I went back to my work.  After awhile, I checked my post.  Almost 1,000 views.  Soon, thereafter, 2,000.  As this is being written, this post has had 7,904 views and a ton of comments.

My post is now referenced in the original Reddit post. Columbus Underground has started a thread. There’s a thread on DrinkUp Columbus tweeted the story out to 6,000 people.  Miles Liebtag blogged about it. The story’s been picked up by BeerPulse, who tweeted it to 50,000 followers.  Savor Growl, for their part, has scrubbed their Facebook page of all posts and comments regarding this subject.

This thing went viral.

People don’t like cheaters.  Alleged, in this case.  But I am so proud of the craft beer community who showed this weekend just how passionate and protective they are.  The craft beer industry has had very little drama as far as shady shennanigans, so it would be a shame to not shed light on an alleged shady and illegal practice.

If this dust up helps elevate discussion and protect the reputation of craft beer, then my post on Saturday was worth it.

We all keenly feel frustrated over today’s “leadership” in Washington, DC.  It’s been said that the way to affect change is to start where you can make the biggest difference–at the local level.  Hello, local level.

Just remember:  innocent until proven guilty.

“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
–Robert Burns (1759-1796)


Bells’s Brewery, Inc:  (269) 382-2338
Premium Beverage Supply:  (614) 777-1007
Ohio Liquor Laws Violations Toll Free Hotline: 1 (877) 464-6677

A pic of the pallet of Hopslam purchased at Giant Eagle Friday night. About $1,800 worth.


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Rethinking Your Beer

This is perhaps the wrong time of year to write about rethinking your beer, what with all the holiday beers, with their myriad flavors, but I got to thinking about beer yesterday when I read that there’s a proposal before the Ohio House to increase the alcohol level in Ohio beers from 12% to 21%.  You can read about it here. And here.

While I’m certainly not against restrictions, and I’m definitely not against creativity, I’m a little nervous that we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  First, craft beer is still only about 6.5% of the entire beer market.  There’s a lot of work to be done to bring the other 93.5% of the market up to speed that craft beer is simply awesome.

We are fortunate to experience a time when the rules of what is beer are being rewritten.  Beer styles not seen in this country for decades are being brewed.  Porters, stouts, Belgian this and French that.  New beer categories are being created.  Even if you aren’t a fan of some of them, you are still a witness to this nascent revolution.  Imperial IPA, anyone?

However, most beer drinkers still haven’t digested what we’ve already done in the name of craft beer.  And some of us who love craft get stuck in our ways.  Some reasons we may not be ready for super-high gravity beers:


Beer should be ice cold.  Beer is for partying.  Beer should have no aftertaste.  You should be loyal to one brand–theirs.  All these statements fail at elevating beer to what it is:  an extremely versatile beverage that spans the spectrum of everything from a reward for mowing your lawn to celebrating a milestone in your life to celebrating the season before you.

If a beer drinker gets all his education from commercials aired during a football game, us beer geeks will always be the minority.  More important, if we start offering beer that is turbocharged with double digit ABV, we will distance ourselves further from our macro-beer consuming breathern.

So what mistakes do craft beer drinkers make?


There is nothing more annoying than someone who mocks you for what you do.  Whether it’s making fun of someone because she won’t try your five alarm chili, or chiding your buddy for drinking yellow, fizzy beer, you’re going to turn that person off. 

OK, you all get that.  But what about a beer geek poking fun at another beer geek because you’re drinking Turbocharged Bitter Badass and he’s drinking a pale ale?  That might even be a worse offense.

There’s a time and place for every beer and there’s no reason to trash-talk entire styles.  In fact, the best way to learn to appreciate everything that craft beer has to offer is to try it all.  Maybe you forgot how good a wheat beer can be.  Challenge yourself up and also challenge yourself down.  Enjoy them all as objectively as you can and appreciate them for what they are.


I’ve heard it all.  People won’t drink an IPA “because I don’t like bitter beers.”  People who are disappointed with an IPA because it’s not bitter enough.  Liberally hopped beers are booming in popularity, and we’ve got some world-class examples here locally.  Most people still don’t understand hops, though.

Hops are a “seasoning.”   There are many variety of hops, and they all have their unique characteristics.  Bitter, yes.  Fruity, yes.  Pine-like, yes.  Hops are essential to a great beer experience.  However, bitterness is controlled by your brewer.

The longer hops boil in the kettle, the more the bitter characteristics come out; the shorter the boil, the more the floral, fruit, pine and other aromatic characteristics show up.  The art of the beer recipe is using all these components much like a composer uses instruments.  It’s all music, but you’d never confuse Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 with the Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated.

Don’t equate bitterness and hops.  Equate a bitter finish to early hop additions!


“I don’t like dark beers.”  Wha?

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve gotten to try a beer with their eyes closed.  “Wow, I don’t normally drink dark beers, but this is good!”  On other occaisions, I’ve poured a sample of Guinness and our Alexander’s Russian Imperial Stout for a comparative taste.

After drinking the RIS, the Guinness always tastes like water.  This is not a knock on Guinness.  It’s a dry stout and world-class.  But comparatively, a dry stout can’t hang with an RIS (and shouldn’t have to.)  Same color, two completely different experiences.  Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.


While both ABV and IBU can inform a beer drinker of what he may be getting into, this information is less important than enjoying the experience.  Try to think about potential flavor, aroma and mouthfeel instead.  It’s more interesting to think of beer this way and gets you over the notion that you could be “wrong” about your assessment of the beer.

Get over these lab numbers (although we’ll continue to let you know what they are for our beers.)  When you’re tasting, think about descriptors like they do in the wine world.


Or maybe two dimensional.

Even though craft beer has made great progress in the last two decades, mainstream beer lovers still have a msiconception about beer.  For them, beer is either bland, yellow fizz water (I”m pretty sure they wouldn’t describe it like that!) or it’s bitter.

This makes sense when you think about it.  They either drink their favorite macro, or they’re handed a hop bomb from their buddy who says, “Here, try this.  See what you’re missing.”  I’m pretty sure if I started out with a 120 IBU triple IPA brewed with ghost peppers, I’d stick to my beer too.

Instead, why not offer them something more accessible? Here at the ‘House, we usually point someone inexperienced to MacLenny’s Scottish Ale.  It’s a little malty, with subdued hops, some toffee-like caramel notes to discover.  While many have graduated to many of our more challenging offerings, this one remains our best seller.

Why?  Because sometimes you just want a clean beer that refreshes.  Do your Bud Light mate a favor and suggest this one to him, if you ever hope for him to step into the world of craft.


It’s an unfortunate misconception that beer goes with pizza.  Or pretzels.  Or wings.  And that’s about it.

Beer is arguably one of the most versatile beverages to pair with just about any food.  A hoppy IPA is perfect with spicy Indian dishes; a Belgian Trappist beer is a fine accompaniment to a standing prime rib roast.  Wheat beers are great with seafood, and the list goes on.

One of my personal pet peeves is that wine pairs best with cheese.  While I won’t argue that there’s a lot of enjoyment in those pairings, I’ll argue that beer goes better than wine with cheese.  I was with a group who went to Rockmill Brewing a year ago summer, and we took a bunch of expensive cheeses with us.  The pairings with Rockmill’s various offerings were sublime.

One simple reason beer goes so well with cheese:  the carbonation naturally cleanses the palate between each bite, setting you up for your next cheese.  Try that, wine!


There’s a difference between complex and obnoxious.  While some higher gravity beers are a wonderful trip, let’s face it.  90% of beer drinkers still find pale ale intimidating. 

To bring it all around, while I’m not against increasing ABV in the State of Ohio, I’m a little concerned.  Until we learn to appreciate the vast varieties of beer we already do have, and we show our macro-loving beer friends the way into our world, we just might be getting ahead of ourselves.  Can you imagine your mate trying a 16% barleywine as an introduction to craft beer?  It’ll make our job even harder.

Maybe this is all just a cautionary tale to my brewery brothers in Ohio, though.  We may some day be allowed to brew up to 21% ABV,   but that doesn’t mean we have to jump in with both feet.  Our time is better spent getting everyone to appreciate the world that is craft beer today, and save the ultra-high gravity tricks for another day.

Share your thoughts with me.  You’ll help shape the future of craft beer in Ohio.



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