Over the past couple of years Columbus has seen a number of new breweries open, one of which is Wolf’s Ridge Brewery which opened up in September 2013. It’s located at 215 N. 4th street a little east of downtown (about 1 block north of the corner of Spring St. and 4th St.). Since a lot of people might not know very much about this place I thought it would be a good place to do my first full length post about each of the breweries that calls Columbus home. I first went there the weekend after Thanksgiving with my wife and our friends Mary and Tom. I have since been back two times (and I wish that number was higher). Each time I had a flight of beers, an appetizer and a meal.
There are not a lot of other restaurants, bars, or other retails shops in the immediate vicinity (although Wolf’s Ridge is only 1 block from the Elevator tap room that is open on Saturdays). The upside to this location is that parking is very easy to find. Every time I’ve visited we were able to find free on-street parking (the meters here are only enforced until 6 pm). There is also a parking lot right across the street with plenty of spaces for $4.
The brewpub has the feel of a renovated industrial space. Long and rectangular, the walls are brick (painted white) and there is a stamped tin ceiling. The brewing kettles are located in the back corner opposite the bar and kitchen (as you see in the above photograph). Much of the seating is at long communal handcrafted wooden tables, along the walls there are several tables on the side that seat 2-4 people. Both times I went it was a Saturday night and while it was pretty busy we were able to get a table with no wait either time. The service was prompt, and the servers were very friendly on both occasions. Although the menu is pretty upscale the atmosphere is not pretentious. The layout and the acoustics can make it a fairly loud place when busy.
The food is one of the best things about Wolf’s Ridge. The focus is on fresh, upscale food. Don’t pass up on the chance to try the small plates as an appetizer. I’ve had the charcuterie plate (shown above), the cheese plate and the tuna poke, all three were tasty. For dinner there are usually 10 or so entrees on the menu priced between $14-$30 and the menu changes considerably every time I visit. I will say without hesitation that this place has the best upscale food of any brewery in the city (sorry Elevator and CBC), in fact I would say with confidence that it is one of top 10 restaurants in all of Columbus. So if you are looking for a nice spot for a date, or for entertaining out of town visitors, I would highly recommend a visit to Wolf’s Ridge. I’ve read some good things about the brunch, which is served on the weekends from 10 am to 3 pm, but I’ve not had a chance to try it. (Editors Note: If you are not that much into meat dishes, like my wife, you might be less impressed with the food here. Both times there was only one non-meat centric dish on the menu.)
OK so this is a great restaurant, but what about the beer? The first thing I would note is that they’ve ramped things up slowly. Initially I read that there were only two WRB beers on tap. When I went for the first time after Thanksgiving they were up to five WRB beers. When I visited right after Christmas there were nine WRB beers available. When I visited in April they had added an additional four beers and had 10-11 of their beers on tap. I’ve tried samples of all of their beers now, and based on that limited sampling I would rate about 2/3 of their beers as above average. They are best at traditional European styles, while their pale ales, IPAs and stouts are good but not exceptional in my opinion. You can get some glimpse into their approach from the beers on offer.
- Six of the ten beers are 6% abv or lower. Furthermore, the beers seem to follow rather traditional recipes. This is not a place to find extreme beers in terms of alcohol, hoppiness, exotic ingredients, experimental recipes, etc. Rather they seem to be influenced by the beers of England, Germany and Belgium.
- They have brewed a number of styles that are not particularly common—English Brown Ale, Cream Ale, Roggenbier. All of these styles are more about subtlety than in your face extreme taste.
- Most of the beers have a pretty healthy dose of hops to keep the finish dry and a little bitter. None of the beers are cloying or too sweet.
- I don’t have notes on their two newest Belgian style beers (Beta, which is a Dubbel, and Alpha, which is a Trippel), but what I can tell you is that they are both very good. Of the beers I’ve tried they are the best authentic Belgian ales being made in Columbus.
Here are my brief notes on the beers of Wolf’s Ridge. I should stress that I’ve only had 4 oz samplers of many of these beers so this is meant as a guide for where to begin your adventures rather than a definitive review of each.
Knotty Brown Ale (6.0% abv, English Brown Ale) – Not so many breweries make an English brown ale (Abita, Bells and Rogue are three exceptions that come to mind). This one is built around roasted chocolate malts, with nice nutty highlights and a hint of vanilla in the nose. They must use a fair amount of hops in this beer because there is a definite bitterness toward the end of the drink that lingers along with notes of chocolate. I brought home a growler of this one and you can see a full review over in the beer reviews section.
Zane’s Trace (4.5% abv, Roggenbier) – This one is an even more unusual style, a Roggenbier. I had to look up the description of this beer style. Here is the one sentence summary from Beer Advocate “A traditional German style of beer that typically contains very large portions of rye.” Zane’s Trace is a dark golden brown color. The taste is toasted malts with some banana highlights (like a Hefeweizen). It has a nice think mouthfeel. It reminds me of a low abv version of a Weizenbock. I didn’t get that much spiciness from the rye, but maybe I missed it. I look forward to trying this one again.
Ridge Trail Pale Ale (6.0% abv, American Pale Ale) – This is a hazy amber colored beer that leaves behind impressive lacing. It’s dry hopped with chinook hops, which gives it an inviting fresh picked hop aroma. On my first visit it was my favorite find of the night and I had a full pint following the sampler. It doesn’t have the fresh hop punch of a Founders Harvest Ale or a Fathead’s Trailhead, but it’s a little in that vein. If I had to vote now I would say this is the best beer they make.
3 AM (7.0% abv, India Pale Ale) – This is a hop forward IPA. Less aromatic and more bitter than the Ridge Trail Pale Ale. I only had the serving from the sampler (and it was the last one I tried). I thought it was good but I’d need to try a full pint to say more.
Harvest Wheat Ale (5.4% abv, American Wheat) – Nice bright citrus, smooth easy drinking. Not the most complex beer, it is definitely an American wheat beer rather than a German Hefeweizen. It would be a good summertime thirst quencher.
Clear Sky (5.1% abv, Cream Ale) – This is a pale beer, with a subtle taste not so different from your standard pilsner. It’s not very hoppy but it did have a nice fruitiness to it that reminded me of pears. This is one I will return to for a full pint in the future.
Canis Lycaon (4.8% abv, Stout) – I’m not sure what they are trying for here. It has the roasted chocolate malts of a stout and a decent amount of hop bitterness at the finish, but for a stout I was let down by the watery mouthfeel. For the low abv perhaps they are going for something of an Irish dry stout, like a Guinness, in which case it might be better on nitro to give it a creamier mouthfeel. (Editors Note: Canis Lycaon is the scientific name for the Eastern Canadian Wolf)
Red Riding Ale (4.5% abv, Amber Ale) – A pretty standard amber ale. Not bad but nothing special in my book.
Duke’s Holiday Ale (6.0% abv, Spiced English Brown) – A spiced version of the Knotty Brown. In my opinion the spices are a little overdone, nutmeg is the dominant spice. If you really dig nutmeg you’ll like this beer.
Wolf’s Ridge is a promising new addition to the Columbus Brewery scene. They appear to be aiming to make their mark through quality instead of novelty, and they are off to a good start. Thus far I’ve not seen their beers available anywhere other than at the brewery itself, but that is not necessarily a bad thing because the food, atmosphere and service at the gastropup are first rate. If you are looking for a nice, somewhat upscale night on the town I would highly recommend Wolf’s Ridge. (Editors Note: They do sell growlers to go for approximately $14 per growler, but you need to buy and use a Wolf’s Ridge growler)