Neighborhood in Search of a Brewery – 2 Tones Taproom to Open in Whitehall

The taproom is a central focus of most craft breweries these days. The beer is fresher, the connections to the local community stronger, and perhaps most importantly the margins are higher. Ohio has nearly 300 breweries, but the number without a taproom is small enough to count on your fingers. The only two that call Central Ohio home, Columbus Brewing Company and 2 Tones Brewing, are about to leave the distribution-only list. CBC has announced plans to open a taproom at their westside production facility later this summer and 2 Tones are opening their long-awaited taproom to the public this Friday (5/4/19). Last week I made a trip out to Whitehall for a sneak peak at the new digs.

2 Tones was founded in August 2016 by childhood friends Tony Hill and Anthony McKeiver. In the spring of 2017, I visited their 1000 square foot brewery located in a nondescript industrial park south of the Columbus airport. Readers who are interested in the brewery’s back story and a description of their core beers should check out my earlier story. Over the past two years they’ve been flying under the radar, with an annual output of 200-300 bbl, distributed rather sparsely throughout Columbus and accounts south and east of the city. When I spoke to them in 2017 various options were being considered for a taproom, with the most likely scenario being expansion into a neighboring unit in the industrial park, following a path similar to Sideswipe and the now defunct Actual Brewing. Then in March 2018 J.D. Malone reported in the Columbus Dispatch that 2 Tones would be opening a taproom on Broad Street in Whitehall, about a 5 minute drive from the original brewery. After 13 months of talking to banks, lining up contractors, and navigating the red tape of government regulatory agencies, that prophecy is finally becoming a reality.

2Tones Taproom

It’s no secret that the affluence of greater Columbus is not evenly distributed. The downtown is thriving, full of young professionals who have chosen to opt out of a life in the sedate suburbs for a more vibrant experience. Throw in the drawing power of sporting events, concerts, shows, conventions and it’s no wonder that downtown has the highest concentration of breweries. Grandview and the west side are not too far behind, and with a few notable exceptions (Upper Arlington, Hilliard) the neighborhoods and suburbs north and west of downtown have one or more breweries to call their own. The same cannot be said for the southeast quadrant of the city. By my count my there are approximately 24 establishments that brew beer within the I-270 outerbelt, but only two are located east of the vertical dividing line formed by I-70/Parsons Avenue that splits the city into east and west halves—Pretentious Barrel House and 2 Tones Brewing (obviously Parsons North sits right on this dividing line).

Whitehall became a municipality in the housing boom that followed World War II. Incorporated in 1947, the population of Whitehall peaked around 25,000 in 1970 and has been slowly declining ever since [1]. Most of the houses here are small affordable houses that date to the mid-20th century. This working class neighborhood, home to the country’s first shopping center strip mall [2], is ripe for a small brewery taproom. If you think I’m making this up, check out the webpage of the City of Whitehall, where the lead story proclaims, “Craft Brewer Almost Ready to Open its First Taproom”

Located at 4539 Broad Street, between the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Holiday Lanes Bowling Alley, a large 2 Tones sign makes finding the new location for the brewery considerably easier than the old one. As I enter the taproom I’m immediately impressed. At roughly 1000 square feet the taproom is as large as the old space was in its entirety. The room is filled with ambient light, a luxury generally lacking in breweries housed in industrial spaces. The walls are painted, the taps are not only installed but fully loaded and pouring a dozen house beers, music is playing in the background over the sound system. Large stencil-style metal plates on the west wall spell out 2 Tones; a mural to the right of the bar can be loosely described as hops & cats in space. Finally, what taproom could be complete without a sliding garage door that opens up to the outside, in this case offering a scenic view of the parking lot and the 4000 block of East Broad Street.

I sit down at the bar while Anthony and Tony bring me up to speed on all that has happened since my last visit. They pour me a half-pint of a hazy IPA named About a Month, the name no doubt a response to the question they’ve been asked on a continual basis for the last six months. The beer is good, really good in fact. Made with Citra and Mosaic hops the aroma brings the full on fruity, slightly dank aroma that these two hops are known for. The bitterness is minimal, almost subliminal, but thankfully enough to prevent the cloying sweetness that comes with many hazies. I could drink a few of these, which for a man who likes his hazy IPAs in small doses is saying something.

Before too long we’re joined by the breweries two full time employees – Justin Arledge and Zane Lalli. Hill has also dedicated himself to the brewery full time since May 2018, while McKeiver still works his day job in Reynoldsburg. For my second beer I try a taster-size sample of the High Priest Honey Milk Stout, a beer based on Zane’s homebrew recipe. This beer too is a keeper, the chocolate flavors from the roasted malts are nicely complemented by the sweetness of the lactose. Subtle honey, which are present courtesy of honey malts, add a layer of complexity. The other ten beers on the opening night taplist are a mix of styles that offer something that should appeal to most palates. The flagship beer (if that is still a recognizable term) is the Uncle Joe’s Irish Red, an easy drinker which differentiates itself from the crowd with the addition of juniper berries. There is a kölsch, a coffee porter (Irish Maidin), an imperial stout with coffee and cacao nibs (C-Bucks), an imperial porter aged in an OYO bourbon barrels, and no less than three IPAs. Then there’s Crumble, a curious cream ale with lactose and vanilla that was originally introduced as their holiday beer but has established enough of a cult following to move into the year-round rotation [3].

2Tones Taproom Employees
The 2 Tones crew, from left-to-right Tony Hill, Justin Arledge, Zane Lalli and Anthony McKeiver.

The taproom, which features two pinball tables and a turntable, occupies the westernmost third of the 3400 square foot building. The remainder is filled with brewing equipment, a walk-in cooler, and a small office. Much like Powell’s Ill Mannered Brewing, who moved into a much larger facility last year, the 2 Tones move does not come with a brand new brewing system. Mashing, lautering and boiling are done in three big-ass stainless steel kettles, each about the right size for cooking a small child, Hansel and Gretel style. Fermentation and conditioning take places in one of four Psychobrew 5 bbl jacketed fermenters. They have added a new 10 bbl fermentor that Hill estimates will allow them to scale up to 40–50 bbl per month.

As we talk examples of Whitehall residents doing what they can to support the brewery keep coming up. A local homebrewer helped out with some of the plumbing [4], another local provided his Metallica pinball machine as a long term loaner for the taproom, yet another hand draws the taplist on the wall. This last friend of the brewery, whose name is Lloyd, drops by the taproom on his way home from work toward the end of my visit. I learn that not only does Lloyd drive bus for COTA, he will be competing in the International Bus Roadeo in mid-May down in Louisville. Just when you think that all the world class athletes in Columbus wear skates or cleats, you learn something new. Before I leave two more people drop in, one yet another friend of the brewery and the other looking for help to buy a bus ticket to Florida. Apparently, not everyone is enamored with life in Whitehall.

2Tones OYO Bourbon Barrel
Don’t worry about finishing the last bourbon barrel aged imperial porter, there’s more on the way.

If you’re the kind of person who likes hand crafted small batch beers and roots for the little guy, you’ll have to make a journey out to East Broad and check out the 2 Tones taproom for yourself. It will be open five days a week (Wed-Thur 4-10 pm, Fri 3-11 pm, Sat 12-11 pm, and Sun 12-7 pm). You can order beers in 5, 8 or 16 oz pours, except for the high gravity beers where the largest size is 12 oz. The taproom does not have a kitchen, but rotating food trucks will be part of the mix. Notable amenities include a music mix heavy on album sides and (possibly free) pinball.

Notes

[1] The population of Whitehall has grown slightly over the past decade, from roughly 18,000 in 2010 to 19,000 in 2017.

[2] The strip mall was built in 1948 and was called Castro’s Town and Country, according to Wikipedia it was the nation’s first https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitehall,_Ohio

[3] Hill and McKeiver have differing points of view on Crumble. McKeiver tells me it is their most requested beer (not necessarily their biggest seller though). Hill says he’s warmed up to it, but claims that he couldn’t drink an entire pint of the beer. That prompts McKeiver to pour himself a pint to show that you can enjoy this sweetish cream ale by the pint. This exchange illustrates the sort of Odd Couple vibe the two co-owners have. Before I leave I’m poured a mix of Crumble and C-Bucks Imperial Stout that tastes something like a Milky Way.

[4] Or did he help with the electrical, my memory is a bit sketchy on this detail.

4 thoughts on “Neighborhood in Search of a Brewery – 2 Tones Taproom to Open in Whitehall

Add yours

  1. Several aspects of the UK craft beer scene seem to mirror trends in the US with a few years time lag. So I think you’re prediction of continued growth in brewery taps is highly probable. What the US doesn’t have is a pre-existing pub culture. How do you think the relationship between pubs and brewery taps will evolve?

  2. An interesting read. 300 brewery taps in Ohio alone, yet probably fewer than half that in the UK. Plenty have opened in the last ear or two and I expect many more will. The International Bus Roadeo sounds fun but I couldn’t quite work out the rules!

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