Last Saturday, Drink Up Columbus writers Sage, Deb, Ryan and myself made the 40 minute trek from Columbus to Buckeye Lake to check out the new Buckeye Lake Brewery. It was a pretty pleasant drive, especially on a nice spring day with the sunroof open, and since the brewery is located less than five minutes off the I-70 eastbound exit, it’s very easy to find even if you’re not familiar with the area.
Glass-paned garage doors make the brewpub open and bright, and add to the industrial vibe accented by the minimalist decor and visible fermentation tanks. It’s quite a bit larger inside that I would have guessed from the outside – a long orange booth lining the garage door wall with a handful of tables and chairs placed on the opposite side allows seating for a large party or a few intimate groups, while the tables surrounding the perimeter accommodate seating for 4-6. The bar itself can seat eight, which is where we planted ourselves.
The tap handles boast Buckeye Lake’s first four beers — a stout, a pale ale, an Irish red ale and a blonde ale — in addition to a tap from Zanesville’s Weasel Boy Brewing Co. The blank sixth tap, the bartender told me, will be occupied by Buckeye Lake’s IPA, currently in production. I ordered the pale ale and was asked if I wanted a pint, which surprised me because that’s the only option I’m used to having, but Buckeye Lake actually has half-pint ($2), pint ($4) and 20 oz ($5) servings, which is really nice as you can try all of their beers for under $10 if you go the half-pint route. (They also give out shotglass-sized samples if you want to taste before you commit the two bucks.) After I had my Pale Ale pint in hand, the bartender slid me a basket of complimentary popcorn, which is always nice to have to cleanse the palate between different beers, or just to fill your stomach with food (which is important when you have to drive 40 minutes back to Columbus. Ahem.)
Speaking of food, their menu offers a modest selection of $4-5 paninis, as well as the full menu for Pizza Cottage, which delivers to the brewpub and – according to a local resident who was nearby at the bar — is delicious. The menu also listed a selection of six wines from Ohio winery Raven’s Glenn, which is a nice feature for people who don’t like beer, or like our glutard Deb can’t actually drink beer. I learned that they also brew their own root beer which we all enjoyed, and which strongly tempted me to buy a growler to mix with a scoop of Jeni’s or Greater’s back home.
Yes, they also have growlers – though somewhat disappointingly they are made of clear glass. Colored glass helps preserve the freshness of the beer, which is pretty important if you’re planning to take a half-gallon home with you to store for a few days. However, if you plan on consuming the beer immediately, you likely won’t have any issues. The growler itself is $12 and refills run $9.
When we were here, Buckeye Lake did not yet have the permit to serve alcohol outside, but a Facebook update shows that they are now able to do so, and they appear to have added cute tables with umbrellas to the small out front area so patrons can sip outside.
Below are Sage‘s reviews of the beers, in order of ascending awesomeness. (The Pale Ale was my favorite, too.) He noted that brewer Mike Byrne seems to be very technically proficient as there were definitely no ‘wrong’ or ‘off’ qualities, which is pretty impressive given the short time they’ve been open.
Irish Red Ale
Whether or not you’ll like the Irish Red depends on what your expectations are going into it. If you expect an amped up Killian’s, you’ll be delighted. This take on an Irish Red is burnt orange and slightly hazy with scents of caramel and a trace of sweet corn. It has the malty sweetness you expect, with burnt caramel and some earthiness adding some complexity. The body is on the light side of medium, in my opinion too light for the style. 5.9 %, ABV, 25 IBU
This is Stout 101: Intro to Stouts. It looks like weak coffee — dark brown, translucent, no head. The aroma is very roasty, though the flavor is only slightly so; predominately it is chocolate with a hint of hazelnuts. The body is very light with medium-high carbonation. I would give this to anyone afraid of stouts, but I wouldn’t order it myself. 5.6% ABV, 28 IBU
This beer is very, very light. It’s crystal clear, pale straw in color, and effervescent. There’s hardly an aroma — only faint notes of light malts and sweet corn. The flavor, also quite light, is butter and somewhat spicy from the hops. The medium-light body is refreshing, tingly, and a little creamy. Although simple, this is an excellent light beer. 4.6% ABV, 21 IBU
OK, forget everything else I said. Just order this beer, it’s great. It has a citrusy orange/grapefruit aroma with bit of light caramel malt. It’s slightly cloudy, copper hued, and has a creamy, lacey, fast-fading head. Up front you taste sweet caramel, which is soon overrun by a wave of bitterness. The orange flavor of the hops comes through very nicely. This is definitely more aggressive than most pale ales, with a balance leaning towards IPA territory. 5.7% ABV, 35 IBU
Beer reviews by Sage Wolfe