With all the new breweries in town, Neil House seems like it’s been around forever, slinging cider since September ’09. Now seemed like the perfect time to revisit and see how they stack up.
Brewmaster Patrick Kelleher was kind enough to give me a tour and tasting, showing off his new brewing system and production facility (he used to simultaneously brew on two one-barrel pilot systems, which sounds like a pain in the ass).
I didn’t go to Neil House expecting much. I’ve had most of their offerings on tap (Harbinger) or in bottles (Buckeye Roots Hefeweizen, Four North Pale Ale, Cranberry Cider, Kelleher’s Ohio Red) and nothing has stood out except their Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout. Even this was outclassed by bigger beers from better breweries. In fact, the only product I’ve bought more than once is the cider, and that’s been inconsistent (he’s since changed the carbonation process).
Thankfully, Neil House has stepped up their game. Their new brews may not be world-class, but they’re certainly good enough to be competitive in Columbus. I tried three Neil House offerings, and two more from Pete Quint’s Neil House imprint, 50 Foot (much the same arrangement as Zauber/Spruce Campbells). Here’s my take on all five:
Buckeye Roots Hefeweizen
This was better than I recall the first time I had it. The aroma was light for a hefe, with herbal hops and spicy yeast making an appearance. The predominant flavor was sweet banana with only a hint of cloves to back it up. The herbal hops and spicy German yeast (no, not the Weihenstephaner strain) made another appearance on the finish. The body was medium full with a short finish. To improve, this beer needs more spice and less sugar.
This beer had a strong, delicious mocha aroma with a hint of roastiness. I dug its not-quite-chewy medium-full body, which was capped with a big, creamy head. The flavor was surprisingly nutty (with some scorched sugar), and would be great to break in those who ‘don’t like dark beer,’ with the roastiness muted by the sweet toffee flavors. This beer is good enough that I’d recommend it to my friends.
Milk Stout Cream
This is very similar to the regular milk stout, except it’s a good bit sweeter, and a little nuttier. Unfortunately, this sweetness comes off as a bit artificial tasting. If you take half & half in your coffee and get stuck with Coffee Mate one day, you know what I’m talking about. The regular milk stout is plenty sweet by itself, this is just overdoing it.
50 Foot Blonde
Wow, I found a blonde ale I like that isn’t Belgian. Why? Blondes are usually too small for me, but this one has enough body to keep it interesting. It has a sort of adjunct smell I find commonly in blondes, and not much in the way of hop character. It’s not terribly interesting, but it’s satisfying and refreshing.
50 Foot Angry Dragon
With its similar body and sweet honey aroma, I think of Angry Dragon steam beer as sort of the big brother to the blonde (yeah, yeah – I know the yeast is different). It shares the same fresh malt aroma and clean, quick finish as the blonde. Like the blonde, I wouldn’t feature it at any beer tastings, but a pitcher would go great with a pizza.
Keep your eyes open for Patrick’s latest creations, an 8% ABV rye IPA named RIP and his latest bourbon barrel stout (I don’t want to review it based solely on the quick taste I had from a conditioning keg, but I think it’s better than the last batch).
You can stop by Neil House’s taproom (372 Morrison Rd., Suite D) Wednesdays 11a-5p, Fridays 11a-7p and Saturdays 11a-5p to take a growler home with you.