A friend of mine revels in his ability to create amazing, well-attended dive bar crawls in Chicago. His favorite features are establishments that he calls “slashies,” which simply means a dive bar that serves booze for on-site consumption as well as for carry-out. House Beer is by far the classiest “slashy” I’ve ever come across.
Immediately after walking into House Beer, which opened in early August, I felt a great sense of warmth and intimacy. Although there are only five bar stools and three tables, it never felt too cramped. The seats at the bar and each table were occupied by people of all ages engaged in deep conversation. The tables are carved from trees with the bark still intact, and the barstools feature butt grooves (is that the correct technical term?) presumably for comfort. For a carryout/bar, House Beer certainly does a wonderful job of making customers feel welcome to linger.
The interior of House Beer is a comfortable mix of industrial and rustic, and the entire left side is covered in coolers filled with perhaps Columbus’ best selection of bottles. The walls are made from wood from a barn in Cloverdale, Ohio, that was notorious for its illegal beer brewing during Prohibition. The barn was raided, and nearly a century later the walls contribute to House Beer’s delightfully rustic/hipster feel. Photos of happy beer brewers from the barn beg for attention on the wall, and I absolutely love this touch. One of the light fixtures is made from a drying rack from the beer barn in conjunction with rope and pulleys. All lighting comes from something I refer to as “old-timey lightbulbs,” which contribute wonderfully to the warmth of the interior. They definitely have a welcoming atmosphere, and I give them major props for that.
Now onto the beer. The selection on draft was uninspiring to both me and my husband, but they emphasized that they frequently rotate the taps and an entirely new selection is likely to be on tap the next day. They sell growlers for $20-$25, which is certainly a nice touch assuming that the draft selection is usually more interesting. The bottle selection is truly impressive, and I was able to find Belgian beers that I’d never heard of. They make a point to put each beer in the proper glassware, which we definitely appreciated. What we didn’t appreciate, though, was that the small bottles have a $1 corkage fee and the large bottles have a $2 fee. The prices on bottles aren’t terrible, but we were a little honked off at the idea of corkage fees. And the temperature…awful. I’ll happily drink crappy beers way too cold, but when I’m drinking fantastic beers, they can’t be featuring icicles. I’m hopeful that this was a beginning hiccup and not simply ignorance regarding the temperature of the coolers. Also, random annoyance, Pumking was misspelled in several places. Not really a big deal, but I hate when bars don’t spell their products correctly.
I started with a Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and I was more than pleased. They offered to keep my large bottle in the cooler, which is a nice touch, but frankly it needed to sit out for 15 minutes while I cupped the glass before it was close to the correct temperature to truly taste it.
The evening I checked out House Beer they happened to be leading a book club featuring Gone Girl paired with Monk’s Blood by 21st Amendment. Like so many things these days, I have no intention of taking part in this book club, but I’m very happy it exists. Large windows look out to High Street, so there’s great lighting and some wonderful people watching. The only food offered is pretzel knots Friday through Sunday, so be sure to eat before enjoying those 10% ABV beers.
The bartenders were nice and relatively engaging, but I was a little surprised that with less than 20 people in the bar I had to say the name on my tab each time we ordered a beer. Also, two random observations: One of the chalkboards just says “LOCAL” on it with no explanation of why the buzzword is there, and they have a happy hour that lasts from 2:00-6:14. I still can’t decide how I feel about that decision.
House Beer is a good deal for carryout for sure, and the atmosphere is pretty grand, but I’m still peeved by those corkage fees. The beer is served way too cold, but I really hope that’ll be fixed soon. Casual beer drinkers may not really enjoy House Beer, but beer enthusiasts should be impressed by the bottle lineup.
House Beer is located at 843 North High Street.