One evening last week, I found myself driving to a secluded warehouse out near the airport. After finding the right building, I located the properly marked door and let myself inside to find a dimly lit abandoned-looking office space. I was then greeted by two burly looking men with Galifianakis-esque beards.
This is how a lot of horror movies start, which would be a fitting story today seeing as it’s Friday the 13th. But thankfully, everything was smooth sailing once I was led back into the warehouse area of the building and offered a beer. I had safely entered the production facility space of The Actual Brewing Company.
“I bet your’re sick of writing articles about breweries,” joked Fred Lee, co-Founder and co-Brewer at Actual.
While it’s true that this is now the eighth microbrewery article to be published on Columbus Underground in just as many months, it’s a positive sign that our city’s brewing scene is catching up on a national level. Lee explained that according to market research from the American Craft Brewers Association, Columbus should be able to support 17 microbreweries based solely on per capita figures. We currently have nine in the region, with five more working toward opening in 2012.
“When you consider that Columbus has also been recognized by Forbes as the country’s third drunkest city, we could probably easily support at least 20 microbreweries,” added Rob Camstra, the other co-Founder and Brewer at Actual.
Camstra and Lee’s microbrewing plans date back to 09/09/09, when they first kicked around the idea of creating a religion around a brewery, like a pair of local trappist monks.
“We thought it would be cool if we started this crazy secular monastery and put a brewery inside it… would that even possible?” laughed Camstra. “It was a brilliant idea, but it was just a little creepy.”
Fast forward to 10/10/10, which is the date when Lee says the name of the company was born. It was then that they began to take the idea of turning Camstra’s industry experience and Lee’s 15 years of homebrewing into a full-fledged beer business more seriously.
Today, the brewery is being assembled with plans to have production up and running by the beginning of the summer.
“We’re currently in the blood, sweat and tears phase of operation,” said Camstra. “There’s lots of late nights installing equipment, testing recipes, and getting the business end sorted out.”
An important aspect of the duo’s business plan includes a commitment to sustainable practices and energy efficiency. As a man who has created automobile fuel from moonshine, Lee knows a thing or two about chemical processes.
“Most breweries buy carbon dioxide to use, even though it’s also a byproduct of the brewing process itself,” he explained. “With slight modifications to our existing plumbing, we can install a co2 reclamation process, reduce our carbon footprint and never need to buy co2 to use.”
Once the production system is up and running, the next goal for The Actual Brewing Company is to open a brewpub in Downtown Columbus. Their production equipment will be relocated to the brewpub and the warehouse will eventually welcome an even larger brewing system for expanding distribution.
“The brewpub is still being finalized, but our production plant is ahead of schedule,” said Camstra. “We may also open a tasting room here at the warehouse since we don’t need additional licensing thanks to the recent passing of a new Ohio law.”
When it comes to tasting, customers will find four main staples from Actual (in addition to the occasional seasonal beer): an Imperial Stout, a Pale Ale, a Red Ale made with Rye, and a beer style called “The Columbus Common”, which the duo described as a good-drinkin’ lawnmower beer.
“It’s a beer that you can drink ten of when it’s hot outside,” joked Camstra.
“Responsibly,” added Lee.
“Yes, always responsibly when drinking ten beers,” laughed Camstra. “Like when you’re only five feet from your bed or couch.”
“Ten beers over the span of five hours,” quipped Lee.
“And don’t use the lawn mower while under the influence of course,” finished Camstra. “We don’t want to advocate that.”
All joking aside, the guys behind the Actual Brewing Company are completely serious about their new venture.
“We want to be community driven and have a quality product at an affordable price that people like,” said Camstra.
“We want to make smart, cutting-edge craft beer with the sort of love you’d expect from a couple of backyard daydreamers,” added Lee.
More information will be coming online soon at www.actualbeer.com.
Photos provided by Damian Wohrer at Kinopicz.com