The microbrew business continues to boom in Columbus with the addition of another selection to the growing market: Wolf’s Ridge Brewing. Father and sons team Alan Szuter, Bob Szuter and Aaron DiCenzo have begun work on building out their Downtown base of operations at 215 North Fourth Street, which will be home to a restaurant and bar as well as their brewing and bottling facilities. While there’s still much work to be done, the team at Wolf’s Ridge is targeting an opening date in early May.
We spoke recently with Alan to find out more about what we can expect from the new bar, restaurant and brewery. Our full interview can be found below:
Walker Evans: What drew you to wanting to start your own brewery business?
Alan Szuter: I’ve been a fan of craft beer for a long time, and have been homebrewing for years. In my former career I traveled a lot, and had the opportunity to visit a lot of other craft breweries and brewpubs. I really enjoyed the craft beer scene, and started seriously investigating it two years ago. With two partners who had the experience we needed (finance and hospitality), it began to look like we could do this… or at least try!
WE: With the recent explosion of new breweries, beer bars and growler shops in Columbus, do you worry about oversaturation, or is the market for new breweries still strong?
AS: We view the growth in microbreweries and brewpubs as a positive for craft beer in general. With craft beer accounting for only six percent of the overall US beer market, there is room for a lot more growth among the little guys. More specifically, during the construction of our business plan, we found Columbus could handle a good number of additional microbreweries at its current population. Obviously, with the growth the city is seeing, there could be even more down the road. In addition, many of the cities we visited support a much higher concentration than we have here in Central Ohio. On top of that, the craft beer and food movement is not a trend in our eyes; it’s a new way of life for people. We hope to be another great place for people to enjoy great beer and food in a comfortable, unassuming environment. The addition of bars and shops focused on craft beer only helps reach more people that may not have yet experienced craft beer and food, so that’s definitely a positive.
WE: So what is unique about your new brewery?
AS: The local and community movement that has been growing for several years is, in our opinion, one that will continue to grow and gain strength. Our brewery and restaurant is focused on growing with the downtown community. We want to partner with the community and becoming a space that our neighbors and community members want to see succeed. One example of this is that we are working with the CCAD MindMarket Design Lab which will allow us to partner with students from the interior design program to help with some of the décor and plan of the interior space. We are really excited about this. We are also sourcing our chairs from a local furniture shop, Amish Originals in Westerville. In addition to the immediate community, we are working to source a majority of our raw materials from local producers who focus on organic and humane farming practices. While this is not unique to Columbus, we hope to further the growth of eating from local sources and showcase all that Ohio has to offer. We are very proud of what the Columbus community and the people of the state are doing as it relates to food and drink.
WE: What types of beers will you be featuring at the start?
AS: Our volume brewery equipment will arrive in early May, which is right around the time we expect to open. Until then, we’ll be using our small brewhouse, which will allow us to start with a limited selection — probably an IPA, a wheat ale, and our Belgian Tripel. As we ramp up with the new equipment, we’ll add a couple more standards, and we plan on doing several seasonal beers as well. We plan to offer other local beers on tap too, as well as bottled beers from other craft breweries.
WE: What drew you to this Downtown location for the business?
AS: As we said earlier, we are focused on partnering with the Downtown community. We are really impressed and excited with the growth of Columbus and Downtown specifically, and we want to be a part of that. The things that are happening on Gay Street, South Fourth, and other areas of Downtown are really impressive and fun. In addition, the unique needs of having a production brewery and a restaurant demanded a space that would support both, and were fortunate to be able to find one Downtown.
WE: Can you tell us a bit more about the restaurant side of Wolf’s Ridge?
AS: We are very excited with what our chef has planned. Chef Lassak has a unique background and is influenced by many different food cultures. While the overall menu will be classified as “New American”, you can expect to see flavors from Asian, French, Spanish, and many other cuisines. In addition, with his interest in beer and homebrewing, you can expect to see some interesting uses of beer ingredients in the foods. Again, we hope our customers will find this a great place to try new beers and foods in a casual setting.
WE: Anything else we should know as we look forward to the opening?
AS: We want to reiterate again our excitement of building this business and growing with the community. We’ve had a great reception so far. Everyone has been very encouraging and supportive. With that in mind, we want to hear from our customers and neighbors. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. Once we’re up and running we will look to social media for ongoing feedback and will work to provide the best service and product we can.
More info can be found online at www.wolfsridgebrewing.com.