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Rockmill Brewery to Open Tavern in Brewery District

Rebecca Wagner Rebecca Wagner Rockmill Brewery to Open Tavern in Brewery DistrictPhoto by Walker Evans.
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Lancaster-based Rockmill Brewery is expanding their Columbus reach, filling in the recently-vacated World of Beer in the Brewery District with a farmhouse-style tavern.

Rockmill Tavern, a small brewpub, will open at 503 South Front Street. The space is a 3,800 square-foot facility. Owner Matthew Barbee says that when all is said and done, the sit-down space will be quite a bit smaller, seating around 120 people – 80 less than World of Beer’s facilities previously sat. The interior will resemble a smaller-scale location of Rockmill’s scenic farmhouse Lancaster brewery, walls covered with refurbished barn wood. The design will replicate the cozy nooks and crannies that characterize Rockmill’s Lancaster tasting room.

Renovations will include the addition of a small kitchen. Interestingly, World of Beer’s main reason for leaving was that the space couldn’t be easily retrofitted with kitchen facilities. Barbee admitted that the hood ventilation system will be a large feat to tackle, but that landlord Bill Schottenstein is helping to fully utilize the space.

Rockmill’s Belgian-inspired beer portfolio will be on draft. As for food, the menu will comprise of elevated tavern fare, complete with full table service. Barbee wouldn’t reveal who exactly Rockmill’s chef is, but hinted that “we’ve got somebody we’re excited about.”

This location will also house a small-production sour beer program. The wort (liquid extracted from the grain-mashing process of brewing) will be brewed in Lancaster, then transported to the Brewery District’s seven-barrel foudres system to water brew. Don’t expect to be tasting a Rockmill sour anytime in the near future, though.

“I’ve never made a sour before, so it might take up to a year,” said Barbee. “We’ll have to see how things develop on that track.”

The worts will be transported and brewed separately due to the possibility of airborne fermentation cross-contamination with Rockmill’s other beers.

The lease, which was signed last Friday, is the second the craft brewery has proposed in the past year. Their plans for to take over part of Juergen’s Bakery in German Village have been met with pushback from the German Village Commission and neighborhood residents, concerned over the brewpub’s prospective addition of a large patio and the resulting increased parking capacity.

“I think everyone’s going to realize and appreciate the changes we’ve made,” said Barbee, who’ll present revised plans to the Commission on June 23. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback, to the point where everyone is agreeable and happy with what’s happening with space.”

The menu at Rockmill’s German Village brewpub will be smaller, with a more chef-driven concept where the chef will be able to flex his creative muscle. Barbee’s menu inspiration stems from Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller’s renowned restaurant that features a daily rotating menu.

Rockmill Tavern is slated to open in early fall, with the German Village brewpub following suit by the end of the year.

For more information, visit www.rockmillbrewery.com.

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