Zauber Brewing Company founder Geoff Towne should be considered a microbrewing trailblazer. Just a few short years ago, craft beer connoisseurs in Columbus had to scour the city in search of a quality brew. But little by little, people like Towne realized the potential of Columbus and decided it was time for Cow Town to become a craft beer mecca all its own. While the realization of this potential has been slow, it certainly has been steady, and more importantly, enthusiastic and successful.
While their style of beer is to be noted and their inspiration for creating unique, yet relateable beers, aka "Zbeers," should be discussed, Columbus Craft Beer Examiner first wanted to pick Towne's brain about the Columbus craft beer scene and the philosophy behind creating a phenomenon where there once was none. Turns out, Towne is exceedingly optimistic about what ZBC, and other local breweries as well, have to offer this college town.
Columbus Craft Beer Examiner: The craft beer scene in Columbus has been on the down low until recent years, but is finally starting to see some serious momentum. Do you have any worries that it won't become as big as some states like Michigan or Colorado?
Geoff Towne: No, in short because of the demographics and economy locally. The taste buds of those in Michigan and Colorado are no different than Ohio. Part of the reason for the success of those states is a high number of 'quality' craft brewers leading the way.
CCBE: Do you see Columbus' craft beer scene as competitive or rather a unified community where all the microbrewers want to help each other succeed?
GT: Unified, for the most part. I think most of us would like to be collaborative and helpful to each other mostly because we need one another to compete against the big guys and out-of-state random brands that just dump product on our market.
CCBE: What do you see as your contribution to making craft beer a phenomenon in Columbus and how are you trying to set yourself apart from the other microbrewers?
GT: [We want] to bring more consumers, particularly beyond the beltway, into craft beer and to grow the "beer lifestyle" that so many breweries in other regions have been able to capture. [For us], style wise we want to explore new territory rather than imitate the usual crafty suspects.
CCBE: Some people are completely loyal to their Bud Light and have negative opinions of craft beer. How would you try to explain why craft beer, specifically yours, is a better choice especially in a college town where some beer drinkers prefer quantity over quality?
GT: The journey to evolve our beer culture will always be slow, if for no other reason than beer is an emotional decision. We believe it is an exposure issue. If the only craft beer I ever tried was an IPA that had been sitting on the shelf for a year, I wouldn't like craft beer either. Getting the word out and exposing people to the idea of choice, eventually they will evolve.
Ironically, in a college town you'd be surprised at how many of our college-aged consumers are already experimenting with beer choices. From what I see, most students and post-grads start cheap then evolve in their own ways into a variety of beer choices.
Ours is a better choice because we are trying to appeal to the middle-of-the-road consumer who just wants a good beer, not necessarily an over-the-top beer. Our goal is to bring more of the unconverted into the craft beer tent.
Not only does Towne wish to bring newcomers into the beer tent, he is also hoping to bring them in for regular tastings at Zauber Brewing Company, located at 1300 Norton Ave. This somewhat obscure location is open Thursday through Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m., filling growlers for any ZBC newbie or even return customers.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at ZBC's development as a brewery, its inspiration behind its beer and the future Towne sees for this up-and-coming brewery.