Columbus, Ohio USA
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Columbus’s Original Brewmaster Scott Francis
and a Festival to Celebrate Handcrafted Ales
By Mary Martineau
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The North Market will host the first Columbus Microbrew Festival on Saturday, Sept. 16 from noon – 7 p.m. To get a perspective on microbrewing in Columbus, I sat down with Scott Francis of Barley’s Brewing Company.
Scott Francis has a job that he loves and that everyone envies. “Everybody wants my job, including me!” he says. Scott is a brewmaster. In fact, in Columbus, Scott should be the standard by which brewmasters are judged. Based on his years of experience and his involvement with microbreweries in this city, Scott has earned himself a place in the history books on craft brewing in Columbus. How does one get Scott’s job? Well, the role of brewmaster in Columbus is one that Scott has helped to create.
Scott began homebrewing in the seventies. In 1974, he opened The Winemakers’ Shop in Clintonville to provide like-minded homebrewers and winemakers with equipment and supplies. The store is still open (32 years for those who like to keep track) and run by his wife, Nina. It is a haven for DIY aficionados.
His professional brewing career began in 1988 when he was hired by the Edwards family to set up the Columbus Brewing Company (CBC), Columbus’s first microbrewery. Scott was then CBC’s brewmaster for two years until another dream opportunity presented itself. He left CBC, but not before hiring and training his replacement, Ben Pritchard, to carry on the work of crafting CBC’s outstanding products.
At The Winemakers’ Shop, Scott had made the acquaintance of Lenny Kolada, a fellow homebrewer who frequented the store for supplies. Lenny also regularly visited Scott while at Columbus Brewing Company to observe the machinations of an operational brewery. Lenny had a dream to open a brewpub, an intimate place to offer handcrafted ales directly to the consumer. When he finally gathered an investment group to make his dream a reality, he asked Scott to come onboard as brewmaster. Scott accepted, Barleys’ Brewing Company was born and the rest is (ongoing) history.
One may well dub Scott the “godfather of Columbus microbreweries” as he has set up five Central Ohio breweries in addition to CBC and Barley’s Brewpub. These include Barley’s Smokehouse, New Albany Country Club, Medallion Country Club, Atwood Lodge (New Philadelphia) and Hide Away Hills (in Hocking County).
Homer Simpson would likely refer to Scott as a “Beer God.” The annual production at Barley’s (between the two locations) is 12,000 barrels of beer. To put that into a quantifiable perspective: one barrel is 31 gallons and one gallon is eight pints. That makes for pretty darned close to 3 million pints they produce (and sell!) each year.
Those barrels, gallons and pints are comprised of about 20 different styles of ales, seven or eight of which are on tap at each location on any given day throughout the year. The three standards are Barley’s pilsner, pale ale and Scottish ale which are available daily with a host of others making seasonal appearances. The perennial favorite is the Christmas Ale, only available on tap from Thanksgiving through Christmas (or sooner or later until they run out). They will sell “boatloads, something crazy like 10,000 pints of this in six weeks.” You can also occasionally find beers on tap from Elevator, CBC and Hoster making guest appearances as “visiting ales.”
All of the beer created at Barley’s is sold at Barley’s by the pint for on-premise consumption, or in gallon jugs known as “growlers” that customers can take home. For those who live on campus or in Clintonville, there is one exception to this rule. You can pick up a growler at Andy’s Carryout on High Street, the last vestige of Barley’s former wholesale business. The joint is on Scott’s way home, and he has maintained that outlet for his loyal followers in the neighborhood.
Reasons that Scott loves his job abound. He loves the artistic and creative facets of brewing beer. He likes that people come to Barley’s specifically for the beers he creates. He finds great satisfaction in creating a product that is revered by comrade beer enthusiasts. He takes pride in the fact that people’s appreciation for his craft can be calculated in pints sold numbering in millions per year.
My favorite reason is that he can name his potions in fun and creative ways! His award-winning Alexander’s Russian Imperial Stout is named for his firstborn son, while the Ivan Porter is namesake of the second (really, Ivan Porter Francis is going to be very popular in college). MacLenny’s Scottish Ale and Glen Lenny’s Scotch Ale pay tribute to Barley’s owner and friend, Lenny Kolada. Angelo’s Crooked Sky Rye is designated in honor of head brewer Angelo Signorino who Scott credits as “doing most of the work” and who’s been there since the opening of the business. The “crooked sky” portion of the moniker is a reference to the view from the front window of Barley’s on High Street to the zig-zagging profile of the Greater Columbus Convention Center across the street that creates a meandering horizon. Artistic freedom, fan appreciation, financial confirmation and creative license – who wouldn’t love all of that in an occupation?!
Despite all of the acclaim, Scott is a humble brewmaster. He is quick to extol the virtues of his local colleagues’ beer and character, calling them all “nice guys and good brewers.” He believes that he makes a “good” beer, but firmly states that his beer is not better than anyone else’s, just different. As people’s tastes are diverse, he brews a certain type of beer that certain people appreciate. Judging by the aforementioned sales, his brew appeals to a lot of “certain people.”
Seven years ago, Scott came upon a factor that does make Barleys’ beers truly unique. Yeast is a critical component in brewing. There are hundreds of varieties, many of which they’d tried at Barley’s (not to mention Scott’s homebrewing knowledge, microbrewery history AND that shop in Clintonville). Scott obtained a yeast from Fuller’s Brewery in London that from the first batch produced exactly the type of beer he wanted to create. This yeast is such a versatile ingredient that it can make any style of beer. Scott and Angelo have used this same yeast in every batch of beer they have brewed since, not just the brand, but a portion of the original batch. The yeast they still use is a strain of the original that has been slightly altered by each consecutive batch of beer they have brewed. This process imparts a unique flavor profile to their beers.
Pubs and taverns have them and so does the North Market, they’re the “regulars.” The master brewer is a longtime market shopper. He reminisces, as everyone does, about the climate control issues at the old Quonset hut and recalls watching the demolition of the aged market building from the Barley’s space. He speaks fondly of the many merchants he has acquired as friends over the past decade. He picks up groceries for home from David and Cheryl Smith at Bluescreek Farm Meats, Annmarie and Jerry at North Market Poultry, Bob the Fish Guy and Mike Kast at Curds & Whey. He regularly grabs lunch from Pastaria, Barry’s New York Style Deli or Flavors of India. Scott finds kindred spirits in the merchants of the North Market who are (like he is) loving what they do. Scott is happy about the potential of the Columbus Microbrew Festival to give a little more exposure to Barley’s convenient location across the North Market parking lot!
What Barley’s ales will be on tap at the Columbus Microbrew Festival? Scott promises us Pilsner, Pale Ale, Scottish Ale, Russian Imperial Stout, India Pale Ale and a sixth to be announced. If you see your favorite, stop by and have a taste of that and sample drafts from all of Columbus’ award-winning microbreweries at the North Market’s Columbus Microbrew Festival! If you don’t swing by Barley’s for a pint!
COLUMBUS MICROBREW FESTIVAL
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 16, Noon - 7 p.m.
WHERE: The Dispatch Kitchen on the 2nd Floor of the Market
PARTICIPATING BREWERIES: Barley’s Brewing Company (Ale House No. 1), Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub (Ale House No. 2), Columbus Brewing Company, Elevator Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant and Hoster Brewing Company • Representatives from each microbrewery will be on hand to pour samples of their signature drafts.
ADMISSION: Free. Beer tasting admission is just $12 and includes a commemorative pint glass and six tasting tickets. Discount coupons are good for $2 off the tasting admission fee and are available at all participating microbreweries. Additional tasting tickets will be available for $.50 each.
Tickets are on sale now at the North Market business office or available at the door on the day of the event.
North Market, 59 Spruce Street
614-463-9664 • firstname.lastname@example.org
©2006 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.