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The Brewery District is Booming!…….Again.

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 30, 2017

Daily Growler Brewery District

You may have missed it but the Brewery District is BOOMING again! If you were born after 1980 or if you were new to Columbus after 2001, it may be a real shocker, but this area south of Downtown and just west of German Village was the center for city nightlife for over a decade starting in the late 1980’s.

The Brewery District has become a big part of my life over the last several years as I lead tours throughout of the area and as a member of the Brewery District Trade Association, working to improve the area for residents and businesses alike. I have been happy to see a flood of new residents to the area with the help of locally focused real estate agents like HER Realtors. It has become my second favorite neighborhood, next to Clintonville (my pal Nick beat me to that post on my neck of the woods).

But let us begin with the first boom of the Brewery District. Louis (Ludwig) Hoster established City Brewery (near the current intersection of Liberty and Front) in 1836. Legend has it that when he passed through the city on a 4th of July, he was so smitten with Columbus, he was determined to come back to establish his roots. He certainly did, over the next seventy years, he and his descendants expanded the small brewery one of the largest brewing empires in the country as The Hoster Brewing Company. At its peak in the late 1890’s the brewery took up several city blocks and produced over 500,000 barrels of beer per year. Several other breweries fermented in the area during this same era including Schlee/Bavarian, Born and August Wagner Brewing. However, the Brewery District went bust long before prohibition. A combination of a growing Temperance Movement (started in Ohio) and the Anti-Saloon League (originating in Westerville) resulted in nearly two-thirds of Ohio’s 88 counties voted dry by 1908. Add in competition from growing national breweries (Budweiser and Pabst), a large labor strike and the anti-German sentiment brewing in 1914 due World War I (which suggested drinking beer was unpatriotic), most of the breweries went bust before 1918. This history is why the area is known as the Brewery District today, because it was the center of brewing in Central Ohio BEFORE prohibition. I say this because my company Columbus Brew Adventures leads tours of the Brewery District and we sometimes find people are confused by the lack of breweries in the area.

However, the second boom of the Brewery District was related to beer as well. In 1988, the first microbrewery in Columbus (and second in the state) Columbus Brewing Company started out in the Brewery District. In 1989, the Hoster name returned to the area with Hoster Brewing, a great brewery and restaurant located on High Street. In addition to two breweries, the district was considered the premiere bar hopping area of its era with Victory’s, Hi Beck, Gibbys, BW-3 (when we called it that instead of B-dubs…) and many others fueling the weekend escapades of the city’s young professionals and college kids looking for a break from campus dives. The rise of the Short North, Easton and a change in tides in what was hip, saw the Brewery District start to nose dive in the early 2000’s as people lost interest in the area. Hoster closed in 2001 and many other areas businesses followed suit.

CBC Restaurant 2017

In the last two years, the area has started to see a resurgence in interest driven by the addition of many new businesses willing to wait it out, with the philosophy of, “if we serve it (beer, food, fun) they will come”. The venerable CBC Restaurant (not now or ever a part of Columbus Brewing Company) has survived years of nearby construction and is thriving as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer. Hi-Beck, Victory’s and Tony’s are still around and they have been joined by several exciting destinations including Copious/Notes, Brick American Kitchen, Rockmill Tavern, and El Arepazo Latin Grill. These destination restaurants are bringing diners back to the area and in the process, these folks are discovering what else is going on in the area after their meals.

But wait, there is more! This third boom in the Brewery District is being fueled by beer as well. Most people don’t know it, but there is one active brewery in the Brewery District. Although it is not open to the public, Commonhouse Ales is housed in the former Columbus Brewing Company space behind CBC Restaurant. There are many cool things about Commonhouse Ales, but the most compelling is that $1 of every six pack sale of their Six Point One Four Good Ale, goes to the Columbus Foundation and then pours out as grants to different Columbus charities and non profits. The previously mentioned Rockmill Tavern (voted best new restaurant in 2016) is the taproom for Lancaster based Rockmill Brewery as well as a sour beer aging facility. The Daily Growler is now established as their third location in the Brewery District and Seventh Son Brewing is starting a new project, slated to be open by the end of the year called Antiques on High. This will serve as their aging facility for sour and barrel aged beers and will host a taproom to explore these new beers as well as craft beer from the Seventh Son Brewery. More new businesses are on the way as well. It is exciting to see the resurgence of the Brewery District.

Food at El Arepazo

Arepazo Bandeja Paisa Platter

I’d like to go into a bit more detail on one of the spots leading the resurgence in the area, El Arepazo Latin Grill. Looking at the history of the area, immigrants had a huge part in growing the area in the first Brewery District Boom. Carlos and Carolina Gutierrez have maintained that tradition, they have worked hard to make their third location a destination for the area. Years ago, Carlos and his family were encouraged by area residents to open a restaurant when they served their Venezuelan delicacies to rave reviews at the Festival Latino year after year. Carolina, brought her Columbian family favorites to the menu as they were establishing the first Arepazo in Pearl Alley over a decade ago. They knew they were taking a risk when they launched the Brewery District location. They occupied a space that used to be one of the busiest BW-3’s in the country during its heyday. Then another restaurant took over and struggled. As they were getting ready to launch a few neighboring businesses went belly up but they decided to persist anyway, knowing the first year or more might not be very profitable. But they were determined to make a difference and knew the space had a lot of potential for them to showcase menu items they did not have the space to do at their other restaurants. They added in a wine room, host a weekly salsa night and more to add flavor to the space. Because I am such a fan, I am offering a prize for one of you that reads this post. Comment with either your favorite Brewery District memory or a dish you would like to try at Arepazo by midnight June 10th and one commenter will be chosen at random to win a $25 gift card to Arepazo. Good luck and I’ll see you in the Brewery District.

Tres Leches Cake at Arepazo Brewery District

Tres Leches Cake at El Arepazo


Disclosure: this giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal. Opinions, content and photos are my own.

A winner was selected on June 10th and the contest is closed. Thanks for reading and an extra thank you to those that commented.

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16 Responses to “The Brewery District is Booming!…….Again.”

  1. Great article! I was drawn to the Brewery District when Shadowbox Live moved there, as I followed them from Easton. I think my favorite visit there was one night when there was a food truck event with live music and all. It was a really great night.

  2. Laura May said

    You left out the best wings/wing night in the area! Three Sheets’s wings are killer and the bar started there a couple years ago bringing new life to the area.

    • I’ve only been to 3 Sheets for a quick beer. There are many more places I did not mention, Local Cantina, Kolache Republic, etc, so many more reasons to go.

    • I’ve only been there for a very quick beer. There are many more places I did not mention including Local Cantina, Kolache Republic, there any plenty of good reasons to enjoy the area.

  3. Food Joy said

    Well, I’m not certain how Three Sheets was left out of this. One of my favorite spots, and ubkd my opinion, the best potato skins in the city! Might want to check it out and possibly update this article… 😁

  4. Kyle preissner said

    Great article! My wife and I have lived in the Brewery District for the past five years and have loved every minute of it. Favorite Brewery District moment was the first time I tasted the wondrous sauce that is Arepazo’s cilantro sauce sitting outside on a nice summer day! I’d love to try their chimichurri, carne asada and to scarf down some more cilantro sauce wouldn’t be too bad either!

  5. Andrew said

    Man, that Tres Leches looks good. I’d love to try El Arepazo!! I have a list of restaurants I want to try in Columbus. Still a big list after all these years.

  6. Jim Hammar said

    Many fun nights watching bands at both Hi Beck and Victory’s. Hung out with Ronald Koal one night writing song lyrics at Hi-Beck. BTW, don’t remember Damons in that space but do remember Buffalo Wild Wings there back when they still did roast beef on weck sandwichs. (Writers note: you are correct – so I corrected that).

  7. Cindy Leland said

    Arepazo fish tacos… I make fish tacos at home, but they are “almost, but not utterly unlike” Arepazo!

  8. Mary Mac said

    I still remember satio on the patio. Glad for the comeback

  9. Melissa said

    I vaguely remember many college nights spent dancing and drinking at the clubs, particularly the one with the dueling pianos. And I love El Arepazo- just went yesterday and had the patacon with pork.

    • Kris said

      I was not super fond of going to the clubs as a college student (campus or brewery district) but I remember going to the bar with the dueling pianos too. That was a lot more fun than I had expected it would be.

  10. rdm said

    That Bandeja Paisa platter, tho.

    My favorite memory of the Brewery District is Le Metropolitain! I loved that place, just not enough to keep it in business, apparently.

  11. Brian said

    Best night was seeing Wilco there in 96 or 97. 2nd best was our first stop at El Arepazo in that location. Oh, the cilantro sauce, but everything else is fresh too. Glad to see that family rewarded for their efforts.

  12. susanbhalpern said

    My favorite dish at El Arepazo is the guacamole of course. It’s delicious.

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