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Central Ohio IFMA Chapter Members Tour Local Brewery

   As outside temperatures climbed to 90 degrees on Tuesday, Aug. 30, the thermostat inside the Land-Grant Brewing Company on W. Town Street in Downtown Columbus soared even higher. But that didn’t stop a contingent of Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members from touring the facility (an old elevator factory), asking questions, and sampling some of the brew.
     Afterward, a 3,000 sq. ft. taproom -- with some 18 taps -- proved just the place to cool off.
     The Land-Grant Brewing Company, housed at 424 W. Town Street, got its name from the Morrill Act of 1862, better known as the Land-Grant Act. It was a major boost to higher education in America. The grant was originally set up to establish institutions in each state that would educate people in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other professions that were practical at the time. The land-grant act was introduced by a congressman from Vermont named Justin Smith Morrill. He wanted to ensure that education would be available to those in all social classes. The act essentially set aside federal land in each state for the establishment of public universities, bringing higher education to the masses. There is at least one Land-Grant school in every state, including the Ohio State University here in Columbus, Ohio.
     But the history of the Land-Grant Brewing Company goes back even farther.
     Ohio State alumni Adam Benner and Walt Keys had always dreamed of returning to Columbus to build something of their own. Before coming home to Ohio, the seed of what would become the Land-Grant Brewing Company began in a tiny carriage-house apartment on the west-side of Chicago. To test the feasibility of what was then called Oval Brewing, the two launched and successfully completed a Kickstarter Campaign in 2012. Kickstarter is an innovative way to fund creative projects, and is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method in which projects must be fully-pledged or no money changes hands.
     The two received over 400 pledges which are now on display on the donor wall in the Kickstarter room just adjacent to the brewery’s tap room.
     Some two years later, on Oct. 18, 2014, Benner and Keys successfully opened the doors to their Franklinton taproom and brewing facility in one of Columbus’ most up and coming urban neighborhoods.
     The current home of Land-Grant Brewing Company is a former elevator factory. Built in 1920, the Capital Lift and Manufacturing Company occupied the building which has seen its fair share of transformation in Franklinton. An addition to the building in the ‘70s added an office space to the front of the facility. Beyond elevators, Capital began building track systems for moving giant reams of paper around large-scale printing facilities. The building remained an active manufacturing plant well into the ‘90s.
     Brewery renovations began in March of 2014 and involved a full overhaul of the manufacturing facility for the company’s production brewery, and a renovation of the offices to house the taproom. Crews took on the daunting task of clearing out nearly 100 years of manufacturing and office equipment. Once demo was complete, crews brought in all new plumbing, electrical and HVAC, and poured a 5-inch-thick slab floor over the entire production facility.   The office space was also gutted to the bare bones. Suprisingly, the original brick facade with completely intact windows was discovered – and utilized. Crews painted the old beige stucco on the exterior, and covered the front of the building in barn wood reclaimed from an old barn near Marion.
   Inside the brewery, a variety of malts are made.   The brewing operation gets started in an American-made brew house from the WM Sprinkman Corporation in Wisconsin. Fermentation takes place in one of two 80 BBL, five 40 BBL, or one 20 BBL fermentation tanks. The beer finishes up in one of two 40 BBL or one 80 BBL brites. After that, finished beer goes into kegs or heads over to the packaging area for canning. The Land-Grant Brewing Company was the first Columbus breweries to can beer on its own canning line, a semi-automated, five-head cask line. From there, beer heads to one of two coolers, and then either out the back door for distribution around Columbus or up front to the on-site taproom.
     And every batch is tasted before it heads out for sale.
     According to tour guide Chris Helderman, a brewer at the tap house, the brewery chooses to use cans rather than bottles in order to preserve the taste of their brews.
     “There are three enemies of beer,” he told the Central Ohio IFMA crew. “Light, heat and oxygen.” While the brewer has no control over temperature once it leaves their facility, eliminating light is an easy fix – store it in cans.
     “We also like it because it is a little more environmentally friendly,” said Helderman, and easy (safe) to transport.
     Inside the taproom, 24-foot communal tables welcome guests, along with big-screen televisions, table shuffleboard, and unique advertisement/artwork courtesy of another one of the brewery’s owners.
     The bar features a constantly rotating selection of beers, as well as a closely-considered lineup of guest drafts. With names like Deep Search, Glory, Yum-Yum, and Son of a Mudder, there’s something for everyone.
     While no food is served inside, food trucks outside provide something substantial for hungry patrons – who are also welcome to order in.
     “This was not a quick process,” Helderman admitted of the brewery’s inception. But two years later, it is adding to the continued growth of the brewery market in the Columbus Metropolitan area.
     Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members aren’t the only ones who can get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of core, seasonal, and limited-release beers. Tours of the building and brewing facility are offered at 3 p.m. on Saturdays, unless that conflicts with an Ohio State Football game. In that case, tours are given at an earlier time.  (Click on the Photo Gallery link to your left to see pictures from this tour.)