On a cold, dark winter evening I drove up to a former cold storage unit with Christmas lights decorating the exterior, in hopes of finding warmth. As my scarf froze to my mouth I saw among the Christmas lights a tiny sign that read, The BottleHouse Brewing Company. I opened the large heavy door and was immediately surrounded by laughter and music. The place was packed with smiling patrons, all with beers at hand. Immediately I warmed up. “Time for a beer,” I whispered.
The BottleHouse was truly hoppin (no pun intended). That night, like every Tuesday night, was open mic night and several musicians were performing or sipping beer while waiting for their turns. Manager Jason Kallicragas greeted me at the bar.
I immediately glanced at what was on tap. The BottleHouse had eight different beers on tap that they had brewed themselves and one mead choice. “Mead? Mike Suglio, what is that?” you might ask. Mead is an alcoholic beverage (like beer) that is created by fermenting honey with water and often with fruits, spices, grains or hops. It has been around just as long as beer has but isn’t nearly as popular due to the high alcohol by volume (ABV) and the difficulty to make it just right.
Kallicragas began to pour a flight of all the beers and the only mead brewed by BottleHouse (they had many others not made in-house, though). I thankfully brought a friend to share the beer. Beer is best with friends.
As he poured, I soaked in the atmosphere. Bottles lined the shelves of the bar emanating the name of the brewery. Large picnic tables lined the dining area, which made it perfect for large groups. “Old-school” pinball machines rested in the back. But, what was pretty darn cool was a vast selection of board games, free to play as you drank and ate. You and your suitemates can finally have that family board game night you’ve always dreamt of.
On to the beer: The first beer I had was their Altbier, an excellent first beer to start off with. It was a smooth, flavorful, brown amber that was very drinkable. I held the beer up to a bar light and the illuminating light brown looked very clear.
I followed with a Dunkelweizen (you may remember my review of this type of beer at Indigo Imp Brewery). It was a darker form of the popular hefeweizen, a very popular type of beer for summer months, but it still had that wheat taste to it. A type of beer you wouldn’t mind having fruit with.
Next, I had the Erie Coast India Pale Ale. For any new drinkers of craft beer, IPA’s are hard to get into. I was very impressed, however; it was a very smooth and perfect IPA for newbies.
I took a break from sampling and talked more with Kallicragas. The brewery is rather small with a three-barrel system, and the place opened not too long ago (May 2012). The brewery now brews all the beer it sells. When I had first checked it out a year ago they only had a couple of their own beers and mainly sold guest beer. BottleHouse of course bottles their own, which you can get at Heinen’s and other craft beer stores. They also have a wide variety of craft cocktails.
Back to the beer: I then had the Bad Ass Rye, and at 8.1 percent ABV it most certainly is. You don’t want to take this beer too lightly. It does not have as much of a clear alcohol taste as most beers at this high of a percentage, so you can drink it rather quickly. There is a clear rye taste but it is not as overbearing as most rye beers.
On the flip side I then sampled the Oaked Vanilla Bourbon Porter. The vanilla taste was very present and bold, moreso than other vanilla porters I have had. It reminded me of vanilla coke, but with alcohol.
I followed with the Snow Day Winter Warmer, which is one of my new favorite Winter/Christmas beers. The beer is a completely new take on winter beers, because instead of loading up on sugar, ginger or cinnamon, this beer is predominantly a honey-flavored beer. It was very light, unlike most winter beers that fill you up after one or two pints. This was by far my favorite beer at the brewery.
It was now time to take a break for food, a very important part of any brewery exploration. The menu was filled with different types of pierogies and various waffles dishes. I decided to go with a corned beef sandwich, which had waffles instead of bread. My friend had a falafel waffle.
The sandwich was massive with fluffy yet crispy waffles and mounds of corned beef. The side of fries had a nice layer of oil and spices, which kept them warm and delightful. They were the opposite of the dry fries you get at most bars.
The last two beers were the Gather Christmas Ale and the Oatmeal Coffee Stout (Nitro), which were also great. The Ale was very strong and you could easily waft the smell of alcohol from the glass. At 10 percent ABV and 18 international bittering units (IBU), this was no joke. The Stout had a very clear coffee taste, probably the most pronounced coffee taste of all the coffee porters I have had. The BottleHouse uses coffee from the local business Rising Star Coffee Roasters.
I of course saved the mead for last. The draft mead was called the Dry Hopped Traditional and was very traditional. It had a clear honey flavor and was not something that you can gobble down with it being 11.4 percent ABV. It’s so strong that it is served in a small five-ounce glass. I enjoyed it and thought it was a nice alternative to beer, but my co-beer-taster friend did not share the same sentiment. Mead is not for everyone.
I must say that The BottleHouse Brewing Company is a great spot for students in University Circle to check out. It’s close to Melt Bar & Grilled, which many students venture to anyway. It is a nice, quiet alternative to many of the bars around campus and with all the exclusive beers on tap, it is a great opportunity to try something new.
The Bottlehouse is open every day of the week at various times.