Actual Brewing, on its exterior, is one of the most unassuming brewery/taprooms in Columbus. Located in Airport Plaza right off of James Road, Actual is in the middle of a nondescript industrial park. However, Actual is anything but nondescript. Its founder, Fred fucking Lee, makes sure of this. (I typically don’t swear in these posts, but Fred swears…often, and it’s hard to think of Actual without doing so in his language.)
We went to Actual for the CCBA’s monthly Beer and Donuts event (shameless plug – come to Land Grant on August 7 and do your beer-and-donutsing with us!). Fred helped make the event unique and special, leading our group on tours of both the laboratory and the brewery and generating a lot of laughter and energy the entire way. No one describes the process of making beer in a more entertaining, yet informative, manner than Fred. Where else but Actual do you hear about yeast fucking? Brewing is like going to an orgy with thousands of your identical twins, he explained. That image will (unfortunately?) stick with me forever, but I’ll never forget how yeast works in the brewing process.
Fred has an amazing charisma that made everyone in attendance love him. Only Fred could host a beer and donut event without remembering which beer would be served or knowing which donuts people would be tasting, but it didn’t matter because Fred showed everyone a great time (and luckily, cellerman Zach Harper did an excellent job leading the pairings and generally keeping the train on the rails). While I think all of our Beer and Donuts events have been successful and fun, I don’t remember people leaving happier or more entertained than they did at this one.
Actual’s taproom – nicknamed Obscurity no doubt because of its location and nondescript façade – has grown and evolved in the years since it opened. In the beginning, and I say this lovingly, it looked like a shitty office break room. You want a bar or taproom to feel like a lounge, but not like a teachers’ lounge! It had a beat-up couch, a table with some mismatched chairs, and a TV with Mario Kart, and there were pizza boxes all over the place. The fluorescent lights were way too bright. It could have been someone’s dorm room. Plus it was missing something important…a bar! It had good beer and was a comfortable spot, but it wasn’t exactly a spot you’d show off to out-of-towners. But now the space is looking nice, and you can tell they’ve put in a lot of work to fix it up. They’ve built a bar. They’ve painted the walls a darker color and toned down the lighting so it feels more appropriate for drinking. They’ve knocked out walls as they’ve acquired one unit after another and expanded across Airport Plaza, so now there’s space to spread out. There are several classic arcade games lining the walls now (although Mario Kart is still there if you prefer). The chairs are still mismatched, but there are lots more of them now, and there are enough tables for everyone. The walls feature the art of the incredibly talented Mira Lee, whose bottle labels are, for my money, the most attractive and interesting around. I didn’t even see any pizza boxes. They’ve done a nice job cleaning the place up.
Actual featured three beers and three donuts during our event. The first beer was Eccentricity, a bier de garde with a slightly fruity tang and a gingeriness that paired nicely with a Buckeye Donuts blueberry cake donut. Next, we had Luxon, a saison. Luxon has a peppery pop to it with just a hint of sweetness and it washed down an apple fritter perfectly. Finally, we had Fat Julian, Actual’s imperial stout. The Fat Julian has hints of leather and tobacco that cut through the sweetness of a buckeye donut, and it is dangerously smooth for a ten percent beer, especially when it’s served on nitro as it is at the taproom. After the event, I had one more beer, a can of Photon. Photon is Actual’s answer to the Bud/Miller/Coors lawnmower lagers. It’s crisp and light, but packs more flavor than your macro light beer of choice, and it’s great for a summer patio session (and it’s under a hundred calories a can!).
I don’t make it to Actual as often as I’d like because it’s across town from my house, but it’s always a great time and I always enjoy the beer and the people. If you couldn’t make it for Beer and Donuts at Actual, head on over there on your own and check it out. Feel free to take donuts. And see if you can get Fred to give you a fucking tour.