Pretentious Barrel House is one of the newest entrants to the Columbus brewery scene. What makes them stand out from the others is that their mission is to focus entirely on sour beers. Since I’m a fan of sours, I was pretty excited to check out their new tap room, located on the East Side of Columbus.
The tap room is long and narrow. The left side of the room features an underlit wooden bar with 12 seats. Behind the bar are windows into the brewery. You’ll notice fermenters and a number of barrels filled with aging sours, but no brewhouse. At this time, Pretentious is contracting out its brewing and focusing on its blending and souring, which seems like a smart way for a new brewery to break in on a budget. There is a single TV behind the bar, but it was turned off. The right side of the room has high tables with seating for four to six patrons. Past the tables, there are more barrels of aging beers at the end of the room. Three large, colorful murals cover the walls.
The space is dimly lit with LED bulbs that resemble the Edison bulbs that have become so ubiquitous at tap rooms. There is quiet, relaxing music playing. It was early in the tap room’s day at about 4:30 and it was quiet despite the presence of several patrons, but I get the sense it is regularly quiet in there, regardless of the number of customers. The relative quiet and relaxed atmosphere made the tap room feel more like a restaurant than a run-of-the-mill tap room to me. You’re not going to see a TouchTunes jukebox on the wall here. Pretentious does not have a kitchen, but they had menus for a food truck on each table. Outside there was a small patio with two picnic tables.
There were six beers available to try. Every beer could be served in a variety of sizes, but it all came in the same glassware, some really classy looking stemmed glasses. The first beer we tried was the Sybarite, which more closely resembled a true wild ale than the kettle sours many breweries are producing these days. Sybarite was tart with a light strawberry and cherry flavor and it was surprisingly nice for a brand-new brewery. The remaining beers were different versions of Truculent. The base beer is a golden ale with a hint of tartness and a variety of fruits. I think I picked up banana and mango. There were also three hopped Truculents available – Citra, Centennial, and Azacca and Idaho 7. The fruitiness of the Citra hops blended nicely with the base beer. The Centennial – my favorite of the Truculents – had the most traditionally “hoppy” flavor. I didn’t love the Azacca and Idaho 7 version, but that’s more a reflection of my opinion of those hops than of the beer. The final Truculent variant was a ginger and lime Truculent, which was pretty tasty. The day we were there was the first day Pretentious’ bottles were on sale. Swing by today if you want some Sybarite or Truculent to take home with you.
True sour beers take a year or more to make, and the process of blending different barrels can be complicated. It is difficult for any brewery focused on sours to get started, as you have a year or more in which you have little product. I think Pretentious has made a strong first effort with some promising beers, and I look forward to going back and sampling more as those barrels continue to age and start producing some delicious sours in the coming months.