{In our efforts to spotlight each Columbus-area brewery, we’re sending Doug Oldham to visit every brewery’s tap room. In the coming months, he will attempt to regale you with his experiences. Doug’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the CCBA.}

I’m a sucker for limited time offerings. When I was a kid, I made my parents be first in line for every collectible fast food giveaway. Smurfs glassware at Hardee’s? We’re there. Happy Meal Transformers that change from McDonald’s food to robots? I need it now! This impulse never went away as I grew up, so it’s no surprise then that I hold the same impulse for craft beer. If some brewery announces a limited edition bottle release, my goal is to be at the front of the line, especially if it’s a local craft brewery I respect and enjoy. And I got pretty fired up when Wolf’s Ridge announced they were releasing Dire Wolf Coco Joy and Clear Sky Daybreak.

Wolf’s Ridge has come so far in a short amount of time. When the place first opened, it seemed like a nice restaurant that dabbled in beer. Their first few beers were…well, the food was delicious! For awhile people came for the food and maybe hung around to try the beer. However, over time and with improvements to the brewing team, this emphasis has changed, and the beer has totally caught up to the (still amazing) food. For me, the turning point came when Wolf’s Ridge opened a dedicated taproom in the alley at the back of their restaurant. All of a sudden, there were 15 to 20 quality beers on tap at all times, and the beer never took a backseat to the food or the cocktails as it once did in the restaurant.

Wolf's Ridge Bottle Release Taproom

That brings us to the bottle release in question. I arrived about 35 minutes before the doors opened, only to find a line of nearly 40 eager drinkers lined up before me in the alley. Just looking at this line, I knew something special was happening. Many of the city’s biggest beer snobs – the sort of people who don’t turn up for just anything – were already lined up. The sort of people who somehow acquire the best and rarest beers from around the country and don’t drink anything unless it’s pure class. My already-mounting anticipation was exponentially expanded – if these folks wanted these bottles, then I knew they would be nothing but the best.

The doors opened at 10 AM and each person waiting in line received a number upon entering the taproom to claim their bottles in ten-person groups. The bottles were not to be released until 11, which gave me time to sit and enjoy one of my favorite places in town. The entire taproom is flooded with natural light from the two entire walls of windows. The place is always so bright that I don’t even know if they have artificial lighting (well, duh, they do, but as the father of an infant, I don’t exactly make it out after dark that often). The walls are brick and the rafters and air ducts are exposed, giving the entire space a stylish industrial vibe. Beyond the bar, the middle of the taproom is filled with communal tables that are best described as beautiful high-end modern picnic tables. And if being communal isn’t your thing, you can always stand around the perimeter of the space, where a standing table runs along the walls under the windows.

Wolf's Ridge Bottle Release Line

Wolf’s Ridge brought their A game with the beer that day, featuring several special releases. There were enough Dire Wolf and Clear Sky variants to have an entire tasting paddle of each (which several people did, causing a shortage of tasting glasses for those who were further to the back of the line). The Dire Wolf Canis Mexicanus was the clear highlight to me, bringing a sweet/spicy vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, and hot pepper combination that exceeds whales like Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout and Westbrook Mexican Cake for my money. The Clear Sky Cinnamon Toast Brunch was a winner as well, combining cinnamon and coffee and tasting surprisingly like its cereal namesake.

Good Morning Columbus! Doors are now open for our Bottle Release in the #WRBTapRoom. Get on down here before we run out!

A video posted by Wolf’s Ridge Brewing (@wolfsridgebrewing) on

Please note the hot pink T-shirt in the video above; you can always spot someone in Summer Session gear.

At 11:15 or so, I got my bottle allotment and headed home shortly thereafter. Opening a bottle of each in the coming days, I discovered that both were well worth the wait. The Coco Joy had a rich cocoa flavor with a hint of coconut sweetness. The Clear Sky Daybreak was even more interesting – it’s rare to find a low-ABV cream ale that can hold up to something as flavorful as coffee, but this one does it just fine. Wolf’s Ridge worked with One Line to find just the right coffee – one that wasn’t overpowering and brought just enough of a sweet and nutty flavor to the beer (it’s no wonder this team presented about the use of coffee in beer at the Great American Beer Festival, as they’ve really proven that they know what they’re doing).

If you haven’t done so by now, then go to Wolf’s Ridge. By focusing on the beer, I don’t mean to slight the food – it’s some of the best in the city, and I would recommend their brunch above nearly all others. But when you finish your meal in the restaurant, walk around to the taproom and enjoy the beers in their natural setting, whether there’s a bottle release or not. Wolf’s Ridge is on its way to being one of Ohio’s best breweries with a full range of quality craft beers. You’ll enjoy the setting and you’ll love the beers. Now if only they could serve them in collectible Smurfs glassware…