by Jake Fernberg, Photography courtesy of Wolf's Ridge Brewing
Bob Szuter has a pretty good idea of what his patrons want when they walk into Wolf’s Ridge Brewing’s Tap Room. Their most popular draft beer is not the pint or even the growler, but flights. Beer flights are essentially a set of small glasses each containing a different variety of beer. At Wolf’s Ridge the 5-ounce flight glasses come in combinations of three or five, and can be filled with any of the 20 beers on tap. Adventurous drinkers have even been known to order the “Ridge Runner”: four flight boards that allow one to experience all 20 of those unique craft beers.
This proliferation of beer flights begs the question: why are they so popular? Bob offers a few answers to this question. He posits that flights are unique to craft breweries because it offers an easy way for customers to “see what you do” and enjoy the unique and creative aspects of a local craft brewery. Beyond sampling the distinct qualities of the brewery, Bob notes that the relatively small flights also offer a chance for drinkers to “take a step back and focus on what you’re drinking.” Rather than slugging back pints while watching a sporting event (admittedly, a favorite pastime of mine), the multiple varieties encourage drinkers to pay attention to the beer itself and drink in the moment.
Within a flight, the selected drafts are usually ordered from lightest to darkest. This distinction is not necessarily made with just the color in mind, but also considers the intensity of the hops or bitterness of the beer. For example, at Wolf’s Ridge, they offer a smoked lager—the Buchenrauch—whose strong, savory taste means it usually ends up on the darker side of the flight, despite its lager lightness. The bartenders at Wolf’s Ridge are experts at preparing the beers within a flight so it is perfectly arranged.
In speaking with Bob and his fellow co-owner (and father) Alan, the multitude of available flights at Wolf’s Ridge becomes clear. Among their 20 beers on tap, only four or five are “annuals”—old standbys like Driftwood (a session IPA), Ridge-Trail (an amber ale), and their two gold medal winning beers, the Helles lager Gold Standard and the imperial stout Direwolf. The rest of the taps are devoted to more exotic beers, ones that fit the season, or sometimes infused variants of other beers. Wolf’s Ridge has also been known to serve cask ales, a special batch of beer imbued with a new flavor and served in an old-fashioned five-gallon cask.
I asked Bob what flight he would curate if he wanted to convey the Wolf’s Ridge Brewing experience (what would seem an impossible task), and he provided the following flight. Moving from light to dark, the flight would consist of Clear Sky, a cream ale, Beyond Measure, a Belgian witbier, and the aforementioned Driftwood, Buchenrauch, and Direwolf. That flight has an equal balance of light and dark beers, and also features a more out of the ordinary flavor: the smoked lager Buchenrauch.
Wolf’s Ridge Brewing is proud to be a part of Downtown Columbus. Their Tap Room, open since January of 2015, provides a way to experience their homegrown, delicious craft beers. Learn more about Wolf’s Ridge at wolfsridgebrewing.com.