In the heart of Canal Winchester, fifteen minutes southeast of downtown Columbus, there are several charming small businesses that lie along the few streets that make up the historic town center. (Canal Winchester is actually where I live, so I spend a lot of time in the downtown area.)
One of these establishments is Harvest Moon Craft Kitchen, which is owned by Nathan and Kelley Doerfler. Harvest Moon is well known even in the greater Columbus area for their delicious, locally sourced menu. Their menu boasts several plates that feature bison meat from nearby bison farm, Blystone Farm.
Harvest Moon Craft Kitchen is also the home of The Garden Herb Shop, which is a small supplements and herbs store in the back of the restaurant, also owned and operated by the Doerflers.
Most recently, Nathan and his wife Kelley along with their business partner Dennis Smalley, have decided to open a microbrewery and taproom a block west of their restaurant. This microbrewery is Loose Rail Brewing.
Joining them on their next business venture is Jonathan Woodruff, who has been working alongside Nathan in the planning and construction of the taproom. Jonathan will also work as brewmaster with Dennis; Jonathan drawing on his love for craft brewing and Dennis on his experience of having previously opened a brewery.
Loose Rail is in a beautifully rustic building that was at one time the Ohio Valley Traction Company, which powered the third rail for the Canal Winchester railroad depot for the inner-urban rail system. Later the building was sold to Midland Power & Light, and housed the only telephone for a few miles, as well as a first aid station during World War II.
The name Loose Rail Brewing stems from the history of the building as a power station to the rail, but is also a nod to the fact that the building sat slightly derelict and shoddy for many years. Railroad ties will be largely featured in their décor, namely as tap handles. Nathan joked that they would be taking some railroad ties from nearby rails, thereby rendering them “loose rails.”
The building itself has a gorgeous brick façade, which is original. Some changes have been made o the exterior, however, in the form of a large patio with two fire pits and built-in wooden seating.
The interior maintains its original rustic feel, with exposed whitewashed brick, metal beams, and an gigantic sliding barn door that serves as the main entrance. The railroad tie theme will continue on the railing for the staircase that leads up to the upper loft area.
The taproom and patio will seat up to ninety-nine people comfortably, with bar seating, a long community-style table, seating in the loft upstairs, and of course, the outdoor patio seating. Although the taproom will not serve food, there will most likely be an open door policy that will allow patrons to bring their own food or even order food to be delivered from Harvest Moon.
Nathan and Jonathan hope to have Loose Rail open sometime after the New Year. They are looking to hire a bar manager, a bartender, brewer’s assistant, and someone to oversee distribution.
They hope by February or March to have a few brews ready, possibly including a session IPA, a higher ABV IPA, a stout, a pilsner, an amber, or a red. The taproom will have a very purist approach: only brews, no cocktails.
So far, there are some handshake deals for distribution in some local bars and markets, but the emphasis for Loose Rail’s first year will be the taproom. The microbrewery set high goals for expansion down the road, and hope to be in locales such as Cincinnati and Kentucky in five to ten years.
The taproom will also serve as a space for events such as live music, craft brewing classes, bottling parties, and more. More than that, Loose Rail hopes to serve as a warm gathering place for friends and family; a place you can go to unwind after a long day at work, or a place where you can chat with friends over a cold brew while watching the big game.
Nathan and Jonathan believe it’s their location that sets them apart, and yes, the building is beautiful and unique. But I believe that the heart behind Loose Rail is what will truly set it apart: to create an atmosphere that people will be drawn to, and brew delicious, quality beer that will keep them coming back.
So keep your eyes peeled after the New Year for a more definite open date. You won’t want to miss out on the local gem that Loose Rail Brewing is sure to be.