Actual Brewing Co. is celebrating its one-year anniversary this week with several events, including a “F--- Your Mother’s Day” comedy show Sunday (May 11) at the Columbus production brewery and tasting room.
The first big event is a tap takeover alongside Catawba Island Brewing Co. starting at 5 p.m. Friday (May 9) at Strongwater Food and Spirits in Columbus. The event is pirate-themed and Actual will release Photon, an American light beer, with lime. (Lime protects pirates from scurvy, you know.)
Next up is a combined comedy show and birthday party for co-owner and brewer Fred Lee, who turns 37 on Saturday. The party starts at 5 p.m. Sunday, which also happens to be Mother’s Day, at the brewery.
Actual also celebrated last week with the bottle release of Conductor Imperial Rye.
The first year has been full of surprises, said Lee, who’s always entertaining, honest and sometimes irreverent. For starters, Actual is making more beer than expected. The brewery pumped out 1,500 barrels and will likely do 2,500 by the end of this year.
“It’s crazy,” Lee said. “I didn’t even expect to be at 1,500 until the end of this year. People want beer. It’s really awesome.”
“I had no idea how much one bar would be able to consume if the beer is any good,” Lee said. “... In the breweries, we kill it. And it’s wow. And in the fancy beer places, our beers move really well.”
Actual makes brands such as Elektron, Fat Julian, Curiosus and Ingenuity Ale, selling on draft and in 750ml bottles. Elektron, a 6.2 percent amber ale made with rye and Ohio-grown Cascade hops, is the best-seller.
“I don’t even like it, actually,” Lee said. “I don’t like ambers.”
But the beer has proved immensely popular.
“It’s all we make, pretty much,” he said. “It’s six out of nine batches. It’s two-thirds of the beer we make. It sells like crazy. I can’t keep it in stock. You have to make what they want. Not what I want.”
Lee said the biggest surprise so far involves beer prices. His 750ml bottles are priced anywhere from $8 to $10.
“I don’t want to say this in a bad way [but] beer prices are ridiculous,” he said. “That’s the biggest surprise. People tell us that our beer is affordable and I’m feeling guilty pricing some of these bottles. You know what I mean?”
Actual is more than a brewery. It also has a yeast laboratory — “it’s science fiction shit,” Lee said about the work being done there — and coffee roastery. And there are still plans to open a brewpub/coffee shop in downtown Columbus. The brewpub/coffee shop has taken a back seat to the production brewery for now.
As for the future, Actual is buying two new fermenters and will start distributing bottles in the Dayton and Athens markets later this year. Lee said he’d also like to start selling in the Cleveland area but would need even more tanks to service that market.
"What surprises me is that we’re still around making beer and people want more of it," Lee said with a laugh.