Curtis Schieber is the author of the new book Columbus Beer: Recent Brewing & Deep Roots. The book (American Palate, $21.99) examines the Columbus brewing scene from its past glory to its current renaissance.

Question: Why did you write a book about the Columbus brewing scene?

Answer: For many reasons, most of them personal and just a few professional. The latter concern initiated the project. When my work load at my day gig shrunk, I looked for freelance writing work. I contacted my pal Bill Eichenberger, the managing editor of the Ohio History Connection's "Timeline" magazine and we talked about beer stories. A week later, he told me that a former colleague had passed on a request from History Press for a chronicle of brewing in Columbus. I jumped at the chance and got the gig.

I might not have pursued the assignment if I hadn't been a first person witness to the rebirth of brewing in Columbus in 1989. I was friends with the key figures of that renaissance, including Scott Francis, Vince Falcone, Angelo Signorino, Ben Pridgeon, Lenny Kolada, Allen Young, and Victor Ecimovich III as they made local history. It galled me that the young craft brew drinkers of today had no sense of history and awareness of the 15-year period between 1974 and 1989 when there were no local breweries, just the behemoth branch of St. Louis's Anheuser Busch. On top of that, Scott Francis, the godfather of Columbus craft brewing, didn't have a gig between 2011 and 2014, the last big boom years.

As a fan of import brews and flavorful drink since the mid-1970s, I always had been interested in the way the European traditions took root in America and, later, how they inspired the craft movement. When I began my research, that curiosity took on a sadder note, as I realized that my move to Columbus in 1974 marked a key year in the demise of the old brewing traditions -- August Wagner's Gambrinus, the last local brewery, fell to the wrecking ball just months after I arrived - -but I was completely unaware of the milestone.

Q: What did you learn while writing about Columbus breweries?

A: Much of what I learned had to do with the size and richness of Columbus brewing history. I knew a little about the German tradition and had no feel for its longevity; I knew nothing of the earliest, English-styled brewers.

I also came to understand the dynamics that led to craft brewing and how it is connected to larger cultural currents. That also suggested the similarities and, more importantly, the differences between localized, community-based brewing in the 19th century and today. And I found a larger framework for the memories I had watching craft brewing being born.

Q: Columbus is filled with some entertaining beer personalities. Past or present, who's your favorite and why?

A: Long past, would have to be King Gambrinus, whose mythology I traced back to accounts from 1554 that posited his origins in 1730 B.C. Admittedly not a Columbus personality, the King, something like the god of beer, was key Columbus brewer August Wagner's inspiration. So much so, that Wagner posed for an 11-foot granite statue of Gambrinus' 16th century image. The sculpture, which lorded over the entrance to Wagner's brewery, rules a considerably diminished domain today, on a grassy knoll in front of the Kroger on Front St. in the brewery district.

Wagner himself, was hands-down, the King's only competition in terms of real-life brewing personality. A larger-than-life figure in the fabric of Columbus civic life, he testified famously and comically in a case involving drunk driving, donated significant money for the building of the Columbus Zoo's elephant house, donned traditional Bavarian garb at the drop of a hat, threw a popular yearly Christmas party for kids, and left his business to his secretary and later his daughter.

Q: There's a concern that the craft beer industry - thanks to the phenomenal growth over the last few years - is reaching a saturation point, particularly in some areas of Ohio. Are there too many breweries here? If yes, why? If no, why not?

A: I've been posing that question to local brewers since before I began working on my book more than three years ago. Few seemed concerned and one explained the expanding potential in terms I quote frequently: Old guys like me came up during a time that our first legal beer was light, unremarkable American pilsners, brewed with corn and rice. Increasingly, youngsters coming of age today begin with flavorful brews - -likely IPAs. They are unlikely to go back to Bud Light and as more and more kids come into the market drinking craft brew, the population only continues to grow. When most new drinkers learn about beer by drinking craft, that population will be gigantic. We're nowhere that today. So it is easy, accepting this scenario, to imagine craft breweries proliferating for many years to come.

Q: Which beer - any beer in the world - do you wish that you created/invented/brewed and why?

A: I am not a guy who makes lists or regularly names favorites. I admire many of the world's great brewers but am hard-pressed to name a favorite of their brews.

If I wanted to be the guy who made a significant contribution to both the beer palette and history, I suppose I would choose Fritz Maytag, who started this whole recent thing when he bought a crumbling brewery in San Francisco in the late-1960s and established Anchor Steam, arguably the first craft brewery in America. More importantly, it was Maytag who dumped a whole lot of an -- as yet un-named -- northwest hops into his Liberty Ale in 1975 in advance of the Bicentennial, to produce the first of what would become the classic American IPA. The significance of Maytag's brew can't be overstated. It not only focused on hops from the American northwest but introduced the floral note of the -- later named Cascade -- hops, which would become the hallmark of American ales.

Editor's note: The Five questions with ... feature appears each Friday. If you would like to participate or would like to nominate someone to participate, send me an email at rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.