Keith Jackson is the founder and brewmaster at Combustion Brewery & Taproom in Pickerington. Combustion will host a party April 14 to celebrate its one-year anniversary.

Question: Why did you become a brewer?

Answer: I became a brewer because I am passionate about craft beer and enjoy the process of making it. As a brewer you get to do such a wide variety of tasks, which keeps every day different and the constant problem solving keeps your mind working just as hard as your hands. A friend of mine once summed it up in a way that made a lot of sense to me. He said that being a brewer is the perfect blend of a blue and white collar work. This rings very true to me and a big reason why I like it so much. Brewing is an honest day's work, sweaty and dirty by day's end without a doubt, but you also get to be creative, think analytically and at the end of it all sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

In the span of a day, you can go from developing a recipe to rewiring a temperature controller to taking apart a pump to stacking bags of grain to promoting an event to wiping hop dust out of your eyes to fixing a leak in the plumbing to having a beer with someone at a beer festival who you've never met before and who is super excited about craft beer. Beer is a powerful thing, and I try to remind myself every day that I get to make it for a living.

Q:Combustion will celebrate its one-year anniversary next week. (April 14) What's the biggest thing -- or things -- you learned over the first year running your own brewery and tasting room?

A: I'm glad you asked that question the way you did, because one of the biggest things I've learned over the last year is how important it is to promote a big event when you want a lot of people to show up for it. I might also mention here while on the subject, that our anniversary party is going to be really awesome! We will have 26 of our own beers on tap, three food trucks and live music all day withfive bands playing throughout the day in both the taproom and our second floor event space, The Loft. We will have our first bottle release, first-come first-serve, with bombers of Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and Bourbon Barrel Aged Brasky (Scotch Ale). Check out our website and social media for more details!

Q:What can Combustion fans expect in year two and beyond?

A: You can expect us to keep our standards high, keep our beer super fresh, andnot to let you down when you come out to visit us in Pickerington. We will continue to push it, and do our best every day to churn out great, not just decent, beers.? ?We plan to make more lagers this year and already havethree in the tanks that will start releasing with a Maibock on April 14 (at our anniversary party!), followed by a Mexican Lager and India Pale Lager by late April/early May, and the Pelotonia Pilsner by late May/early June.

Q:What's your best-selling beer and why do you think it's so popular?

A: Our best-selling beer fluctuates between Combustion IPA and Wanderlust, our blonde ale. I think they are so popular for a few reasons. IPA is still No. 1 in the craft beer world. People just can't get enough hops, and when an IPA is fresh, it is hard to beat. Combustion IPA is always fresh at CBT. Wanderlust is light, mildly malty and easy to drink, and definitely the perfect "gateway" beer. We infuse it several ways, hence the name, and I think people can make the jump from it to our coffee-infused version called Antidote pretty easily, or Blueprint, our blueberry version.

From there, things spiral out of control for people and before they realize what happened they are regularly ordering our Belgian Tripel, Combustion IPA and our Imperial Breakfast Stout. For both Combustion IPA and Wanderlust, freshness is key, and outside of a relatively small number of styles and situations, I believe fresh beer is the best beer and that is the foundation for our philosophy at Combustion. Make great beer, and make sure it stays fresh by brewing it in relatively small batches. You have a pretty small window in the beer world when beer is at its very best, talking weeks typically, not months. From there, it is mostly down hill in my opinion.

Outside of festivals and special events, we sell all of our beer onsite from the taproom and that is to ensure the quality is high. Once it leaves our dock, it is impossible to control the quality before it hits your glass. Movement and temperature changes degrade beer flavor, and the average beer moves around a lot. At the Combustion taproom, we are proud to say that our beer travels all of about 15 feet, and typically directly from our serving tanks, before it hits your glass. It doesn't get much fresher than that.

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

A: I will answer this with one of my favorite styles, the traditional Czech-style pilsner. It is just such a great style and has a little bit of everything I want in a beer. It has a ton of nuance in its flavor profile with the perfect balance of hops and malt. I love brewing this style as well with the amazing aromas from the malt in the mash and the Saaz hops in the kettle.

On top of that, it pairs amazingly well with a lot of different foods and overall is just a really enjoyable style with great history, which has always driven my interest in different beer styles as a brewer. The fact that the traditional version has been watered down so significantly over the years is unfortunate, but I do believe the recent comeback that the traditional pilsner is making in the craft beer scene will only get stronger over the coming years as craft beer drinkers rediscover it. Combustion is doing its part to make sure that happens with the Pelotonia Pilsner. This beer we are very excited about and will donate $1 of every pint to Team Pickerington Pelotonia!

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