Geoff Towne is the founder of Zauber Brewing Co. in Columbus. The brewery's tasting room will celebrate its third anniversary in January.



Question: Why did you become a brewer?



Answer: I became a brewer because I fell in love with European beer culture, then in the "magic" of making beer, which led to sharing that passion with others. The way I became a brewer was an evolution over time. My father was a supplier representative for the large alcohol companies in the Midwest, so I grew up going on trips with Dad to large breweries, distilleries and wineries in the area.



I grew an appreciation for the business long before I was legal to consume the products. I then spent my last five months of college overseas based in Salzburg, Austria, and fell in love with the beer culture that was very different from back here in the U.S. 



I got involved as a homebrewer long before it was popular here in Ohio (and western PA where I lived at the time). On a hunch, an acquaintance mentioned that I seemed to know a lot about beer, so why not make a career out of it. I then researched and found that one could get an graduate education for brewing at UCDavis (California). So I quit my plans on going to law school and went to "beer school" instead. Then after spending time in Northern California, I fell in love (again) with craft beer and the then-emerging beers and culture there.



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: No, craft beer is still a small and growing segment of the beer industry. All of craft beer -- Samuel Adams and the smaller 4,000-plus breweries coast to coast -- only in the last two to three years passed the capacity of our lone Anheuser-Busch brewery here in Columbus (11.1 million barrels). Bud has 11 other plants, and MillerCoors has eight. Not to mention imports. 



I see craft beer in Ohio starting to emulate other markets, out West for example. I like to use Portland, Ore., as a good example of where we are headed. Portland is roughly the same size as Columbus, Ohio, and has 96 in its metro area, and a handful more across the border in Vancouver, Washington.



Zauber was number seven in Columbus when we started. Now it's closer to 30. Most are starting out small like we did. We all have different voices and different cultures that make our beer atmosphere exciting, growing and fun.



Q: What advice can you give future brewers to be successful?



A: Make sure you are ready with all your business plans before you begin. We were well prepared before we began construction and opening. This saved a lot of valuable time and effort that we didn’t have to figure it out on the fly. Once you're operational, you won't have the luxury of time. Remember, beer is about the customer and not about you. Take quality control and your beer seriously. If the beer is well made, it will sell.



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



A: It's a tie between Vertigo HefeWeizen and Berzerker Belgian IPA. At Zauber Brewing, our goal from the beginning was to do niche beers that were different than what everyone else is doing. Find our own path. Which is why we do a Belgian IPA instead of a more traditional American IPA. These are the beers that seem to have resonated the most with our customers. You're always surprised as to which of your children takes off first.



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



A: Douchesse de Bougogne. It's a very complex red Belgian sour. A friend of mine put it best: "There is just so much going on there..." This type of beer is hard to make and master. It's a life’s achievement level of awesome.