Meet the Brew Crew: Worthington’s Own Zaftig Brewing
By Nicholas Dekker
Every neighborhood in central Ohio has a brewery (or two!) to call their own, and Worthington’s local brew house is Zaftig Brewing. Zaftig is coming up on four years in the brewing business. Taking their name from the Yiddish term for “full-bodied,” they’re known for brewing big beers like IPAs, stouts, wee heavies, strong ales, and barrel-aged versions of them. Zaftig started in a small industrial space off Schrock Road, but nearly two years ago upgraded to a bigger space a few blocks away on Huntley. They added a full-sized taproom, increased their production capacity, built a patio, and even added room for food trucks. To learn more about Zaftig, we checked in with Jim Gokenbach, co-owner of the brewery with Jason Blevins.
How did Zaftig get started?
We started out as homebrewers. We brewed a small batch, and that became a bigger batch. Soon we were brewing 3-4 batches of homebrew a month and then would have a party at our house, just for fun. We had friends come, and then friends of friends, and then co-workers. The last party we had 200 people come through our house, and that’s how we met Jason. He got the ball rolling on opening a brewery.
How did you carve out a niche producing such big beers?
We want to put central Ohio on the map for big, crazy beers. From the get-go, the reason we got into this business is that we like big full-bodied beers. I went to Purdue and I’m a country boy. I realized if more people made beers that had big, bold flavors, I’d drink more of that.
Where did the name come from?
One of our original owners played on an ultimate frisbee team named Zaftig. We looked up the definition. My degree’s in marketing, so we played off that theme with beers like Juicy Lucy, Shadowed Mistress, and Two Cans.
And you’re known for a lot of barrel-aged beers?
I’m a big bourbon and scotch snob. We like the bigger flavors – it’s something we hang our hat on. Last year we won a gold medal at the biggest barrel-aged fest in the country, the Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers in Chicago, for our bourbon barrel-aged wee heavy.
And you started out small?
We first opened on Schrock Road. We tested it out to make sure it wasn’t just friends and friends of friends that thought the beer was good. Two-and-a-half years ago we figured we’d have to close it down or go bigger. All of us still had full-time jobs. We went big.
And then you moved to your space on Huntley Road?
We’ll celebrate two years in our new space in May. We’re currently brewing on a custom 15-barrel brewhouse from Portland Kettleworks, with five 20-barrel fermenters, two 30-barrel fermenters, and a 30-barrel brite tank.
People can find food trucks at the taproom, too?
We have food trucks and carts every night of the week, with two on Saturday.
What’s coming up next?
We’re celebrating our four-year anniversary party on May 12. We’ll be releasing a barrel-aged version of our Ol’ Rugger Russian imperial stout that’s at 17% ABV, plus three variants of it.
Meet Jim, Jason, and the whole Zaftig crew at their taproom and production space:
7020A Huntley Rd.
Worthington, OH 43229
Tuesday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m.
Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight
Saturday, noon to midnight
Sunday, 1-6 p.m.
Visit their website at drinkzaftig.com; and find them on Facebook, on Twitter at @zaftigbeer and Instagram at @zaftigbeer. (If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot the house cat, Hops! He has his own Instagram feed, @zaftighops.)