Walking into Columbia Kettle Works, I realized the interior reminds me of mechanization. It should. Both Rod Smith and Bill Collister, owners of the establishment, are mechanical engineers. Bill is now retired, so the brewery is his second vocation. When looking for a place to start a brewery, he found the United Telephone Company building for rent, checked out Columbia – bar by bar – and decided to set up shop in 2014.
“We really like the industrial look,” says Bill, while on his way in to check on his 5-bbl system. “Columbia needed something like this.”
To keep up with demand, the duo brew twice a week. Kettle Works does not have a lineup of flagship brews, instead choosing to rotate a selection of styles interspersed with seasonal and one-shots. Regulars to the list include a traditional German pilsner brewed with a variety of Noble hops; a big, full bodied Russian Imperial Stout (sometimes aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels); SamuraiPA, which gets its name from the use of rice and Japanese hops used in the brewing process; and a Beechwood-smoked chocolate porter. “We have a half dozen beers we bring back once or twice a year,” Bill notes.
Bill is now into Belgian beers. In August, the brewery released two kegs of a Brett Saison. Brett is short for Brettanomyces, a genus of the yeast family, which imparts certain flavors and characteristics to certain beers. Brett and sour beers are some of the highest-trending styles being brewed today. The response to the Brett has been great, and Bill points out that Kettle Works has added a second Brett beer to the lineup, which will be brewed in October and aged three to four months in wine barrels.
In 2015, sixth generation brewer Chad Rieker joined the Kettle Works team returning his family’s brewing legacy to Columbia – a hot bed of brewing during the lager era. He and Rod add five new beers to the 10-tap system each month. Bill shares that new release events fill the 70-seat establishment, creating a line out the door. A recent expansion added space for 30-plus seats.
Columbia Kettle Works, 40 N. Third St., Columbia. Rod Smith and Bill Collister. Open Tuesday-Sunday. Columbiakettleworks.com or 342-2374.