Pretentious Barrel House - Columbus, Ohio, USA

Dear Friends - welcome to the first review of The Brewery Log. I hope you'll enjoy learning about the breweries I encounter during my travels. Without further ado -

I've been tasting my way around Columbus, Ohio breweries since moving to town this year. I've been to every brewery with an open taproom at least once, and I'm subscribed to several social media sites or mailing lists to learn about all things beer. So it came as a surprise when I found out, quite accidentally, that there was a new brewery in town. Pretentious Barrel House opened on October 14, 2017 in an unassuming neighborhood on the East side of Columbus. I made a point to get out there the very day I learned of its existence.

Pretentious Barrel House, run by owner and brewer Josh Martinez, specializes in sour beers. While I enjoy all beer styles, I do have a soft spot for sours. I arrived shortly before closing on a Sunday evening and the crowd had left for the night. Lucky for me, I had my own one-on-one tasting and conversation with Josh. I learned that he chose to focus on sours because they offer the most room for creativity in the beer world, not having strict style constraints like most other beers. The actual brewing process is done off-site at Four String Brewing's Hague Avenue facility, but the fermentation and the magic occur in the barrel house.

The Beer

The week's festivities had tapped out some of the grand opening brews, so what was left for me to try were four versions of Truculent, one of the Pretentious signature sour ales. My first pour was the classic Truculent, described as "a subtle sour that pours a hazy golden color...bouquet is reminiscent of mango, banana, and pear" (via Untappd). I liked it immediately. The second and third Truculent varieties were dry-hopped with Citra hops and Centennial hops, respectively, and the fourth was infused with ginger and lime. All were smooth and drinkable, but I preferred the two hopped varieties.

Truculent ale

Initial draft list - there's more now!

Exterior, with garage door to the taproom halfway open

The Taproom

While the "Pretentious" moniker doesn't exactly describe Josh or his brews, it might apply more to the taproom décor. This was not a casually thrown-together taproom like I've seen at many breweries that focus on the beer at the expense of the atmosphere in which it's enjoyed. Pretentious Barrel House excels at ambiance. It has a simple but thoughtfully designed interior with a picture window looking into the back room containing the fermentation tanks and barrels. During nice weather, the oversized garage door can be opened to let in fresh air while creating a larger open space and providing easy access to the wooden picnic tables outside. But the focus is really on the wall opposite the bar. Here, you'll find a triptych mural, each panel a unique design by a different local artist (Monster Steve, Dr. Selrz and Katchup). The three works complement each other brilliantly. The colorful artwork carries over to the brewery's truck, which was parked out front on my visit.

The bar, which looks into the barrel room

Mural panels by Monster Steve and Dr. Selerz

Mural panel by Katchup (via Pretentious Barrel House on Facebook)

Josh, a chemist by trade, has been brewing since before he could legally drink his creations. Like many, he started as a home brewer. He honed his beer palate in and around the many breweries in San Diego, and then worked for a brewery in Lexington, Kentucky. After settling in Columbus with his wife, a resident at the Ohio State University Medical Center, Josh decided to launch his own venture. I was impressed by how put-together everything was for being open just over a week. Attention went into every detail, down to the tulip glassware and the Pretentious stickers. And science geeks might notice that the Pretentious logo is a molecule of lactic acid, which is a key component in brewing sour beers.

Fermentation in progress

Pretentious apparel for sale (so are the signature tulip glasses)

The Return Trip

I enjoyed my first visit to Pretentious Barrel House so much that I went back less than a week later. This time, it was on a Thursday after work. The happy hour crowd started out light, but patrons trickled in throughout the evening, and everyone seemed to enjoy the sour brews. There was a fifth Truculent on tap, this one dry-hopped with Azacca and Idaho 7 hops, and it was good. Before the evening got busy, I had the chance to meet the rest of the core team. Luis Gutierrez is a partner and runs the taproom. Jullian Gonçalves manages the back office. They've all been putting in long hours to make things just right, and it shows. There's even talk about expanding the space, already!

Looking toward the front of the building, the happy hour crowd

Luis trains new bartender Nacole

Pretentious Barrel House is definitely catering to a distinctive brewery clientele with its exclusive offering of sour beers. The brewery will appeal to the hipster crowd as well as to classic beer geeks like myself. I plan to return again as Josh adds more beers to his lineup (a sour red ale awaits me). Even if you're not sure about sour beer, I say give it a try. There is variety among just the Truculent series, and there's possibly something for everyone (unless all you drink are dark, malty beers). You'll also find Truculent on tap at select local bars and restaurants, but for the best experience, go to the source.


Currently, Pretentious Barrel House is open four days a week: Thursday 4-9 PM, Friday 4-10 PM, Saturday 1-10 PM and Sunday 1-8 PM. You'll find food trucks most nights (Zone 5 BBQ is a favorite); just follow the brewery on Instagram and Facebook for the lineup. Check out Pretentious at And tell Josh, Luis and Jullian I said hi.


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