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Land Grant's "Goon" celebrates beer, hockey, Columbus

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Not long after walking inside the doors of Land-Grant Brewing Company does one recognize the celebration of everything sports and Columbus within it.

The brewery itself, of course, is named after the Land-Grant Act of 1862 (or the Morrill Act), which set aside land in each state for the development of higher education. Born from that act was The Ohio State University, where brewery founders Adam Benner and Walt Keys earned their degrees.

Their beers represent a variety of profiles and celebrate various things about sports and the city, including football, soccer, golf and others.

One thing they knew they were missing – and something they were quite passionate about – was a hockey beer. 

So when Delaware North’s representatives at Nationwide Arena approached Land-Grant this summer about the possibility of a hockey beer, the process got moving fairly quickly.

After visiting with a few local breweries, DNC left its meeting convinced that they wanted to work with Land-Grant, and Land-Grant felt the same. The time for the Blue Jackets and a local brewery to come together was on the horizon, and it was exciting for everyone involved.

The first step, perhaps surprisingly, was the name of the beer.

“The name ‘Goon’ just happened. We were sitting around,
thinking of names, and it just came to us,” Keys said.

Unanimously, “Goon” fit the standard for a Land-Grant beer name: catchy and with an obvious local tie-in. But they soon realized that, with a name like “Goon,” an identity had been created even before a recipe had been assembled.

According to Land-Grant, Goon “scoffs at fruity hop trends and brings a dank and piney aggression to the ice. With Magnum, Northern Brewer, Chinook, and Green Bullet hops in tow, Goon lives up to its reputation as a hard hitter. Drop your gloves and take a swig.”

“You’re not talking about a 4.5 percent (ABV) pilsner,” Benner said. “You’re talking about a beer that’s got something to it, something that’s really in your face, like an enforcer would be.”

They arrived at a Strong Pale Ale, a style of beer that tips its cap to India Pale Ales (traditionally bitter, hop-forward beers) but one that feels more approachable. While citrus-heavy, lighter IPAs are currently popular in the beer-making world, the Land-Grant team wanted to use specific
elements of the IPA identity and craft a beer that forges an identity of its own.

Goon starts with a pale malt base, giving it a darker color and a slightly nuttier flavor than an IPA.

Munich malts give the beer its color along with a sweeter, richer flavor. Carapils malts, known for their head retention qualities, also give Goon its body. Also going into the kettle are honey (for obvious reasons) and Crystal Rye malts, the latter in a small percentage to add spice to the beer’s final flavor profile.

“It’s an easy-drinking beer, but it’s got some life to it. We’re really happy with how it turned out and we hope people at Nationwide Arena love it as much as we do,” Benner said.

“This was a cool project for us because we’re all big Blue Jackets fans, and to make a beer that pairs well with watching hockey, that’s even better,” Keys said.

Above all else, the opportunity to marry the two was too natural to ignore. It’s truly a beer for hockey season, too: the first keg of Goon was tapped on Oct. 9 – Blue Jackets opening night – at Land-Grant’s tap room and on Oct. 28, its first delivery to Nationwide Arena was completed.

Featuring a distinctive tap handle (made locally at the Idea Foundry in Franklinton, adjacent to Land-Grant’s taproom and brewery) that’s cream in color with union blue text and a fierce, grizzled hockey player, Goon officially made its in-arena debut on Nov. 10.

“This is not a stretch for our brand. It’s a natural fit with what we do and what we’re about,” Keys said. “It’s a perfect addition to our beer portfolio. It’s unique to hockey, unique to the Blue Jackets, and unique to our environment.”

Goon is available only at Nationwide Arena and the Land-Grant taproom (located at 420 W. Town St. in Franklinton). Land-Grant Brewing Company, which began as a Kickstarter project in 2012, opened in Oct. 2014 and produced 3,000 barrels in 2015.

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