Actual Brewing: Fred Lee Reveals Craft Secrets

Actual Brewing: Fred Lee Reveals Craft Secrets

Actual Brewing Company founder, Fredrick Lee, is one of Columbus’ favorite familiar faces. If you like to spend time at the city’s pubs that serve craft beer, chances are you’ve seen Lee — a boisterous, bearded fellow, who is hard to miss. Appropriately, Actual Brewing’s beers are equally as memorable.

Naturally, I was thrilled when Lee invited me to tour Actual’s brewery, located off of James Road near the airport. We were joined by his business partner and wife, Mira Lee and brewery manager, Jonathan Carroll.

Lee has been brewing beer for years. But it wasn’t until late in 2010, that he decided to quit his job in banking and start making beer as a profession.

Inspired by the lack of “integrity” that, according to Lee, has caused most of America’s major breweries to suffer great losses in recent years, Actual Brewing Company strives to create beer that has authenticity behind it.

For the Lees, the philosophy is simple: “Actual shit only!” he explained. “It’s Actualism. We’re going to be actually just us.”

Lee led me on a tour of the brewery with its oversized stainless steel tanks and kettles. Tucked away in the corner was a small stage for live music that was surrounded by sixth barrel kegs and next to it, a TV with a multitude of video-gaming systems, old and new.

The adjacent warehouse space is used for dry grain storage. It is also home to Actual Brewing’s mouse-hunter, warehouse cat and resident diva, OJ. Actual Brewing decided to get a cat in order to combat the warehouse’s mouse problem.

OJ the cat has a true rags to riches story. She lived in a homeless camp before her mouse-hunting career took off at Actual Brewing. In an ironic twist of fate, her homeless caretakers turned her over to a cat shelter when she got pregnant in 2013, concerned for her well-being. “So the cat shelter took her and they found homes for all of her kittens, but nobody would take her, because she was such a spaz and so angry. They had her for over a year when we showed up and said, ‘Give us your worst cat,’ because we wanted an angry cat, because we wanted a killer,” recalled Mira.

Luckily, not only is OJ a great mouse hunter, but she is a very sweet and personable cat. “It turns out she hates other cats. She’s totally fine with people.” So far OJ has killed four mice. How sweet.

Inspirational cat anecdotes aside, Actual Brewing Company has a great deal to be excited about in the coming year. They introduced a delicious Belgian, the Temporal Abbey Ale, in late December and look forward to the release of an Irish red ale in time for St. Patrick’s Day. The brewery has plans to increase production and expand into the Cincinnati and Cleveland markets by summer 2015!

A little birdie might have told me that Actual Brewing has plans to start canning beer this year too, but at Actual, no birds are safe with OJ around.

Brew kettles of Actual Brewing. Where beer and science meet. Molly the fermentor.
Kelly Rousculp

Kelly writes reviews and contributes articles to NID Magazine.