Table Talk

Artisan soda-maker puts ‘pop’ in soft drinks

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GARY SEMAN JR./THISWEEKNEWS
Jen and John Lynch stand inside their new business, Rambling House Soda Pop, 310 E. Hudson St. in the University District. Rambling House specializes in artisan pop made with natural ingredients. The place also offers local craft beers, cocktails and select wines, along with live music.
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By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Finding success as a home-brewer, John Lynch initially wanted to open a brewpub.

But after he surveyed the landscape, he realized startup costs were too prohibitive, and he wondered if Columbus could handle more homegrown craft beer.

So he shifted his attention to another of his artisan pursuits: homemade soft drinks, which have a small, dedicated -- and what appears to be growing -- following.

After two years in the making, his new business, Rambling House Soda Pop, officially opened to the public this week in the University District.

He likens it to the origins of the American craft-beer movement of the 1980s.

"The shelves are getting filled with more and more soda pops," he said. "People wanting better ingredients is really what's going to drive it."

Yet, he still was determined to open a place that not only served fizzy beverages -- both alcoholic and nonalcoholic -- but also where friends could gather, play music and discuss the day's events.

Taking over the former Mac's Bar location at 310 E. Hudson St., Rambling House is a laid-back place to grab a craft beer, cocktail or glass of wine and listen to live folk music, Lynch said. He purchased the property with his wife, Jen, who's also involved in the business. Parking is available at the Helping Hands Center, formerly Medary Elementary School, 2500 Medary Ave.

There's one, somewhat-obscured TV near the bar so hardcore Ohio State fans can catch the latest game.

He said he liked the open layout and idea of reclaiming a space that had been a neighborhood bar since the 1950s. Mac's, he said, closed in the mid-1990s, eventually being replaced by a bicycle shop and, later, a church.

Rambling House specializes in three flavors -- sarsaparilla, cola and nonalcoholic ginger beer -- with other versions making it into the rotation, such as paw paw, lemon-lime, orange and salty caramel.

"The soda pops taste great by themselves but are an excellent option for carbonated cocktails," he said.

All of the pop is made on the premises, using just a few natural ingredients. It takes about 90 minutes to prepare each batch. Lynch said he uses forced carbonation instead of producing it through fermentation, which can create trace amounts of alcohol.

Lynch said he makes about 120 gallons a month and has three retail accounts: Ohio Tap Room, Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza and the Torpedo Room. He said none of it is yet available by the bottle. His plan is to find a nearby industrial-sized space so he can make more pop.

"There's not much money to be made in the beginning when you're small," he said.

Lynch came to the pop business in a circuitous way. A graduate of Capital University law school, he went into private practice for a short time. But his passion for beer led him to Elevator Brewing Co., where he is a sales rep. His wife, meanwhile, is an energy consultant.

Rambling House has a full liquor license. The Lynches try to use as many local products as possible, such as Watershed and Middle West liquors. All taps are dedicated to Ohio beers: Jackie O's India pale ale, Elevator pale ale, Barley's Scottish ale, Hoof Hearted IPA and North High Brewing extra special ale, with more to come.

No food is served at Rambling House. Instead, the Lynches will invite food trucks to serve hungry patrons.

For now, the place is open evening hours Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and can be reserved as event space other days of the week. For more information, call 614-468-3415.

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