Buzzsaw Brewing, based out of Columbus, Ohio, is a rising local brewery founded on a simple principle – love the beer you brew. Created by two college swim teammates turned business partners, the Buzzsaw (or BZW on their cans) story started in 2011. To learn more, we sat down with Andrew Watkins, Co-Founder of Buzzsaw Brewing, to discuss their beer, how a bitcoin-based investment helped them start up, and how a Denison University swim team rally cry transformed into the foundation for Andrew and Quinn’s craft beer brand.
Tell me about yourself: What’s your background, and how did Buzzsaw come about? And when was Buzzsaw initially founded?
Well, I grew up in Kansas City, MO, where there was a budding craft beer scene with breweries such as Boulevard, KC Beer Co., and Free State Brewing project, to name a few. I left KC to study psychology and swim at Denison University just outside of Columbus, where I met my business partner Quinn. The name Buzzsaw comes from our time in college too – it was a rally cry for us on the swim team. However, Buzzsaw didn’t come about until years later when I was living and working in Columbus for an e-commerce marketing agency while Quinn was home-brewing in Philadelphia. Quinn had decided that Columbus was a great place to open a brewery, so he moved in with me and began brewing beer in our basement! It wasn’t until a couple of years after he moved in that I officially joined him to start up the business side of Buzzsaw: putting together the branding and labels and started working and selling our beer at events. That was back in 2018 – through all of that initial promotion and planning, we officially joined the market this past February!
What turned the page for you to get out of e-commerce and into the craft beer industry?
Quinn was definitely a huge factor in that transition and also the tangible aspect of the industry. I love how involved the process is in both the business and production ends of the industry, and how creative you can be in both of those respects. Also, the fact that you are creating a physical product people can connect to and build a community around was a major factor for me to become involved in the craft beer industry.
What was the first beer you drank?
The first beer I ever had was a Coors Light, and I’m proud of it! Even the most seasoned, grizzled, bearded hipster has a soft spot for those staple domestics. Currently, I think my favorite of these styles of beers would probably have to be Modelo. On the other hand, my first craft beer was either a Rouge Brewing Dead Guy Ale or a Unibroue La Fin Du Monde. You could also say La Fin Du Monde is a direct inspiration for us at Buzzsaw – we love to brew Belgian-style ales, so there’s definitely a correlation there.
What’s your all-time favorite Buzzsaw beer?
My absolute favorite is actually a beer we haven’t released commercially yet! It’s called the Forbidden Fruit – a Brett Trippel that is based from our Belgian Trippel named Treasure Trove, which was one of the first beers Quinn brewed for Buzzsaw. It’s undoubtedly one of the best beers I’ve ever had, and I’m not just saying that because we make it! There’s something amazing about taking a simple beer, throwing some bread on it, and creating this funky 9% abv farmhouse trip!
What is Buzzsaw’s best-selling beer?
So far, our Buzzsaw Pale Ale has been our top seller. It is one of our two flagships, the other being the Buzzsaw Blonde. Our pale ale is a little different – we don’t do too many IPAs, so this is by far our most bitter offering, but it’s under 50 IBU and we’re going for a real balanced finish. We use European hops and malts giving it a nice, soft herbal backbone, and our fans and critics have loved it so far. We’re excited to see how our Pale Ale progresses in the future!
When you and Quinn were deciding on a home base for Buzzsaw, were you considering any other locations besides Columbus? What ultimately made you choose Columbus?
We had discussed three possible cities: Philadelphia, since that’s where Quinn grew up and fell in love with craft beer, Denver, because of network connections we had there, and Columbus, since it was geographically in between those two options and we both went to college just outside of the city. After weighing all of the options, we decided on Columbus since we were familiar with the area and had plenty of network connections, plus the craft beer scene here is exploding.
A year after Quinn moved here and we started working events in the community, it was obvious to us that we make the right choice.
Columbus is home to a very vibrant and energetic community. How has Buzzsaw gotten involved with the community in the past?
After acquiring a can seamer from a friend who did well in the first Bitcoin price run, we reached out to people throughout the city who were running events and asked if we could supply free beer as a way to introduce ourselves to the community. We would go to places like non-profit art galleries and indie concerts for the bands of our various friends and just serve our beer and chat with the people in attendance. We established ourselves as a supporter of community events, whether for-profit or not, and even though these types of events slowed down because of the pandemic, we are very excited to continue our community outreach once it is safe to do so!
Buzzsaw Brewing distribution is growing in the Columbus area; do you have plans for further growth and expansion in the near future?
Definitely! Our long-term vision is to have our beer in international markets and have our European-style brews stand side-by-side with the beers that have shaped our brand, though short term, we’re striving to make Columbus our home. We have expanded our reach to the Cleveland and Cincinnati markets, but we want to first build and establish our Columbus taproom with our current resources. Hiring within this community and expanding out production here are our top priorities. On top of this, we are hoping to offer shipping to our customers within the next couple of months, so be on the lookout!
What do you think are some of the most important things that have led Buzzsaw Brewing to where it is now?
Our support system has been tremendous. Our network here in Columbus, as well as our family members and friends across the country have been integral in getting us to where we are now. They’ve allowed us to offer our beer at their events or volunteered their time to help can our beer and work said events, and now we’re able to grow our business to the point where we have amazing opportunities like opening a taproom and hiring a larger staff. Also, being able to go to work every day with one of your closest friends is something I will always be grateful for.
What do you see as the next big trend in the craft beer industry?
From a local standpoint, I believe the next big trend will be growing more exotic hops and other ingredients in-house or at local farms in order to shorten the supply chain and ultimately create a genuinely local beer. You can already see this trend in Europe with a lot of the regional styles. For example, a pilsner from the Rhine Valley is going to taste very different than a pilsner from Italy, which is really cool! I think we’re going to see this across the country as beer drinkers become more interested in the local impact their drink choice is making.
I also believe that direct-to-consumer delivery is going to take off – the concept of ordering a few cases or a keg for a gathering rather than each guest bringing a different case. There are plenty of opportunities for this to take off, highlighted especially by 2020’s increase in order centralization, and we hope to be at the forefront of that movement.