On Saturday I had the pleasure of taking Columbus Brew Adventures‘ first downtown brewery tour. Brew Adventures is a new sister company to Columbus Food Adventures (I’ve written about their Short North and food truck tours), and it focuses on the breweries and distilleries in and around Columbus. Four of the tours are Columbus-centric, taking you through downtown, around Grandview, to distilleries, or on a special “meet the brewers” tour. An additional two tours will take you east to Licking County or southeast to Athens county and Hocking Hills. The downtown tour focuses on four breweries, starting with Columbus Brewing Company in the Brewery District.
At CBC we gathered on their patio and heard about the history of the brewery. It’s been around since 1988 and the current brewmaster is Eric Bean. Eric has a history of producing some of the most consistent and drinkable beers in town, living up to the name of Columbus Brewing Company.
Under the big red awning we tried four beers – three from CBC and one guest tap from Actual Brewing Company. The CBC offerings included their pale ale, IPA, and Bodhi double IPA. I’ve had all three before – they’re all very likeable – with a preference toward the Bodhi (which will supposedly be bottled this year!). The Actual offering is called Ingenuity, a clean and grassy saison. Interesting comparison to the hoppier beers from CBC.
In addition to solid brews at CBC, we were treated to some of the restaurant’s food, including pizzas, nachos, and calamari. It’s nice starting the tour with something in the stomach, and the food is really good bar grub. This setting also established the tour-goers’ chance to chat with each other, share beer stories, compare tastes, and so on.
Our second stop took us to Barley’s Ale House No. 1 across from the Convention Center. I always love going back to Barley’s. It was one of the first restaurants we ever visited in Columbus, and it was one of the first places I fell in love with the craft of beer.
At Barley’s we were personally served by Angelo Signorino, the Barley’s brewmaster (or “feeder of the yeast,” as he described himself). He has one of the longest brewing track records in Columbus, and Barley’s has become a central hub for beer festivals, keg tappings, and homebrew competitions.
Angelo started us with the MacLenny’s Scottish Ale. I describe this as one of my gateway beers: it’s smooth and malty, a perfect session ale for catching up with friends. I remember tasting it years ago and realizing “I really love this! I want to know more about how this is made!”
Angelo walked us through other brews like their Blood Thirst Wheat, a hazy wheat beer with a strong overlay of citrus (uh, maybe from the blood oranges, Nick?). He said the beer started as a homebrew competition winner, and the brewery adapted the beer (with the brewer’s blessing) for their own menu. Also on the list was a special version of the Centennial IPA. This particular batch was “enhanced” by some smart-alec brewer’s assistant who threw some vanilla beans into the fermenter. Makes for a beer that travels well, from a big hoppy opening to a lightly sweet close.
Angelo then finished us off with their Infinity Grand Cru, a version of a Belgian strong dark ale. It’s a darker, maltier brew with lots of fruit flavors. The beers were all excellent, but even more fun was listening to Angelo’s enthusiasm in talking about his beers and the crew who makes and serves them.
That’s part one of the trip. Check in tomorrow for a feature on the two remaining tour stops!