Brew bus offers drive through Cleveland’s craft beer scene
“Did you say beer? I like beer! Beer is fun!”
As slogans go, it’s direct and reflects a nearly universal sentiment. It’s emblazoned on glasses and shirts for the Cleveland Brew Bus, a tour offering beer enthusiasts a chance to partake in locally-created craft beers.
The Brew Bus started about 18 months ago, the brainchild of Bob and Shelle Campbell. The Campbells would visit local breweries while vacationing, and decided that something was needed to show off the burgeoning microbrewing scene in the Cleveland area.
So the Campbells bought a 22-passenger bus and started booking tours. There are at least 10 people on a tour, and to book a bus all to yourself, there must be at least 16 people signed up. I was on a tour with a total of 12 people: One group of three women from North Carolina, and a birthday party of nine people. Of course, part of the fun of the tour is the interaction with the other participants, and we had a good crowd.
Our tour guide for the evening was Leslie Basalla, who is the coordinator for the Brew Bus and handles bookings and makes arrangements for the brewery tours. She said there is a base of about 10 breweries in Cleveland they try to get through, including the Brew Kettle in Strongsville, Rocky River Brewing Co. and Cornerstone Brewing in Berea.
“It’s a very cool time in Cleveland,” she said. “There are lots of new places.”
In the days before Prohibition became the law of the land, Ohio City was the city of Cleveland’s brewery district. It is still a hot spot in fact, with places like Nano Brew and Platform Beer Co., which opened in July, and Market Garden Brewery, where we also had dinner (not included in the price of the tour).
In addition to its own microbrewing operation, Platform offers a microbrewery incubator, where home brewers can make a go at bottling and selling their own product. The tour includes a behind-the-scenes peek at the process of brewing, and of course, there are samples.
The samples (included in the price of the tour) are the small four to five ounce glasses, enough to give you a taste but not so much that you get obliterated by the end of the night (Leslie made it a point to say that the regular tours on the bus aren’t a party bus type atmosphere). It also enables you to take a flyer on a beer that you might not be brave enough to buy an entire pint of (Platform had a sweet potato beer which is definitely more appetizing than it might sound).
The night ended at Fathead’s – not the brewpub on Lorain Road in North Olmsted, but at its production facility, which includes a taproom, in Middleburg Heights.
Tours are scheduled on weekends and available by appointment during the week.