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A Grand View of Local Brewing: Columbus Brew Adventures' Grandview Tour

Both newcomers and those well-versed in the Columbus craft beer
scene can learn a lot about the area's Grandview-based breweries,
courtesy of Jim Ellison and Columbus Brew Adventures' guided tours.
Earlier in the summer, my spouse and I had the opportunity to tour the Brewery District, an area we knew about but had not yet had the opportunity to explore in detail, via the folks at Columbus Brew Adventures. This brew-oriented touring company, founded in September 2013 by Columbus Food Adventures co-founder Bethia Woolf and local culinary maven Jim Ellison (aka the CMH Gourmand), provided us a rather informative and quite enjoyable tour of this historic neighborhood, giving us a history lesson of Columbus' original craft beer companies which once resided here mixed with a sprinkling of the here and now, sampling the wares of various neighborhood-based eateries and currently operating local breweries.

We would have considered ourselves quite fortunate and extremely grateful that this singular opportunity came our way, but as events would conspire, another opportunity came our way again as something of a bookend, with the phenomenon known as Ohio State Football playing a huge part. Coming off a somewhat unpredictable but wholly satisfying championship run last year, the team had seemingly all of Buckeye Nation rapt for their first home game against the University of Hawaii, and that meant another chance for my spouse and I to tour with Columbus Brew Adventures again, this time on their Grandview Brewery Tour.

There are several breweries in the area that are typically in the rotation (including Sideswipe and Actual Brewing), but on this tour we were routed on the traditional threesome of Smokehouse, Zauber, and Four String Brewing, with a closing session at the growler-based Ohio Taproom. Unlike the last tour, where we had a new employee giving her maiden tour, Jim himself provided our escort/knowledge guru for this weekend afternoon.
Smokehouse Brewing's platters were full of their tasty appetizers as well
the seemingly endless beer-related insights of founder Lenny Kolada

Smokehouse Brewing: Coming into this trip, my spouse and I were slightly worried that numerous previous visits to two of the three breweries on this tour, including Smokehouse, would end up going over a lot of familiar territory. In fact, I had previously written about the tasty new menu changes at the Smokehouse on this previous blogpost, brought upon by owner's Lenny Kolada's attempts to take this venerable barbecue-oriented menu into more diverse territory.

However, Kolada himself, known affectionally as the Brewdood and grandfather of the modern Columbus craft beer scene (being a co-founder of Columbus' first modern era brewpub, Barley's Brewing, in downtown Columbus) pretty much put that notion of trampling over lots of familiar territory to rest. Our tour guide Jim "warned" us that Lenny would be more than willing to ramble about just about brew-related, and that is exactly what we got. While munching on a sample platter of Smokehouse's tasty appetizers (mmm...Sauerkraut Balls), Kolada expounded enthusiastically on numerous topics, including the story of his inspiration to establish the original Barley's in downtown, the ABC's of the brewing process, and the numerous ways Smokehouse Brewing serves its beer.

The lacing of a well-crafted Smokehouse Brewing ale is a pretty sight indeed
Of course, we did not come on the tour simply to eat and listen: samples of Smokehouse's current brews were delivered to us tour-goers in well-spaced out waves. Along with familiar favorites like their Scottish Ale (both regular and dry-hopped in a firkin) and their Centennial IPA, we were also pleased with a well-made Oktoberfest and perhaps our favorite of the group, their brand new Maeve Gruit.

This unique beer style, who is named after the Irish queen whose name means "she who intoxicates," featured a combination of hawthorn, elderberries and dandelion roots and was prime example of what Kolada described as "beer that wasn't beer" i.e. beer from an era when hops had not established its typical place in the brewing process due to lack of availability. It was also a prime example of how Smokehouse Brewing, similar to its food menu items, is striving to reach beyond their core brews to venture into more novel creations for its brewpub visitors into the future.

Zauber Brewing's founder Geoff Towne may not be as flamboyant as
his compatriot Kolada at Smokehouse, but his passion for
the art of brewing was equally as evident
Zauber Brewing: The second brewery of Columbus Brew Adventures' Grandview Tour was again quite familiar to us; in fact, it was the subject of one of the very first few blog posts (in conjunction with the very popular Columbus-based food truck Paddy Wagon) on this particular blog.

Brewery founder Geoff Towne, our host at Zauber on this day, acknowledged it has been a tough haul at times, but slowly but surely his dream to offer his German- and Belgian- styled beer at a beer-hall-styled venue came to fruition when Zauber made its move into its current West 5th Avenue location early in 2014. Even after the move, the growing pains were still evident: originally, there was only enough capacity to tap the brewery's newest offerings once a week on Thursday, with taps always running dry fairly soon after.

However, things are more than looking up these days, as evidenced by our original beer sampling. Described by Geoff as American-styled takes on German and Belgian brews by Geoff, our samplers of the brewery's Myopic Red, Vertigo Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest and the Berzerker Belgian IPA were refreshing, solid brews. These beers, along with their other offerings, are available now on a regular or seasonal basis.

In addition, the brewery's main space, again meant to be an American take on a German-styled beer hall, has emerged into a consistent destination for sports-oriented fans and board game aficionados alike (Towne said it was roughly only a 20-30 minute walk from the brewery to the C-deck at The Shoe at The Ohio State University.)  Also, their association with food trucks (typical of the fairly unique brewery/food truck relationship that has emerged in Columbus, noted Jim) has resulted in a more permanent relationship with the recently displaced Explorers Club, which will be opening up a kitchen space inside in the very near future. Caffeine heads can also rejoice with another addition: Lithopolis' Das Kaffeehaus, who similarly has adopted an American take on a German coffeehouse, will be opening up a branch of their operations in the near future as well.

With beer sampler glasses in hand, guests were escorted by Geoff into the
Zauber's production area, where he gave folks his take on brewing basics
as well as a close up sensory experience with brewing ingredients
Geoff invited us to take our last beer sampler with us as we ventured to the brewery's production area. Glistening metal tanks proved to be an attractive backdrop as Zauber's head brewer went over his m methods of brewing. A theme that started here, and would be continued at our next stop (Four String Brewing), was the philosophical differences in what was essentially the same general process, such as the how long you would keep reusing particular batches of yeast. Geoff also gave a nice bonus for us tour-goers in allowing us to smell and taste some of the hops and malts used in their production (though both he and Jim warned us emphatically to NOT eat the hops.)

The uniquely Ohio-oriented growler shop The Ohio Taproom
provided our final stop on this Columbus Brew Adventures tour

The Ohio Taproom: After stopping at our third brewery on the trip (Four String Brewing, who is covered in this separate post), we ended our tour at a place we had actually not had a chance to visit before in the growler-based Ohio Taproom.

As our tour host Jim hinted before our arrival, The Ohio Taproom essentially has two main credos: to serve Ohio-only beer, and to serve a beer from every Ohio craft brewer there is out there. Even with Columbus' more-or-less central location, the latter is a Herculean task at best, but the hand-painted map outside this former barbershop shows that the Taproom has made quite a bit of progress in that regard since its opening in mid-2013 with over 70 different breweries represented.

Our samples included the pale ale from Pigskin Brewing in Gahanna, a more hop-forward rendition of the style than most, as well as Athens' Devil's Kettle and their very intriguing Spider Silk blonde ale. Jim also hinted that some fairly obscure beer makes their way here through the Taproom's efforts; sure enough, that factoid was hammered home when one of our samplers contained the Abbey Pilsner of the Moeller Brew Barn from out of the tiny western-Ohio township of Maria Stein. The spouse and I are not typically pilsner fans, but the smooth mouthfeel and pleasant malt and hop zing of this brew made it our growler takeaway for the tour (Columbus Brew Adventures conveniently provides space for your growlers in their vans...hint, hint.)  

Blake proved to be a loquacious host at the Taproom for us tour-goers
as he showed off their state-of-the-art growler filling system as
well as their inventory of Ohio-based food and drink products
Our buying a growler of the Moeller Brew Barn pilsner meant we got to see The Ohio Taproom's state-of-the-art growler fill system in action. Unlike many others that offer growler fills, the Taproom's system purges your growler with carbon dioxide prior to filling it with beer, theoretically keeping your beer fresh with proper storage for up to 90 days. At the time of our visit, the Taproom was in the final stages of obtaining permission to serve pints of beer to visitors (as it turned out, their efforts have proven successful based on this Facebook post; their first pints will be served on Friday, September 18.)

The Ohio Taproom also has a select variety of non-beer Ohio-based products for sale, including the hot sauces and salsas of CaJohns Fiery Foods, Cincinnati-based Wild Joe's Beef Jerky, and Grandview's own terrific creator of pies Honeykiss Bakery.

In terms of the tour itself, we found that both people of all types can enjoy these tours. Some members of our group were intrigued with the chemistry and biological processes that go behind the art of brewing of beer. Another tour member, a beer enthusiast who commuted to work from southern Ohio to Grandview but was otherwise unfamiliar with the area, was really pleased to get a more clear picture of the some of the area's beer and food options.

And for us relative veterans of the Columbus beer scene, we actually learned a lot more than we figured we would on this roughly four hour excursion into what seemed like familiar territory. Much of that was due to our fine hosts, but we equally have Jim to thank making the tour as satisfying as it turned out. Should Jim be your host for a Columbus Brew Adventure tour, his knowledge of the craft beer scene as a whole and experience with Columbus' culinary arena is something that any tour goer should tap and enjoy equally as much as any of the brews you might imbibe that day.

Columbus Brew Adventures
Tour and ticket information can be found on their website at
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Smokehouse Brewing
1130 Dublin Road
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 485-0BBQ (0227)
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Zauber Brewing
909 West Fifth Ave,
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 456-7074
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The Ohio Taproom
1291 W. Third Ave.
Columbus, OH, 43212
(614) 487-9224
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  1. Thanks for joining us again! I'm the guide for about 85% of our tours but all of our guides are well versed in the in's and outs of the ever growing local craft beer scene. Hope to see you in the future. - Jim, Columbus Brew Adventures

    1. Jim - thanks again, and I appreciate you mentioning your other guides. We were quite impressed with first-timer Jenna on the Brewery District tour, and have no doubts that anyone leading your tours have a wealth of local craft beer knowledge that tour-goers would find worth tapping (no pun intended).