Saturday, July 1, 2017

Craft Connection Bringing You To The Beer And Fun

All Aboard:

Our transportation for the trip

On Sunday June 25th, I had the opportunity to partake a tour around the city to various breweries as a passenger on the Craft Connection Brewery Tour. One of the great things about living in the Cincinnati area at this time is our, what I would call abundance of breweries. So, it would only make sense to be able to visit them in a safe manner…on a bus. No driving just riding, and what a great way to get around the city.

So my buddy and I arrived Sunday to the Nation Kitchen and Bar at 1200 Broadway to begin the tour. This is where the tour begins and ends and happens to be a fine little spot in the over-The-Rhine area. Oh by the way, if you are on the tour then they also provide you with happy hour pricing too which isn’t bad either. But you meet here and then the bus driver and your tour guide will come to meet you and lead you back to the bus. For this trip this was John Funcheon, and off the bat I can tell you John has put in his work. He was able to display good beer knowledge and really turn the trip into not just a good entertaining experience, but an educational one as well.

John driving the bus
So, I believe it was around 12:45 or so and John was able to get us over to the bus and provide all of the details to highlight what would take place. Once on the bus, he was able to provide the little things that we call safety notes to make sure everyone did remain so, as well as the do’s and don’ts. By the way, the best don’t was probably that they don’t play Justin Bieber as part of the music selection. And there was no complaining from the riders about that one, lol.

So for this journey, we were off to see three breweries: Blank Slate, 50 west and MadTree. If you are not familiar with these breweries in Cincinnati then you should be, they are all pretty solid nut more on them in a bit. As far as any other preliminary items about the bus, riders are allowed to bring beverages and snacks if they like although chips were provided by the tour as well. They keep a few coolers and ice on the bus which makes things nice for keeping your beer cold in between stops, especially if a few are a little bit longer of a ride but away from this it’s enjoy the ride and checking out some beers.

Blank Slate serving up brews

First Stop: Blank Slate Brewing

So our first arrival brought us to Blank Slate Brewing. Now, this is pretty cool as I have been a fan of this brewery for a long time and it is one that I feel is often overlooked and underappreciated in Cincinnati. We pulled in to this brewery and John did well leading us in into what I would call this nice cozy brewery. Side note, if you are looking at trying the new thing of beer yoga then they hold classes here, which I was able to discuss with a few of brewery patrons.

John discussing Blank Slate and their offerings
John did well with taking us into the brewery and pointing out many of the aspects that go along with brewing and telling the story of the brewery. After some dry hopping on a brew, we were able to be joined by the owner Scott LaFollette. An engineer by education, he decided to walk away to follow his dream if running a brewery and he is definitely on the right track. The thing that I liked most about Blank Slate is their philosophy of how they are creating beers and looking to create ones from a “blank slate” idea. The creativity definitely tends to show in their beers.

Speaking of which, we were able to try a few of them which as I mentioned come along as part of the tour. We started with their Out & About which was a very nice Gose. This was followed by The Lesser Path which is a White IPA, the Shroominous which is an American Brown ale and lastly the Fume which is a Porter. A nice variety of beers indeed and John also did a good job of discussing the beers and styles, which was also great as we had a fun banter back and forth around them. Yeah, I may have geeked out a bit. It happens, lol.

Fifty West was definitely hopping

Second Stop: Fifty West Brewing

So after a little loading up of beers to enjoy for the next ride, we departed from Blank Slate to adventure to Fifty West. Now somewhat like Blank Slate, I feel like Fifty sometimes gets missed but not to the same degree. This was evident as we pulled in to the lot, and had a little difficulty finding a spot to park. Now granted this is on a Sunday at around 2pm or 2:30pm during a sunny day following a few days of rain, so people were definitely anxious to get out. The cool thing about Fifty West though is that it is somewhat of a mini-complex as they have sand volleyball courts, canoe launches and even a bike shop. It truly is a nice brewery for the outdoor person, and John did well explaining the symbolism of the name and how it’s about having fun on Route 50 which is actually the longest riding highway, not Route 66.

John pouring and talking about the beer
John again was able to take us back into the brewing area so that we could check out things, and again he was able to provide a nice thorough rundown of what was happening there as well as discussing their operations. Here we were able to enjoy the Cumulus which is a Kellerbier. And this is the only brewer in Cincinnati that I have seen with this style by the way, I highly recommend it if you happen to visit them, the Doom Pedal which is a Witbier, the Strawberry Lodge Golden ale which is a Golden ale, and lastly the Coffee Please Stout…which obviously is a Stout. Again a nice variety of beers as chosen by John, and even though Golden ales aren’t usually my thing it was definitely worth trying. 

One thing to note during the visit and sharing of information, John did very well sharing again his good knowledge about beer and brewing which made it fun for everyone that was involved.

Third Stop: MadTree Brewing

The MadTree logo from out front
So after riding up the road a little more and of course drinking another beer in between because I mean we are on a beer tour, we arrived at MadTree Brewing. So MadTree is pretty much one of the big boys here in Cincinnati, along with Rhinegeist at least at the current time. I do feel as though Braxton Brewing in Northern Kentucky will also be making a push. But anyway, MadTree had just recently launched a new facility because they had outgrown their previous location. The beers here are many and draft for draft, they just may have the best variety of styles for anyone looking to get out to one of our breweries. But with their size and still renovations that were being completed, access was limited.

The view from the observation area
However, John was able to escort us up onto their observation deck so that we could see into the operations. Their wasn’t as much action taking place being it a Sunday, but the difference in this one versus the first two was yuuuuuge to quote our president.

Again, John was able to provide great tidbits about the location and the beers that we enjoyed which included the following: Sol Drifter which is a Blonde ale, Boysen the Hood which is a Belgian Blonde ale, Muddle Lover which is actually the collaboration beer that was created for Cincinnati Beer Week, and Dreamsicle which is a Kolsch. And yes, it does taste like that orange desert that we remember from our childhood. Pretty much all good beers selected from John that allowed some good experiences for all that made for happy palates.

So following MadTree, we loaded back onto the bus and headed back to our starting location where our journey began.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I feel as though the tour was a great experience, especially for those that are looking to learn more about beer. But even for those like myself or even more experienced, it still makes a great time and John did make it interactive. Even my buddy Gary who went along with me for the ride and has also brewed and loves beer as much as I was really thrown back. If you want to see the city through the eyes of the beer being served then this is definitely a good way to do it for sure. I must give kudos to John for a job well done, and it is great to see one more great business addition like this to the city. #HopOnCincy, leave the car at home and let Craft Connection be your tour guide to some of the best suds in the city.

Cheers! Keep Drinking Those Good Craft Beers!

Disclaimer: The tour I took with Craft Connection was that of a complimentary one but in no way did that influence my opinion. The views expressed are my personal ones and are those of an honest nature. We were joined by two out of town couples and all had a fun time with smiles on their faces at the end, and during the time I was able to gather their feedback as well which aligned with mine.

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