Hops onboard! Brewery tours bring craft beer fans behind the scenes of Cincinnati's brewery bonanza

CINCINNATI -- The summer months are here and there’s never been a better time to get outside and take in the plethora of breweries Cincinnati has to offer.

And as more and more craft breweries have risen up in the metro-area, so too have the brewery tours to showcase them.

Two of the newest include the Cincy Brew Bus and Craft Connection tours. Existing tours include Night Shift Limousine, Tonic Tours and the Brewery District walking tours.

Four of the tours will take you to several destinations and breweries about town, while the walking tour will take you on a trip to the past featuring a look at Cincinnati’s proud brewing history.

I got a chance to talk briefly with each of the operators about what sets their tours apart and to get some tips for people who are new to the craft beer experience.

craft connection

Bryan Moritz, of Craft Connection

1.  What inspired you to start a beer tour business?

My wife, her brother, and I have always shared a passion for craft beer and small business.  My wife and I went on a brewery tour in Denver last year and after the first stop, we said this would be a perfect fit in Cincinnati.

Initially, we sat on the idea, as my wife and I were expecting our first child and everyone’s schedules were crazy. However, every time the three of us got together, the idea just kept coming up in discussion, especially when we were at the breweries.

Finally, we said, “Enough of the beer talk, let’s go for it.” We wanted to connect the people of Cincinnati to all these great breweries and give the breweries a chance to share their beers and their story.  

2.  What sets your tours apart from the rest?

When developing the tour, our focus was to offer a unique experience for our guests, engulfed in all things craft beer.  We didn’t want to operate like a party bus where we solely provide transportation.

Our guests receive behind-the-scenes access to the best breweries in Cincinnati. We wanted to connect our group with the faces of these breweries; the owners, the brewers, the tap room managers, etc.

Throughout the tour experience, we will give fun facts about the breweries as well as the rich history of beer in Cincinnati. We leave it up to the experts to describe the brewing process and explain the history of their brewery. It’s an interactive way for people to connect with the breweries.

Our guests ride in a decked out, 14-passenger shuttle, where we store coolers so people can pick up growlers to go.

3. What's your favorite day to take people on a tour?

So far, we are partial to the Saturday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. tour. It’s the weekend, everyone’s in a great mood, and ready to drink beer.

Craft Connection customers can arrive early to HalfCut (our meeting spot), and receive $2 off pints before the tour.  We then take them to four different breweries in four hours and return back to HalfCut.

From there, they still have the whole night ahead of them and can keep the party going at all the great bars and restaurants in OTR.  

Also, because of demand, we’re looking to add a Sunday afternoon tour for the summer, so we’ll soon be available for tours Thursday - Sunday.  

4. Any tips for first time tour-takers or initiates into craft beer?

Our best advice is to arrive with a full belly and an open mind. There is a lot of beer drinking on this tour.

Our goal is that you’re going to uncover new beers that will change the way you think about this indulgent beverage. By the end of the tour, our guests will have a newfound loyalty towards craft breweries and will support the Cincinnati craft beer scene.

More information on Craft Connection is available at: www.cincycraftconnection.com

Facebook: /cincinnaticraftconnection
Twitter: @CincyBeerTour
Instagram: /craft_connection

cincy brew bus

Mike Stokes, of Cincy Brew Bus

1. What inspired you to start a beer tour business?

I love craft beer and love introducing people to it. I also love to introduce people to the rich history of beer and brewing Cincinnati has to offer.

We have some of the most creative and ingenuitive brewery owners and operators in the country in our very own backyard and we really wanted to show it off to Cincinnatians and the rest of the country.

2. What sets your tours apart from the rest? 

We focus heavily on the history of beer in Cincinnati and talk about beer from the beginning of time.

We have trivia and prizes and pride ourselves on providing a fun, educational experience while you get to taste a lot of different types and styles of beer.

We pride ourselves on finding the right beer for everyone on the tour no matter what kind of palette they have, a sort of "beerista" if you will.

We talk IBUs ABVs and give everyone an idea of what they will drink. We do tours of the facilities.

Everyone gets a giant Servatii soft pretzel as a palette cleanser when they arrive, a souvenir cup, and coaster to take home.

3. What's your favorite day to take people on a tour?

We love our Saturday public tour. People from very diverse backgrounds have come on the tour and have found friends for life just sitting down

and drinking some beer with them.

We have had folks from Norway, Las Vegas, West Virginia, Indiana, California, Kentucky, Michigan and Washington, D.C. come on the tour.

Having an afternoon where you can relax, learn about beer, take tours of the facilities and the city is really fun for us.

4. Any tips for first time tour-takers or initiates into craft beer?

Hydrate well. Craft beer is typically higher alcohol content so eat something before or during the tour as well. Come with an open mind and palette.

More info on Cincy Brew Bus is available at: http://www.cincybrewbus.com/index.html

Facebook: facebook.com/cincybrewbus
Twitter: @cincybrewbus

tonic tours

Ginny Tonic, of Tonic Tours

1. What inspired you to start a beer tour business?

I decided to start Tonic Tours because I had been podcasting and writing about beer and spirits for a few years and I decided that I wanted to take some of my knowledge out into the real world and have some fun with it.

Getting to show people what you know and helping them to know more in person is so much more fun than through a blog. 

2. What sets your tours apart from the rest?

Tonic Tours is a very small tour company. We focus mainly on private events and only do a few public tours per year. We pick you up wherever you want and do all the planning and driving -- you just handle the drinking.

Being small lets us really get to know our passengers and we have fun with them. We've been known to hijack a fun group and take them to an extra stop or two if they have the time.

I am also very knowledgeable about spirits and cocktails so I can talk to you about more than just beer. 

3. What's your favorite day to take people on a tour?

I love tours that are a celebration so any day that is special to you.

Beer brings people closer together and some of my best tours have been times that old friends and family members from out of town have gotten together to do a beer tour together. 

4. Any tips for first time tour-takers or initiates into craft beer?

Call ahead if you have a big group and give the brewery a heads up. Don't let the beer geek in your tour stop you from asking more basic questions.

Every brewer I've met in this town has been very nice and they love to talk about beer on all levels. Go to Rivertown if you go nowhere else. Best tour in the city. 

You can find more on Tonic Tours at: http://www.tonictours.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/TonicTours
Twitter: @tonictours

night shift limousine

Brad Stapleton, of Night Shift Limousine

1. What inspired you to start a beer tour business?

Cincinnati is where the first motorized hearse was built back in 1909 , so about four years ago we decided to convert an old hearse into a limousine and provide a fun, unique way for people to experience the city.

We have been doing winery tours ever since and when the breweries started opening tap rooms we were ready.

We were the first to do so and actually did a tour on MadTree's very first day.

This summer we will be adding a more traditional type of limo for tours.

2. What sets your tours apart from the rest?

Our tours are for smaller, private groups of 2-6 people; so it is really for you and the people you choose.

Our next vehicle will seat up to 9. We also provide the option of picking people up at their home or a restaurant.

3. What's your favorite day to take people on a tour?

My personal favorite is Sunday, the breweries are less crowded and it is just a nice way to spend the afternoon with some friends enjoying some amazing beers.

4. Any tips for first time tour-takers or initiates into craft beer?

Three things.

First -- if you get a sample of a beer you don't like, don't drink it. Our tours are all about sampling a wide variety of beer. You never know until you taste it and none of the brewers will be offended if you don't like some of their beers.

Second -- Be aware that the craft beer you are tasting may have 2-3 times the alcohol content of other beers you may be used to. Pace yourself, it can sneak up on you.

Third -- I encourage people to pack some food, almost all of the breweries allow you to carry in your own food. Food trucks aren't always there so bring your favorite snacks.

Night Shift Limo can be reached at: http://www.nightshiftlimousine.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/Night-Shift-Limousine

brewery district tours

Steve Hampton, of the Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corp.

1. What inspired you to start a beer tour business?

We were the first to offer large-scale heritage tours of Over-the-Rhine and of Cincinnati’s brewing heritage way back in 2006.

We started them to share Cincinnati’s world-class brewing heritage with the world, but more importantly to bring people to the Brewery District and show them the value and opportunity of our neighborhood.

Beer and brewing history is an amazing asset, and has drawn a wide range of visitors to a neighborhood many had written off.

2. What sets your tours apart from the rest?

Our tours focus on the people who lived in Over-the-Rhine, the beer they drank, and the brewers who made it.

We also have access to a number of

amazing pre-Prohibition brewery structures for tours, including brewhouses, malthouses, bottling buildings, lagering cellars, and tunnels.

Most importantly, as non-profit advocates for our neighborhood, all tour proceeds go toward preserving these historic buildings and supporting our mission of repopulating the Brewery District with residents, residents, and visitors.

3. What's your favorite day to take people on a tour?

A Sunday afternoon tour is a great way to end the week.

Start by grabbing lunch at Findlay Market beforehand, taking a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood and its amazing breweries, and ending with a cold local beer at the Biergarten.

It is a great modern version of the Continental Sundays of old.

4. Any tips for first time tour-takers or initiates into craft beer?

This is a walking tour, so wear appropriate shoes.

We reward visitors by ending our summer brewery tours at the Biergarten at Findlay Market, with Christian Moerlein beer and rotating guest taps featuring other local craft breweries each weekend.

Befitting the Lager Tour, a simple and refreshing locally brewed lager beer is a great introduction to craft beer while also celebrating the beer that built Cincinnati.

To learn more about the Brewery District tours, contact them via: http://www.cincinnatibrewerytours.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/OTRBreweryDistrict
Twitter: @brewdistrict

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