Brew Cruise

Cincy Brew Bus takes riders on themed tours of craft breweries — with ample beer samples included

Jun 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm
Cincy brew bus riders on a tour of local craft breweries - Provided
Provided
Cincy brew bus riders on a tour of local craft breweries

You drink, they drive — it’s an excellent concept for a tour of Cincinnati’s glut of craft breweries and one manifested by local entrepreneur Mike Stokes, founder of Cincy Brew Bus.

Stokes founded the tour company with his wife Jen as a hobby in 2013 with the intention of “making a couple bucks a weekend to pay for my craft beer,” he says. When the bank he worked for downsized, he started to focus more on the tour business, and in January of 2014 he launched a full-scale company.

“Within six months we had four tour guides, and within 12 months I had to resign from my new bank job to run the company full time,” Stokes says. 

They now staff 18 guides.

Cincy Brew Bus takes riders on a variety of themed beer excursions with stops at almost every brewery in the city, from the centrally located crafters like Rhingeist and Taft’s Ale House to nanobreweries like Fibonacci and East Side faves Fifty West and Old Firehouse in Williamsburg, Ohio. Up to 35 people can climb aboard the little blue bus and listen to Stokes regale the crowd with tales of Cincinnati’s brewing history and where the industry is heading while en route to different stops. 

“All of our tour tastings are all about beer and the history of beer in Cincinnati,” Stokes says. “We cover pre- and post-Prohibition, the beer industry now and then and where our beer community is heading in trivia format while riding on the bus.”

Then, at each stop, guests take a brewery tour and sample pints or flights (four or five 4-ounce pours) of each location’s beer. You repeat this process three or four times per themed tour — not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

And Stokes is as serious about the history as he is about the drinking experience; this is about learning and creating a connoisseur experience, not just getting drunk.

“When we go into the breweries, we sample or drink the beer straight from the taps to the glassware,” he says. “This is important to us because it preserves the integrity and quality of the beer.”

With the growth, Cincy Brew Bus has expanded the tour concept beyond breweries. They now offer tours on their Cincy Wine Wagon, which stops at Valley Vineyards, Henke Winery and Woodstone Creek or Meier Wine Cellars; and the Cincy Bourbon Bus, a bourbon tasting and distillery tour, which stops at New Riff Distilling, Second Sight Spirits, The Littlefield, The Horse and Barrel Bourbon Bar and soon the Newberry Prohibition Bar.

“It is a full-blown tasting and distilling education tour,” Stokes says. “We don’t know of anything (else) like it in the U.S.”

They even have a tour that combines all three — Bourbon, Brews and a Winery Too! — which leaves from New Riff and travels to The Littlefield, Henke Winery and Rhinegeist or Taft’s Ale House.

They also do a special brunch tour and are available for private parties.

Since 2014, Cincy Brew Bus has taken nearly 11,000 happy customers on more than 600 tours (they have almost a five-star rating on tripadvisor), and they’ll be touring throughout Cincinnati Beer Week (see more Beer Week-specific Brew Bus tours on page 35.). When you turn your passion for beer into a mobile party, everybody wins.

BEER WEEK TOURS

Each Cincy Brew Bus experience comes with a soft pretzel from Servatii and includes brewery tours, a 16- or 20-ounce beer or other beer samples at each stop, stories about local brewing history, trivia and tips on proper tasting techniques. Water is provided on the bus, along with coolers to store growlers purchased from any brewery tour stop.

5 O’Clock Somewhere Tour — Start happy hour early with this noontime brewery tour, with stops at Taft’s Ale House, Braxton Brewing Company, Listermann Brewing Company and Ei8ht Ball Brewing. Noon-5 p.m. June 20-24. $60. Leaves from JACK Casino (formerly Horseshoe Casino), 1000 Broadway St., Pendleton, cincybrewbus.com.

Cincy Brunch Bus — Lay down a bread base with brunch at Taft’s Ale House, followed by a flight of Taft’s brews, then head to MadTree and Rhinegeist for more beer. 10:45 a.m. (check-in)-3 p.m. June 26. $52. Leaves from Taft’s Ale House, 1429 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, cincybrewbus.com.

Cincy Original Tour — Visit some classic Cincinnati craft breweries in this flagship tour. Stops include Rivertown, Ei8ht Ball, the Christian Moerlein Taprom and MadTree. 11:40 a.m.-5 p.m. June 25. $55. Leaves from Jack Casino (formerly Horseshoe Casino), 1000 Broadway St., Pendleton, cincybrewbus.com.

Eastside Tour — A self-explanatory name: Stop by popular East Side breweries, including Fifty West’s New Production Works, Bad Tom Smith, Old Firehouse Brewery and Mt. Carmel. 12:10 p.m.-5 p.m. June 25. $55. Leaves from The Growler House, 1526 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills, cincybrewbus.com.

Hoptimus Rex — You like hops? Cincinnati’s got hops. This tour viists MadTree Brewing Company, Listermann Brewing Company and Rhinegiest for pints, tours and prizes. 6:45-11:30 p.m. June 24. $60. Leaves from Jack Casino (formerly Horseshoe Casino), 1000 Broadway St., Pendleton, cincybrewbus.com. ©