Travel Tips for Central Ohio's Beverage Trails
With the rapid growth of the craft beer industry, it’s a challenge for even the most seasoned beer drinkers to keep up with the new breweries opening on a regular basis. Enter the Columbus Ale Trail.
Users journey down the Ale Trail by collecting a booklet at a participating brewery, The Ohio Taproom or an Experience Columbus visitor center. Then simply visit the featured breweries, order a pint and collect a stamp in the passport. There’s no need to rush through the passport; the goal is simply to help beer aficionados discover all of the breweries in the region.
“We founded the trail to support the local craft brewing community,” says Cheryl Harrison, editor of the blog Drink Up Columbus and one of the founders of the Ale Trail. “We were all working in the industry through our own businesses and, after coming across a few similar programs in other cities, we wanted to bring it to Columbus.”
Launched in 2015, the Ale Trail first featured 20 stops; more stops are added every year. Volume Four, which wraps up in the spring of 2019, features 40 stops, while Volume Five is projected to top 50. The trail is launched anew each May to coincide with Columbus Craft Beer Week. While it’s largely focused around Columbus, the stops also take participants north to Delaware, east to Buckeye Lake and south to Lancaster and Grove City.
In addition to Harrison, the Ale Trail is organized by Jim Ellison, owner of Columbus Brew Adventures; John Evans, owner of The Ohio Taproom in Grandview Heights; and Jared Friesner, owner of grooming products shop Cliff Original.
In addition to the reward of a pint of beer—and maybe the discovery of a new favorite watering hole—Ale Trail adventurers earn prizes after completing four, 25 and the full number of stops.
One of the biggest successes of the trail has been exposing smaller breweries and taprooms to new audiences. “It’s been great for the breweries,” says Harrison, “especially smaller ones in suburban areas. Any time I’m in a brewery, I see people with the books in hand.” Sideswipe Brewing, for instance, sits in a light industrial park just south of I-70 on the west side. Even the most dedicated brew-seekers wouldn’t usually trek to that area on their own.
A good starting point for first-timers is Brewer’s Row, a collection of six breweries in the Short North, Italian Village and Downtown—all within a few blocks of COTA’s free CBUS circulator. Guests can experience hoppy brews at Seventh Son Brewing Co., pale ales at North High Brewing, classic English styles at Barley’s Brewing Co., hazy IPAs at Hoof Hearted Brewing, red ales at Elevator Brewery & Draught Haus or stouts at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing.
In addition to the geographic diversity, the Ale Trail breweries vary widely in style. “They all have something different to offer,” Harrison says. “I think it’s cool we have so many different breweries focusing on sours or Belgians or New England IPAs.”
And the industry will continue to grow, connoisseurs predict. “We think we’ll definitely see a few more breweries,” Harrison says. “It was a pretty niche group who wanted to go to 20 breweries in a year with the first volume. There are a lot more people interested in the industry now. A lot of people don’t claim the prize—they just do it for the personal accomplishment.”
Learn more at cbusaletrail.com.
Reprinted from Columbus Monthly City Guide 2019.
If beer isn’t your preference, you can imbibe to your heart’s content on one of these other beverage trails instead.
Columbus Coffee Trail
Just like the Ale Trail, the Coffee Trail lets java-seekers collect passports from participating coffee shops or an Experience Columbus visitor center, then buy coffee and get their booklets stamped. The trail changes slightly each year, but start with pour overs at Boston Stoker Coffee Co., nitro cold brew at Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea and stunning lattes at Mmelo Boutique Confections. Collecting four stamps on the trail earns you a free Coffee Trail T-shirt from Experience Columbus. cbuscoffee.com
Dublin’s Celtic Cocktail Trail
Brush up on your Irish brogue and book passage along the Celtic Cocktail Trail, which features 14 local bars and restaurants serving Celtic-themed cocktails. Pick up a passport at the Dublin Visitor Information Center, order drinks at participating establishments and collect your stamps. Start with 101 Beer Kitchen’s Muck of the Irish with Watershed Distillery gin, basil-spinach simple syrup, lime and a splash of Champagne, or Mezzo’s Irish Attitude Mule, spiked with Jameson, lemon, lime, mint, raspberries and ginger beer. visitdublinohio.com
Gahanna’s Herbal Cocktail Trail
Gahanna proudly celebrates its roots as the Herb Capital of Ohio with this trail. Participants collect a passport at the visitor center, then sip cocktails and get stamps. Savor and document at least four different cocktails at local taprooms and restaurants to earn a branded cocktail glass. Cocktails rotate each year, but in the past Arepazo Tapas & Wine has fashioned a margarita with fresh blackberries and muddled mint, while Kindred Brewing’s Two Timing Tommy combined rosemary-infused Watershed gin, lavender simple syrup and lemon juice. visitgahanna.com
Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour
The Columbus Craft Cocktail Tour takes guests on walking tours to trios of cocktail bars or restaurants, exposing them to some of the city’s most creative mixology. At each stop, you get to sample cocktails, engage the bartender in a Q&A and enjoy light appetizers. Tours typically occur Saturday evenings (with occasional Sundays) and group together three stops within walking distance, such as Brothers Drake, Paulie Gee’s and Two Truths in the Short North. columbuscraftcocktailtour.com
Local Beverage Trails