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Hop On: (614) rolls around in new brewery party bus

Regina Fox

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So many breweries, so little time, so few volunteers to drive your tipsy tush around, right? Wrong! Columbus, I’d like you to meet CBus Brew Bus: a brewery party bus tour that offers a new and refreshingly different way for curious hop heads to experience the local craft beer scene.

It was a despairingly shitty day in Central Ohio when our very strange-looking Uber pulled up to the (614) Media Group office. We all raced to the front to catch a glimpse, giggling at the thought of our impending adventure. 

Our tour was private, meaning we had the whole bus to ourselves and were able to customize the pickup and dropoff locations, as well as the destinations. Public tours, on the other hand, are made up of several small groups that meet in the heart of downtown at City Tavern and visit predetermined breweries. (I know what you’re thinking and yes, the AUX cord is up for grabs on both private and public tours.)  

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Owner Andy Bachman and his wife/tour guide extraordinaire/HBIC Jess greeted us at the door as we took our seats. The inside was decked out with paintings of Godzilla wearing a shirt reading “I Heart Local Beer” and Godzilla wearing a Block “O” tee—both raising foaming pints of beer, naturally. Unlike a real school bus where Kenny from 5C won’t stop kicking the back of your seat, CBus Brew Bus chairs face inward to keep conversations flowing right along with the brews. Between each seat is a cup holder that contained a 6.75-ounce sample glass that we would use to sample three unique beers at each of our three destinations.

Between curiosities of our careers and a mutual interest in beer, we hit it off with both Jess and Andy immediately—a perk of the service before we even shifted into drive. 

“It’s a great way to meet other people who may already enjoy craft beer,” Andy said of the tour. “You might even be somebody new to town or visiting from out of town and it’s a great way to acclimate yourself to the Columbus culture.”

First stop: Zaftig Brewing

We hustled in to avoid the rain and were met by an expecting Frank Shoults, Zaftig Taproom Manager. One of the most special qualities of CBus Brew Bus is the personalized experience you receive at every checkpoint. There were other bar guests upon our arrival, but Shoults gave us his undivided attention as he explained the beers, and waited patiently as we decided on our individual flights of three. 

I’m an IPA girl through and through, but I wanted to use this excursion to expand my hop horizons. I went with the Big Barleywine (14% ABV), Nuts For You Peanut Butter Stout (8% ABV) and Juicy Lucy IPA (7% ABV) because, well, old habits die hard.

While Andy understands that beer isn’t everyone’s thing, he’s confident the CBus Brew Bus can provide an experience even the most inexperienced beer drinker can appreciate. 

“Through this tour, you get to sample nine different types of beer and there’s usually something within that range that people will grab onto,” he assured. “There’s something for everybody. Don’t fear the beer!” 

We sipped and gossiped until Shoults came over and invited us on a tour of the Zaftig brewing facility. We learned about cultures, yeast, the canning process, and the importance of having a CFO (chief feline officer—follow Hops on Instagram at @zaftighops).

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Second stop: Parsons North 

Jess popped the top of our crowler of Sweet Lucy and officially christened our trip with its first road beers before we were even clear of the Zaftig parking lot. You can throw a rock from pretty much anywhere in Columbus and hit a drinking establishment, but there’s just something about sipping on an ice-cold IPA with your buddies while doing 65 down I-71 South. Beer tastes better while you’re doing a mile a minute. Amirite?

It was becoming crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery + to-go beers between stops were going to add up quickly.

Like at Zaftig, our bartender was also ready and waiting for us with an ice-cold pitcher when we tipsily traipsed into Parsons North. Mulberry Saison (7% ABV), American Stout (5% ABV), and Grapefruit Wheat (6% ABV) were the three beers we were treated to—none of which I would have ordered on my own accord, but were all brews I’d drink again. 

Andy, now retired from Columbus City Schools, was first introduced to craft beer during his residency in Boulder, CO and, more specifically, his experience with Boulder Beer Company about 20 years ago. Experimenting with different craft beers has been a muse of mine for about five years now. Andy, however, is a pioneer of sorts.  

“From that point on, I was pretty anti-domestic,” Andy said laughingly. But, he returned to Ohio in the mid-90s only to discover how far, far behind we were in the craft beer scene. Andy became a teacher but clung to his passion for beer. Without the capital for a taproom or enough knowledge of the process to become a brewer himself, Andy landed on the idea for the CBus Brew Bus.

Third and final stop: Platform Beer Co. 

The trip from stop 2 to stop 3 is what Andy calls the “sweet spot.” What he means is that the riders are experiencing peak fun. I couldn’t agree more. Our small, but lively, group of (614) staffers and Jess—who was going beer sample for beer sample with us—drank the rest of our Sweet Lucy crowler under-the-light of the green LEDs that lined the ceiling of the bus, and talked and laughed at unnecessarily high volumes until we rolled to a stop at our final destination. 

At Platform, I tried the Seltzer Project: Tangerine-Grapefruit Hard Seltzer (5% ABV) and I loved it. Will it replace my Black Cherry White Claws this summer? Stay tuned. I also had the Mello Hello IPA – Brut (5.4% ABV) and loved it, also. 

By this point, at our third brewery, it was crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery plus to-go beer between stops had really added up—tipsy would’ve been an understated adjective for our crew. But, we got way more than a Friday morning hangover out of the deal. Jess was our new favorite drinking buddy, we fell in love with several new brews we may have never taken a chance on otherwise, we learned the ins and outs of Zaftig’s brewing process, and we bonded with each other in a way that few coworkers get to experience. 

What will your Brew Bus adventure hold?

For more information and to schedule your next trip, visit cbusbrewbus.com.

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Food & Drink

Too Good to Eat: Hubbard Grille’s Short Rib and Shrimp shareable

@findyourfork

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If looks could krill, you would be on the floor. Literally.

Hubbard Grille's Short Rib and Shrimp shareable dish will knock you right out of your seat because it will hit you hard and fast with flavor and more.

Photo by Angela Lee of @findyourfork

Imagine this: the most tender and delicious pulled beef short rib layered on a bed of the creamiest and cheesiest white cheddar grits with tomato jus. Top the bite-sized goodness off with a perfectly tender and seasoned prawn, add some color and texture with delicately placed microgreens and take that first bite.

With that first bite, you’ve just experienced one of the most delicious flavor profiles that the Columbus food scene has to offer. Second bite and your taste buds are just begging, pleading, and crying for more. Third bite and you are already shamelessly scraping off every last drop, speck, and flavor from the dish with your spoon.

You might actually even pick up the dish with your own two hands and unashamedly lick the plate clean. You might also start bargaining with your fellow table mates to negotiate the remaining pieces on the plate.

No judgement here. We have all done it at one point. You gotta do what you gotta do, am I right?

Hubbard Grille is located at 793 N. High St. in the Short North. To learn more + view the menu, visit hubbardgrille.com.

@findyourfork your average noodle connoisseur, taco devourer, and mimosa lover. When she's not busy snapping pictures of her latest yummy foodie adventures, you'll find her at your local coffee shop casually relaxing with a pastry in hand and a latte in the other.

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Food & Drink

Beloved burger joint opening in Hilliard next week

614now Staff

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Swensons Drive-In is expanding their central Ohio footprint in just a few days. The Hilliard stand will open at 4810 Cemetery Rd. on Monday, September 23.

Hilliard will be the third stand in Columbus with a locations in Dublin and Polaris.

The Akron-based burger chain prepares their burgers, including the signature Galley Boy, using premium cuts of beef ground fresh daily and made to order. The buttered and toasted buns only add to the juiciness of the meat.

https://twitter.com/SwensonsDriveIn/status/1175043808268099585

Apart from the greasy goodness that is Swensons food, one of the other reasons to patronize the stand is its car-side service. From the comfort of your pajama pants, Swensons Curb Servers will be at your window, eager to take your order and sprint, literally sprint, it back to the kitchen for preparation. Just be sure to not drop a single Potato Teezer between your seat because we all know that is the land of no return.

Visit www.swensonsdriveins.com for more information.

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Food & Drink

Review: Matt & Tony’s dishes out classic comfort food in downtown

Regina Fox

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I've gotten to try a lot of interesting cuisine with this job, but it's rare that I get the opportunity to sample a mother's spaghetti recipe outside of my childhood home. This is the type of experience that Matt & Tony's Wood Fired Kitchen, which recently opened inside the former CBC Restaurant space, offers its guests.

At Matt & Tony's, you don't have to sneak off to the bathroom to Google what a menu item is so you don't look ignorant in front of your date, and that's what makes it so great.

The menu bodes familiar comforts like fried chicken, fish & chips, veal parmesan, and burgers. There's no proprietary flare or fancy sauce smears around your plate—it's all just damn good food.

I sampled Madeline's Spaghetti & Meatballs, which is straight from the cookbook of co-owner Matt Rootes' mother. The sauce was sweet and plentiful while the meatballs were hearty and succulent. I didn't want to gorge myself on the first entree, but I couldn't seem to stop twirling those perfectly-boiled noodles around my fork...

Next up was a Wood Grilled Steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli. I heard once that butter wasn't a carb, so I spread it on thick and cut myself a piece with a crispy fat edge—juicy, tender, and lean. I didn't eat all 12 oz., but I very easily could have.

The Fork N' Knife BBQ Ribs at Matt & Tony's are straight out of a BBQ fairy tale. This healthy helping of slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone meat is smothered in sauce and almost impossible to put down. You may not be excusing yourself to Google what you just nervously and unknowingly ordered, but you'll probably require a bathroom mirror to make sure you've wiped all the sauce off your mug after devouring these racks.

Feeling like Thanksgiving? Have a little alternative celebration for yourself with Matt & Tony's Half Roasted Chicken with crushed herbs and lemon butter. Slip into a food coma with the sides of potatoes and seasonal vegetable. Dream a little dream of country gravy (which can be found drowning the fried chicken dinner entree).

Rootes says he and his partner Tony Wildman chose to open Matt & Tony's to give the people of downtown an option for high-quality steaks and seafood at a reasonable price without all the "frou-frou." I, for one, think that's exactly what downtown needs.

While so many other restaurants are reaching for globally-inspired dishes made with ingredients you can pronounce, Matt & Tony's is executing classic comfort dishes you grew up on in a warm, inviting atmosphere—it's like a little slice of home on Short St.

Matt & Tony's is located at 525 Short Street and is open 11am- 10pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am- 11pm Friday and Saturday. Visit mattandtonys.com for more information.

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