I have been on a lot of brewery tours. I’ve visited a lot of breweries just for fun. In the past year and a half I’ve been in this city of yours I’ve drunk quite a bit of beer. Plenty of it from East End Brewing. Somehow those two hobbies never met until Saturday.
I never made it to the old brewery. Not for a tour, not for growler hours, not for the keg ride, or any of the potential reasons I had planned – even though I always said I wanted to go. After my initial sadness when realizing I missed the opportunity, I decided to be proactive about making it to their new location. We got in touch with owner/operator Scott who was kind enough to invite us over for a tour of the new facility. Wife had a last minute engagement but I managed to convince a fellow beer lover and avid home-brewer to join me on the adventure.
I rode my bicycle over from Bloomfield. Made the right turn off of Centre Ave onto Broad St., followed Frankstown Ave, and watched as the neighborhood started to change. It felt a little grittier, a little more desolate. I hung a right onto Julius St. and was immediately greeted by a chalkboard sign for Commonplace Coffee and East End Brewery.
East End has a reputation as being a bicycle friendly brewery. I can’t remember the last charity ride or OTB event that didn’t have some contribution from them. They host a well-attended keg ride biannually to return kegs of Pedal Pale Ale back to the brewery in an effort to promote sustainability and some sort of charitable effort (details on the most recent ride can be found here). Somehow, despite this pro-bike culture there was no bike rack in the parking lot! What’s up with that Scott?!
Let The Tour Begin
Inside is what I would term a hip, bare-bones coffee shop, tasting room and gift shop all in one. I use the term bare-bones with love. What is important here is the coffee, the beer and the company. There was a glorious warmth pumping out of the warehouse heater at eye level, and the simple wood bar that acted as meeting place for the dozen and a half or more beer tour attendees congregating in small groups chatting quietly amongst themselves. Working the bar for growler hours was Alan who signed us in for the tour. Our tour guide was Chase – like the bank or Chevy. He had us grab some sample glasses in an unusual brewery tour twist, then started us off with a sample of their new cider instead of making us wait until the end to start tasting. A word of advice: if you get a chance to grab the sampler glass labeled “Keg Ride” as I did, go for it. Be a little bonus surprise for you.
The tour itself was meandering and leisurely. There was a basic structure, but Chase was more than accommodating and encouraging of the group to bring up questions or beer topics or altering the route of the tour. Most tours are relatively the same, and while we did pass around different grains to gnaw on and hops to smell, we also talked about different ways to pitch yeast, the strains of that yeast, how East End got funded (essentially a local Kickstarter type event), what sorts of quality control issues could cause beer to get sacrificed, the breweries sustainability efforts and so on. We are in the golden age for beer drinkers, and even casual beer drinkers are more educated than ever before so having some wiggle room in the program was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t over the head of anyone but they didn’t shy away from tougher topics either. Chase proved to be knowledgeable, succinct, and probably one of the most mellow tour guides I’ve seen on any type of tour.
Oh, and did I mention the samples? We sampled a different beer at every stop along the way. Besides the cider we tried Monkey Girl, BlackStrap Stout, Snowmelt and as a special treat a version of their special Illustration Ale (labels are illustrated by local artists) that was aged in wine barrels after what I recall (don’t hold me to this) was a fermenting issue in the bottle. As far as tours go, this was the least stingy tour I’ve ever been on. My colleague and I agreed that the Monkey Girl, a specialty dunkelweiss, was our favorite.
It’s Worth It
Back in the tasting room, at the end of the tour, we crowded around the bar trying other seasonal brews and cashing in the $15 credit received with each tour purchase. It is definitely one of the more pricey tours I’ve been on at $25, but as far as value goes it’s definitely up there as well. The credit can be used on merchandise (hats, tees, beer soaps) or on filled growlers of beer. Seems like a fair trade to me. Though tacking on the on-line ticket fee ($2.37) seems a little excessive.
Future tours are on Saturdays every few weeks. You can buy tickets at: http://eastendbrewingtours.eventbrite.com/ for the upcoming tours through early February. I’d recommend getting yours in advance, as I have a feeling these tours are going to start to fill up as the word gets out.
As far as tours go, East End scored an A-. The beer was good, the staff was great and the experience was worthy. East End feels like a brewery that cares about beer not just selling beer. The minus was because of the bike rack situation. Get on that guys. You can learn more about East End beers on their website: eastendbrewing.com, and you should definitely follow Scott on Twitter @EastEndBrewing.