Last weekend, I was invited to ride along as a guest on Columbus Brew Adventures’ Pitchers & Pizza Tour, as they traveled to some of the city’s most well known pizza destinations to partake of four very different, yet equally delicious pizza varieties, as well as some of the area’s tastiest craft brews. Each exceptional beverage was expertly paired with a local favorite pizza pie in order to highlight this classic combination.
Columbus Brew Adventures is the city’s premier local craft brewery tour operator and has been offering delightfully entertaining and informative guided tours since 2013. CBA was founded by the co-owner of Columbus Food Adventures, Bethia Woolf, and local food writer, blogger, and beer enthusiast, Jim Ellison (CMH Gourmand). In addition to the Pitchers & Pizza Tour, they also run several tours featuring some of the city’s most exciting, independent microbreweries and distilleries.
The Pitchers & Pizza tour focused on four distinct pizza styles that are found here in Columbus: Chicago-style deep dish, Columbus-style, New York-style, and “Pizza for the People”. Our tour guide, Jim, offered an incredibly detailed history of all four styles of pizza as well as their accompanying beverages, the origins of each restaurant we visited, and each brewery whose product we sampled. It was great to be able to soak up all of that knowledge, as well as hear the legends and lore of each component of the tour.
Our first stop (and our original meeting point) was Meister’s Bar, which is located at 1168 Chambers Rd, and is sort of sandwiched between Upper Arlington and Granview. Honestly, I was completely unfamiliar with Meister’s prior to the tour, but I quickly learned that they are one of only 2 or 3 places in town where you can find authentic, Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Meister’s itself is your typical dive bar with pool tables, darts, etc, and you’d never know by looking at the place that they also make some of the most incredible pizza in Columbus.
Jim took the liberty of ordering each of us a “bonus beer” – an Old Style Chicago beer, which has been a favorite of the Windy City natives since 1902. It’s a traditional lager that comes straight from Chicago, and we enjoyed it with our deep dish slice(s). The pizza was excellent, made traditional Chicago deep-dish style, with the thicker crust, tons of gooey cheese in the middle, and topped with a slightly sweet tomato and basil sauce. I tried to pace myself for our upcoming pizza & beer marathon (Ha…while writing this sentence it struck me that this may be the only kind of marathon I could survive LOL) so I limited myself to two small slices, but could have definitely grubbed out on more. I’m looking forward to trying Meister’s again soon.
The featured brew at this stop was the Brass Knuckle Pale Ale by Four String Brewing in Grandview. As you can see, this APA is dark amber/light copper in color, and crisp and smooth in taste. It had a little of the hops bitterness, with a slight sweetness as well. Good start!
The next stop on our tour took us to Iacono’s Italian Restaurant at 4452 Kenny Rd. near Upper Arlington. Iacono’s is synonymous with classic, Columbus-style thin crust pizza which they’ve been serving local fans since 1978, and comes from a pizza family with a legacy dating back to 1953 in Columbus. Here, Jim talked about the slices vs. squares (also called “tavern-style”) debate, provolone cheese vs. mozzarella, Iacono’s humble beginnings, and their connection with another local favorite, Tommy’s Pizza. He also made an extremely strong argument for the fact that Columbus does indeed deserve – nay, demands – to be recognized as having our own pizza style based on history and character.
At Iacono’s, we got to sample three different pizzas topped with some of my all-time favorite toppings – Old World Pepperoni (smaller, spicier, and slightly thicker pep that curls when it’s baked, creating the infamous toasty-rimmed grease cup), and house-made pork sausage. The third pizza was absolutely delicious too – a Margarita pizza, which was a white pizza brushed with olive oil, topped with roasted garlic, fresh basil, tomatoes, and topped with provolone and Romano cheese. I am a huge fan of Columbus-style pizza, and Iacono’s nailed the flavors and technique.
The beer this round was a Columbus favorite, the IPA (India Pale Ale) by Columbus Brewing Company. CBC’s IPA is a classic around these parts, and can easily be found on tap at most local watering holes, restaurants, and for sale at most major grocers.
Our third stop was at a favorite drinking destination of a lot of folks in Old North Columbus, Ledo’s Tavern at 2608 N. High St. Ledo’s is a large space and is a prime spot to get your drink on, especially since it’s connected to one of Columbus’ most popular pizza empires, Mikey’s Late Night Slice. We started this leg of the tour with the drink, another example of an excellent IPA called “Psychopathy”, this time by MadTree Brewing in Cincinnati. This IPA was much stronger than CBC’s version at our previous stop. It’s a honey gold color, and had the aroma, as well as the taste of citrus with a bit of malty-ness.
We grubbed on a large, Mikey’s LNS pie of the pepperoni variety. We learned about the origins of New York-style pizza, and discussed the unique method of how to properly eat a slice – as any good New Yorker will tell you, you MUST fold it length-ways to prevent drooping. We also talked about the desire of a few guys in Columbus about five years ago for some pizza that they couldn’t find anywhere in the city. Mikey Sorboro and his buddies’ have a pretty cool story of how they took an idea, and a craving, and created possibly the most popular pizza in Columbus. We learned about the accidental concoction of their now famous “Slut Sauce”, and their unique marketing style, which includes the overabundance of middle school-grade humor. In all honesty, Mikey’s is not my favorite pizza in town (I’ve eaten it several times), but it’s nothing personal…I’m just not a big fan of New York pizza. However, the pie was hot and fresh, and was enjoyed by our group. Good times.
The final leg of our tour landed us at one of OSU campus’ favorite pizza joints, Hounddog’s Three Degree Pizza, which is located at 2657 N. High St. We started by sampling a beer with a really crazy name – “Chomolungma” by Jackie O’s Brewery in Athens, OH. Chomolungma is a honey nut brown ale, and was by far my favorite beer we sampled on the tour. The unusual name comes from the name that the people of Tibet use to reference Mt. Everest, and it was brewed to commemorate the 2007 Lungevity Everest Expedition. It has a wonderful flavor of wildflower honey, and according to Jackie O’s website, “Baked muffins, dark fruit, bittersweet chocolate, rich honey and earthy subtle hops caress the palate. ” An interesting combination to be certain.
What better way to celebrate excellent beer than with excellent pizza! Like Jackie O’s drink, Hounddog’s was my favorite pizza we consumed the entire tour. Hounddog’s is known as the “Pizza for the people”. They’re open 24/7, which is a major plus for a lot of people. We were offered a large meat lover’s pie made on Hounddog’s famous “Smokin’ Joe’s” crust, and a large BBQ Chicken pizza on classic Hounddog’s crust. The meat lover’s pizza boasts two layers of mozzarella and provolone cheese, pepperoni, bacon, sausage, ham and salami. It was made on Smokin’ Joe’s hand-tossed, garlic-butter crust, and featured a mildly sweet tomato and basil sauce. It was divine.
Hounddog’s BBQ chicken pizza was simply excellent. A zesty garlic BBQ sauce, seasoned chicken, bacon, red onions and cheddar cheese laid atop a crispy, perfectly cooked thin crust was the perfect way to wrap up this exceptionally satisfying afternoon. Jim talked some about Hounddog’s owners, their history, and the building itself while we ate and ate some more.
Our final venture as we left, was out to the parking lot in back of the restaurant to peek at Hounddog’s unique delivery vehicle – an old school limo customized with their slogan and mascot. I can just imagine this thing cruising the streets of Ohio State campus delivering pies. Nice.
I had a fabulous time with Jim and the rest of the tour guests, and it wasn’t just for the pizza and beer. The history and information that was presented about each aspect of the tour was comprehensive and incredibly enthralling. Jim is a fountain of knowledge, and his enthusiasm and energy assist in making the experience extremely enjoyable.
If this post has done what it was intended to do, in the last 5 minutes you’ve been blown away by some awesome looking pizza, some thirst-provoking beer, and a yearning for learning about Columbus’ amazing pizza and beer scenes. Hopefully, it left you wanting more. The best way to get it? Click here to buy tickets to an upcoming Columbus Brew Adventures tour!!