419 Brew Bus offers fun beer tours

If there’s one thing Gregg Kerns would like to make clear about the 419 Brew Bus, it’s that this is not a “party bus.”

“If someone calls me up and says, ‘Hey, I got 14 people and we just want to go bar hopping,’ that’s not what my goal is. That’s not what I want to do,” Kerns said.

Rather, the 419 Brew Bus is a guided tour through the area’s craft brew scene, with stops at a number of breweries. Along with sampling the ales on tap at each location, riders will be treated to special discounts and information about the brewmaking process, as well as fun activities such as trivia.

Plenty of options
Kerns is the owner of Z-Train Transit and Tours, LLC, the operators of 419 Brew Bus. The idea came to Kerns as he took part in the recently launched 419 Ale Trail.

“I go to breweries anywhere I can go around the country. I love going to breweries. So when we did the 419 Ale Trail, I thought, hmm, maybe this would be a good time to do a 419 Brew Bus. And I looked into it, and there’s party buses around northwest Ohio, but there weren’t any tour buses,” Kerns said.

Passengers on the 419 Brew Bus have their choice from a number of tours, mostly focused on a specific geographic location: The Glass City Tour for Toledo, the Flag City Tour for Findlay, the Tractor Pull Tour for Bowling Green and more.

“I’m based in Fremont, I’m kind of in the fringe/middle of the whole thing. Something about 40 minutes from Findlay, 25 minutes from Bowling Green, about 35 minutes from Toledo. So what I’m letting people do is pick which zone they want to go to,” Kerns said.

“If you want to go to Findlay from the Toledo area, I would pick you up at a brewery in Toledo, take you to Findlay, go to all the ones in Findlay and then bring you back to Toledo and drop you off. All the pickup points are a brewery, or I can do someone’s house if they want to pay extra.”

Get on the bus
In keeping with the “tour-not-party” atmosphere, passengers cannot bring their own beer onto the bus, though if they buy beer at one of the breweries featured on the tour they are welcome to drink that on the bus in between stops. Each brewery visit takes anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour with no more than 30 minutes of travel between stops, so a tour typically lasts 5-6 hours.

Kerns currently has about 25 breweries around the northwest Ohio area on board as stops, though he admits it was challenging at first to sell some of the breweries on the concept.

“When I first started, I approached a couple [breweries] and they were like, ‘Well, if this is a party bus, I don’t want you coming, because they come when they’re half drunk’ and this and that. And I’m like, ‘No no, this is a tour, a tour bus. Once I told them that, they were like, ‘Okay, that sounds great!’”

Another fun wrinkle are the “themed” tours that Kerns is adding to the schedule. Among the offerings right now is a “Prohibition Tour,” which not only features stops at two local distilleries and a meadery, but also discusses the area’s gangster history and will feature full costumes. (Kerns also owns Costume Holiday House in Fremont.)

“A couple years ago, my wife and I went on a tour in Toledo about the purple gangs and all that stuff. And it was a great tour, but I was like, ‘Man, there’s no alcohol involved!’ I think we were on the bus for almost two hours, never got off the bus. I’m like, ‘Man, they could have done this so much cooler!’”

Kerns has ideas for further themed events down the line, such as haunted tours, holiday tours and more. He also has plans to add a “419 Wine Bus” to his offerings soon.

“In the springtime, when all the birds come here, we’re gonna do Birds and Beer,” he said. “I’ve even talked to restaurants about doing some food pairings.”

For more information or to book a tour, visit 419brewbus.com.