When Leslie Basalla started working at Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, it had no organized tour program. When someone requested a behind-the-scenes look at the brewhouse, staff would grab whoever was available at the time to show them around. Because of her beer knowledge, more often than not, that person wasBasalla.
She initially volunteered because she loved talking and learning about beer and, as she puts it, “I’m good at talking loudly to groups of people.” It wasn’t long before she saw a potential business opportunity. One of the tour groups that frequented the brewery was Cleveland Brew Bus, then operated by founders Bob and Shelle Campbell. Seeing a fast-growing tour operation, Basalla approached them about a job and ended up buying the business.
Cleveland Brew Bus, which sells organized tours of breweries throughout Northeast Ohio focused on beer education, is now thriving, Basalla says. With new breweries popping up all over town, craft beer gaining market share and tourism on the rise in Cleveland, she maintains that it’s a good time to operate a brewery tour business and that there’s room for growth.
“Our tours tend to book out, especially on the weekends, months in advance,” says Basalla, who operates the business with her boyfriend, Brian McCafferty, a firefighter who has a commercial bus driver’s license. The tours cost $55.50 per person, last five hours and include four sample-size tastes of beer at each brewery, along with a pretzel necklace and a souvenir pint glass. “We’ll do up to five tours per weekend over the summer,” Basalla says.
Check out the full story in All About Beer magazine.