Courtesy Marshall Brewing Company
Published March 05, 2014
When it comes to soaking in the rich culture of a destination, nothing compares to sampling the region’s finest blends and brews alongside your closest friends to get a true taste of the local scene.
Whether or not your entire group chooses to imbibe, the various wineries and breweries in the Grand Central region offer an amazing taste of the passion and heritage that goes into each bottle.
Groups can get a firsthand look behind the scenes to see how craft brewers in Tulsa take simple ingredients like hops, grain and water to create some of the region’s most delicious brews, get lost in the rows of vines as a passionate Kansas winemaker walks the clan through the source of the winery’s namesake vintages or even just get lost in loads of laughter and local libations at an Arkansas tasting center.
Here are a few of the top wineries and breweries across the region that are perfect for groups looking to guzzle in some fun and soak up new memories.
Movie House Winery
Movie House Winery co-founder Ken Sowers had been making his own varieties of wine for years, with his wife, Sherrie, graciously acting as his official taste tester, before the creative couple moved their hobby into a full-fledged winery in 2011. Located next door to Ken’s chiropractic office, the Movie House Winery occupies what was once the Petit Jean Movie Theatre, built in the 1930s.
“My husband and I renovated the whole building,” said Sherrie. “We’re in the process of moving our winemaking operation to another building that will enable us to serve soup and sandwiches in the winery. We cater to small groups, and if they call me ahead of time, I try to make it a very special event or just a place to hang out and have a glass of wine. We try to educate the public on wine and winemaking. We encourage people to try something new, and tasting is the best way to decide what you like.”
The Sowerses are passionate about spreading their love of wine and great conversation. They offer monthly winemaking classes, fun events like wine and painting classes, and daily tasting tours. In the tasting room, groups can sip and swirl the Sowers’ more than 25 varietals of handcrafted wines that include reds, whites, sweet wines and semisweet varieties such as banana pineapple viognier and famous mulled wine. The winery also offers a huge supply of winemaking supplies and custom gift baskets in its gift shop.
St. Louis, Missouri
The original Schlafly Tap Room brewery and restaurant opened in 1991 in downtown St. Louis, the first new brewery to open in the city since Prohibition. In 2003, the brewery expanded to open a second restaurant and production brewery about 15 minutes away called Schlafly Bottleworks, increasing the brewing capacity to more than 50,000 barrels and making Schlafly Brand Beer the largest independently owned brewery in Missouri. Even though Schlafly Brewery claims just six year-round beer styles, the St. Louis gem specializes in variety, turning out more than 60 styles of fresh beer in cans, bottles or specialty drafts each year.
“Both breweries feature live, local music regularly,” said Troika Brodsky, communications director for Schlafly Beer. “Bottleworks leans more toward bluegrass, while the Tap Room downtown is anchored in St. Louis’ local rock scene. I’m a huge fan of enjoying a pint of local beer paired with local music.”
Although the sister breweries have unique spaces, vibes and restaurant menus, the Tap Room building is the top visited for tour groups. The building originally housed a printing company and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Bottleworks boasts free weekend brewery tours, a heated outdoor pavilion and an on-site urban garden that supplies vegetables to the restaurant.
Tallgrass Brewing Company
What started as a passionate hobby quickly brewed into what is now considered one of the top microbreweries in the United States. In 2007, Jeff Gill and his wife, Tricia, tapped their first brew in their new brewery off Green Valley Road, and now the brewery is home to seven year-round brews, most notably the Buffalo Sweat Oatmeal Cream Stout, the Velvet Rooster Belgium-Style Tripel, and the delicious 8-Bit Hop-Rocketed American Pale Ale, along with an ever-changing series of seasonal brews.
“We specialize in unique and delicious beers that we, as brewers, want to drink,” said Jeff Gill, founder and president of Tallgrass Brewing Company. “My favorite thing is introducing people to a variety of beers they would never have thought they would like. That look of surprise when they taste it for the first time is amazing.”
The brewery offers free monthly tours on the second Saturday of each month from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for groups of 200 to 300 to sample the beers in the brewery’s tasting room, all included in the purchase of a $5 pint glass.
Stone Hill Winery
Branson, Hermann, and New Florence, Missouri
Established in 1847, the Stone Hill Winery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers visitors an amazing look at not only the history of the winery, but also the history of American-made wine. Before Prohibition, Stone Hill Winery was the second-largest winery in the United States, and after a brief stint of cellaring mushrooms instead of vintage Norton grapes, the winery was restored to its former glory. It remains Missouri’s oldest and most-awarded winery and has reintroduced the Norton grape, the pride of Stone Hill, to America as a premium red wine variety.
“There is just so much history,” said Dave Johnson, senior winemaker for Stone Hill Winery. “No matter how many times I walk through the cellars at our Hermann location, I’m just in amazement at the amount of history they contain.”
The winery offers varieties throughout a spectrum of sparkling, white, rose, red and dessert wines, and offers tours and free tastings at all three facilities. The Hermann location has a gift shop, a tasting room, a restaurant, a production facility, and an arched series of underground cellars that are more than 165 years old.
Marshall Brewing Company
After packing himself and his degree in international business and German and moving to Munich, Germany, to study brewing in the homeland of beer, Eric Marshall returned to his native Tulsa in 2007 with an international diploma in brewing technology from the World Brewing Academy and a dream of opening his own brewery. It took the passionate man only one year to get Marshall Brewing Company off the ground, and today, the brewery focuses on brewing full-strength, handcrafted, top-quality ales and lagers while welcoming guests through the doors for a great behind-the-hops tour of the facility.
“The thing people like the most about our tours is the firsthand look at not only the process but the passion that is involved in creating delicious craft beer,” Marshall said. “We have really enjoyed the interaction with craft beer fans, most of which have never toured a brewery before.”
The brewery typically offers four three-ounce pours for variety from its selection of Atlas IPA, Sundown Wheat, McNellie’s Pub Ale, Old Pavilion Pilsner and a rotating list of seasonal and barrel-aged beers. Customers have the option of purchasing a commemorative snifter for $5, and Marshall then donates the proceeds to a different charity each month.