Brews on the Block

Good news: Smaller-scale craft breweries are popping up in almost every neighborhood

Jun 14, 2017 at 2:44 pm

click to enlarge Brews on the Block
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
A pub or public house has traditionally served as the focal point of a community — a tavern in which friends, neighbors and even strangers who will soon become friends have gathered to drink, dine, discuss and unwind. Locally, a new type of drinking establishment is beginning to dominate the market: the neighborhood brewery. These local and smaller-scale brewpubs are quickly becoming the backbone of the craft brewing community as well as drinking and social destinations for residents and patrons in different parts of town, from West Chester to Walnut Hills and Bellevue to Blue Ash. After all, when you want a beer with your buds, sometimes you really do just want to go where everybody knows your name...

Bad Tom Smith Brewing

East End

It all started with the story of an infamous Kentucky outlaw: Bad Tom confessed to killing six men before meeting his maker at the scaffolds in Jackson, Ky. — “bad whiskey and bad women” were to blame, so he said. Today, Bad Tom Smith Brewing (founded by a distant relative) harkens back to that outlaw legacy with the motto of  “Bad ass in a glass.” The East End brewery recently remodeled its taproom (with new lighting, new TVs and the same classic vinyl) and is opening a second taproom just outside of Cleveland. Brews to Try: The seasonal Wickked Sheryl’s, a strawberry-infused blush pale ale named after owner Sheryl Rupnik Gittins. Also keep an eye out for the Trial by Jury test series, which includes a sweet cider with mint. 4720 Eastern Ave., East End,

Braxton Labs


While the original Braxton Brewing Co. in Covington has the feeling of a Midwestern garage — a place that holds memories, nuts, bolts and beer — Braxton’s new lab location in Party Source has opened the doors to innovation. Braxton Labs, located in the former Ei8ht Ball Brewing space, features 40 taps dedicated to its most unique offerings, as well as brews from across the U.S. and around the world. “We want this to be a destination for curious craft beer drinkers,” says Jonathan Gandolf, head of marketing. “Whether you’re new to craft beer or interested in finding the most unique beers, we’ll have something for everybody,” including an outdoor beer garden with giant Connect Four. Brews to Try: The first experimental brews include a cucumber wit, cherry saison and coffee-vanilla milk stout. Braxton Brewing Co., 27 W. Seventh St., Covington, Ky.; Braxton Labs, 95 Riviera Drive, Bellevue, Ky.,

Brink Brewing Co.

College Hill

“Good beer is about the people, the stories and the experience,” according to Brink’s co-founders John and Sarah McGarry. That is something the McGarrys learned from family — specifically their Uncle Jack. It was his fridge, chock full of artisan beers, and his neighborly values that led Brink to open its doors in College Hill in February 2017. The taproom’s communal table sits 20 and a brick wall stands covered in framed photos of the customers and community. Brews to Try: Brink’s most popular beer, the Debbie Jean Blonde, or experiment with a firkin of fruit-infused, small-batch beer, such as the Peach Cobbler Moozie Milk Stout, every Friday at 3 p.m. 5905 Hamilton Ave., College Hill,

Darkness Brewing


Longtime friends Eric Bosler and Ron Sanders were homebrewing for years before opening their own taproom in Bellevue. It started with experimenting in their own kitchens, enjoying their strange brews and sharing them with friends. And it was poking and prodding from those friends that led to Darkness Brewing, which opened in July 2016. The microbrewery focuses on the dark and unusual. “Above all, Eric and I love the creative aspects that this brewery affords us,” Sanders says. “There are tons of great breweries all striving to make the best IPA, but for us we have more fun creating something like a golden milk stout with coco nibs, lactose, coffee, roasted ancho and parilla peppers and cinnamon.” Celebrate the brewery’s one-year anniversary on July 22. Brews to Try: Pineapple Fire fruit beer with chipotle or Witch Head Nebula IPA with beets. 224 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky.,

DogBerry Brewing

West Chester

Founded in 2015 by brewers Tony Meyer and Chris Frede, two science professionals turned stay-at-home dads, DogBerry was built on a search for happiness and a passion for sharing good beer. With fresh ingredients from local and regional producers, DogBerry’s current menu, which includes 20 beers on tap, provides truly local flavors. After the opening of an all-new expanded taproom and brewhouse at the end of May — complete with picnic tables, couches and skee-ball — DogBerry is once again ready to serve up craft beer and play host to local food trucks. Brews to Try: Stop by for anything from a robust American porter to a smoked beer or Citra, DogBerry’s solid IPA. 9964 Crescent Park Drive, West Chester,

Fibonacci Brewing Company 

Mount Healthy

Named by co-founders Bob and Betty Bollas for the Fibonacci Sequence — a concept found in math, nature, classical architecture and even the hop plant itself — the nanobrewery’s Foundational Series pays homage to its roots. Oberhausen, a pale, bitter kölsch with a grape finish, finds its inspiration in 12 families who moved from the Oberhausen area of Germany to Mount Healthy in the 1840s. Whereas the Tollhouse, an American stout crafted with coffee and cocoa, gets its name from The Toll House Gang, which kept Mount Healthy’s past alive by swapping stories over a cup of joe at the old toll house. Today, locals go to Fibonacci to swap stories of their own over a pint of beer. The brewery celebrates its second anniversary on July 15. Brews to Try: Lutra, named after Maris Otter malt and the scientific name for the Eurasian otter. This employee collaboration is a light amber extra special bitter with a cute otter logo. 1445 Compton Road, Mount Healthy,

FigLeaf Brewing Co.


Thousands of years ago, the Buddha achieved Nirvana under the Bodhi Tree, a large and sacred fig. But FigLeaf Brewing Co. seeks a different kind of enlightenment: one in the world of craft beer. To the brewery’s founders, the fig leaf is a symbol of learning and improvement. “It’s about seeking enlightened options,” says Tasha Brown, brewery owner and marketing head. FigLeaf opened its doors in October 2016. The 20-barrel brewhouse boasts a large taproom and patio — a comfortable place to experience enlightenment for yourself. Brews to Try: Their most popular drink, Iso-Trope IPA, which showcases the floral and fruity nature of American hops, or reach for another hit, the Basmati Cream Ale, a subtle brew infused with aromatic basmati rice. Basmati Cream Ale will be released in cans June 17. 3387 Cincinnati-Dayton Road, Middletown,

March First Brewing

Blue Ash

Named for the first day our home was recognized as a state, March First Brewing is an ode to Ohio. It crafted its inaugural batch on March 1 of this year and now produces “Ohio’s most drinkable craft beer.” With a taproom that opens directly to the brewery, guests get a front-row seat to the brewery’s daily operations. Brewers are always ready to interact and answer questions. “All in all, we want our customers to feel like part of our family when they visit us,” says Lauren Haney, director of marketing. Brews to Try: Though March First thrives on classic brews, like the popular craft lager or Denali IPA, it still finds room for experimentation in its taps. The current Dry Limed Cider offers something different. 7885 E. Kemper Road, Blue Ash,

Municipal Brew Works


You’ll enter Municipal Brew Works through the garage door of a municipal building in Hamilton. Bring your friends, your dog or your whole family; this brewery has a place for everyone. It also has a brew for everyone. Play some cornhole or hang on the patio with your favorite food trucks. Pair your brew with eats from trucks like Caravasos Mexican Fusion, Packhouse and NonStop Flavor. Brews to Try: If you’re apprehensive about craft beer, go for the Approachable Blonde. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Courageous IPA. But with a constantly changing menu, be ready to try something new. 20 High St., Hamilton,

Narrow Path Brewing


Located in downtown Loveland, Narrow Path is beer garden meets bike trail. Bike or skate down the Loveland Bike Trail to have a seat at picnic tables in the yard. It’s a location that fosters a sense of community. The brewery also takes pride in supporting nonprofits — it wants to make the world a better place and a portion of sales are shared with local and global charities to accomplish that goal. Brews to Try: With ales reflecting the personality of their crafters, the menu has featured brews like tart cherry, Belgian orange and maple bacon porter. 106 Karl Brown Way, Loveland,

Nine Giant

Pleasant Ridge

Nine Giant is the stuff of legends. Its story begins with a giant named Nine. Though many don’t know, these mythical creatures once called Cincinnati home, guzzling the great brews of the city’s past. But when the city’s once-great brewing ceased, the giants slept, fields and flowers growing over them. Long after, Nine was awakened in Pleasant Ridge; he rubbed his tired eyes, trees still growing atop his head. The giant found a place among the shimmering taps and glistening blue walls of what would become his namesake. There are no flagship beers at Nine Giant — its 10 taps are subject to endless experimentation. You’ll find that general styles remain, but each batch offers an opportunity to swap out flavors and ingredients. Brews to Try: Tweedy, a German altbier; Silence Kit, a New England IPA; Save Ferris, a Berliner weisse with fresh cranberry and orange peel; and much more. 6095 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge,

Streetside Brewery

Columbia Tusculum

Streetside Brewery is a family operation. Built between the historic East End and Columbia Tusculum, it brings community and craft beer together. The Hickey family, Streetside founders and Columbia Tusculum residents, are proud to be rooted in Cincinnati’s oldest neighborhood. Their brewery produces IPAs, wheats, lagers, stouts and specialty beers of its own, while its taproom offers guest taps to support other local brewers. The menu reflects the community with “beer that’s as diverse, and original, as the community they serve.” Brews to Try: Shadez and Binikiz, a Berliner weisse with pineapple, or Tea Bags, a honey green tea blonde ale. 4003 Eastern Ave., Columbia Tusculum,

Urban Artifact


You can see a different band every night at Northside’s Urban Artifact. Built in the historic Saint Patrick’s church, Urban Artifact doesn’t just feature a taproom; it’s also a live music venue. Cozy up on a couch or dance the night away, but do both with a bold Urban Artifact brew in hand. The brewery promises wild flavors and wild experiences focusing on tart, sour beers and those brewed with wild-caught local yeast, bacteria and mixed cultures. “We brew beers that can’t be tamed, that never fail to refresh the body and spirit, and that require one to experience the liquid in their glass,” reads its site. With flagship, seasonal and specialty brews on tap, there is plenty to chose from. Brews to Try: Palmistry, a double Berliner pale ale made with pineapple, guava and kumquat; Sliderule, a chocolate raspberry gose; or Finn, a berliner pale ale with a citrus and apricot punch. 1660 Blue Rock St., Northside,

The Woodburn Brewery

East Walnut Hills

Woodburn has burst to the forefront of brewing in East Walnut Hills. Like a phoenix that rises from the ashes after a brilliant firestorm, Woodburn sees itself rising from the ashes of Cincinnati’s brewing heritage. It’s proud to be a part of the city’s rebirth, and it’s bringing an innovative edge. Among its core beers are a Cedar IPA, “earthy and life-changing;” a chocolate cherry stout, with a sweet and milky taste; and a Hammer Session IPA, juicy and floral with citrus notes. Founded by a lifelong Cincinnatian and an L.A. transplant, Woodburn promises the best of the West Side and the West Coast. Brews to Try: The hilariously named Garry Shandy, a German-style weisse beer with lemonade, or the seasonal pineapple saison. They also offer beer cocktails like the Pineapple Smash, featuring the aforementioned saison, Tito’s vodka, pineapple juice and citrus. 2800 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills,

Wooden Cask Brewing


Wooden Cask Brewing is located in the heart of Newport’s historic neighborhood. Formerly the Flamingo and Jockey Club, the building’s history is being relived through its transformation into a brewery and taproom: The bar is hand crafted from the building’s own reclaimed wood. Wooden Cask’s menu includes 10 craft beers always on tap, along with featured small-batch brews and a guest cider. Brews to Try: Kinda Light, a light hybrid with a crisp finish; Girl Next Door, a blonde ale with fruity hops; and 7th Street Runoff, a brown ale with the aroma of toffee. 629 York St., Newport, Ky.,