Tour de Taprooms

Unique spaces and tour experiences abound inside Cincinnati-area breweries

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click to enlarge Blank Slate Brewing Company
Blank Slate Brewing Company

Cincinnati’s craft breweries are more than just producers of distinctive, small-run beers; they also offer a particular brand of alcohol tourism — paired dinners, rare tastings and other unique experiences inside their own taprooms. The following collection offers myriad options for stopping in to fill a growler or to sit down to dinner or drinks with friends. And an array of local specialized taproom tours are now available for those who would prefer to try all the new high-ABV brews without worrying about driving.

TAPROOMS



Bad Tom Brewing
Bad Tom Brewing is named after a serial killer whose famous last words before his hanging in 1895 were, “Bad women and bad whiskey have brought me where I am.” These words inspired Sean Smith, distant relative of Bad Tom and co-owner of the brewery, who vowed to make penance for his great-great uncle by producing good beer for all the bad whiskey Tom drank.

Their flagship brew is Bad Tom Smith, a reddish brown ale, and their other beers, like the Brother Clement Belgian wheat ale and Old Abe American ale, are each named after historic figures. The taproom currently features eight beers on tap, with two brand new ones: Bad Tom Smith Russian Imperial and Gehenkten Lager.


Taproom hours:

5-10 p.m. Wednesday; 5-11 p.m. Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday; 1-11 p.m. Saturday; 1-6 p.m. Sunday. 4720 Eastern Ave., East End, badtomsmithbrewing.com.

Blank Slate Brewing Company
Since their founding in 2011, Blank Slate Brewing Company has been all about producing seasonal handcrafted and small-batch beers. The brewery is known for its creative use of food-based ingredients, like in their Shroominous brown ale, made with shiitake mushrooms; their Opera Cream Stout, a collaboration with The BonBonerie featuring the bakery’s opera cream-flavored coffee; and their Cincy 3-Way Porter, a collaboration with Colorado-based Oskar Blues that incorporates Cincinnati chili flavors (see more about the brew on page 29).
Blank Slate’s new Pourhouse taproom, tucked away in the corner of the brewery, is now open four days a week. And owner and Blank Slate founder Scott LaFollette says it’s been a long time coming — it took two years to secure and build out the new space, but he wanted to be able to do it right. “I wanted to create a more intimate experience but still have that feeling that you are right there in the brewery with all the sights and smells that go with it,” he says. “We are not a restaurant, we are not a bar; we are a place where folks can come to enjoy a beer or two fresh from its source.” 

Since it has only been open a few months, LaFollette is still defining plans for the Pourhouse, but it currently offers eight rotating taps, including some taproom exclusives.

“Soon we will begin exhibiting art from local artists for sale on our walls,” he says. “We also plan to bring in food trucks with some regularity once they all come out of hibernation for the winter.” For now, customers are welcome to bring their own grub.

Taproom hours:

5-10 p.m. Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday; 1-11 p.m. Saturday; 1-6 p.m. Sunday. 4233 Airport Road, Unit C, East End, blankslatebeer.com.  


Cellar Dweller


When the family who runs Valley Vineyards winery realized they had to go elsewhere for beer, they had an “aha” moment and opened Cellar Dweller, a microbrewery on the winery grounds. The have nine beers on tap, running the gamut from a Can I Get a Wheatness Wit beer to a Shawsome black IPA.

The two-for-one taproom/tasting room features a small menu of cheese trays, soft pretzels and homemade pizzas to complement the wine and beer. Try nine dry or sweet dessert wines for $10 and seven beer samples for $8. The winery also features cellar tours and Friday and Saturday cookouts (5-8:30 p.m.) where you can grill your own steak or salmon.

Taproom hours:

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 1-6 p.m. Sunday. 2276 E. U.S. 22, Morrow, valleyvineyards.com/cellardwellerbeers.html.

Christian Moerlein Malt House Taproom


The brewery’s name comes from the Bavarian brew master himself, Christian Moerlein, who came to America in 1841, eventually settling in Over-the-Rhine. The large numbers of German immigrants residing in Cincinnati were drawn to his beers and their taste of home. Demand soon spread to Europe and South America and Moerlein became the only Cincinnati beer of its day to be internationally exported. The first beer to certifiably pass the strict quality guidelines of the Reinheitsgebot Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, which says beer should contain only four ingredients — malted barley, hops, water and yeast — the brewery shuttered during Prohibition. But the Moerlein brand was resurrected in 1981.

Moerlein’s taproom is a wellspring of activity: It offers free tours of the modern production brewery as well as a glimpse into an underground historic malt house, dating from the pre-Prohibition Kauffman Brewery that once resided on the site. Also available are growler fills from their rotating taps — only $8 from 4-9 p.m. on Fridays — and German-inspired snacks from the Wienerwurst Mike Frankfurtary. The taproom is also home to Cincinnati’s only Minor League Fowling club, a mix of football, bowling and cornhole, played 5-10 p.m. on Wednesdays, and Last Call Trivia at 8 p.m. Thursdays. Meet the brewers every third Wednesday of the month.

Taproom hours:

4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-midnight Friday; noon-midnight Saturday; noon-7 p.m. Sunday.

Tours:

7 p.m. Friday; 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 1621 Moore St., Over-the-Rhine, christianmoerlein.com.

Ei8ht Ball Brewing

Located in the Party Source in Newport, Ky., Ei8ht Ball Brewing is known for its kitschy Punk label design, featuring Ei8ht Ball bars across the likes of Macaulay Culkin’s face on their Home Alone milk stout and across the mug of a French bulldog on the Tiny Pig Scotch ale.

The taproom features a whopping 42 taps, only a handful of which serve Ei8ht Ball; the rest feature other local brews or unique crafts and hard-to-find drafts. Get a drink at the bar or get a growler and go. With their focus on fresh, Ei8ht Ball utilizes a Pegas Tap filling system that prevents oxygen from entering their growlers. This means unopened growlers stay fresh for months. They also host a great growler return program: Return your empty growler to the Party Source to be reused — you don’t have to wash it. You’re free to go get more beer, or they’ll give you a deposit back for the glass itself.

Taproom:

11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. 18 Distillery Way, Newport, Ky., ei8htballbrewing.com.

Fifty West Brewing Company


Taking their name from U.S. Route 50, which runs right outside their door, the most important thing to brewery and brewpub Fifty West Brewing Company is their focus on local, from the ingredients used in both their food and beer to their partnerships with other Cincinnati breweries. Their restaurant and taproom, helmed by chef John Tomain, serves an array of seasonal tapas-style dishes for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. And Fifty West currently has 18 beers on tap, including Wheateater, a citrusy Kölsch-style beer crafted in collaboration with MadTree Brewing, and Coffee Please, a stout brewed with coffee from Madeira’s Coffee Please.


And in another nod to local and friendly competition, on Feb. 18 they’re hosting a “Crosstown Showdown” dining event, with a five-course meal prepared by Tomain and beer from both their stash and Evanston’s Listermann Brewing Company.

Taproom hours:

11 a.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday; noon-2 a.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. 7668 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 

fiftywestbrew.com .

Listermann Brewing Company/Triple Digit Brewing Company


In 1991, Dan Listermann developed a line of homebrewing equipment that was used nationwide, which led him to create one of the largest homebrew supply stores in the Midwest as well as his craft microbrewery, Listermann Brewing Company. Listermann specializes in handcrafted ales in bottles, with an extensive supply of malted grains, kits, hops and yeast. Not so much of a beer enthusiast? They also stock winemaking ingredients and equipment for winemakers (or just wine lovers). Their taproom has a growler station with a constantly rotating list of up to 10 different types of fresh-cracked beer, including year-round choices like their Nutcase Peanut Butter Porter and Leopold Belgian blonde.


Listermann is also home to Triple Digit Brewing, a craft brewery that makes “big beers,” personalizing familiar styles to make new and original tastes. Easily their most popular style is the Chickow!, a hazelnut double brown ale; their cinnamon roll and coconut limited edition Chickow! blends sold out within a matter of days. In fact, the Chickow! frenzy inspired the birth of “The League of Extraordinary Chickows!” which enables die-hard Chickow! fans to be guaranteed bottles of their favorite variants and club-only limited edition blends for a $100 yearly membership.

Taproom hours:

Noon-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Store hours:

10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 1621 Dana Ave., Evanston, listermannbrewing.com and tripledigitbrewing.com.

MadTree Brewing

MadTree exploded onto the scene in 2013 when three beer lovers came together to become brewing brothers. The brewery’s main product is canned beer. In fact, MadTree was the first canning craft brewery in the state of Ohio.


The MadTree taproom currently rotates 18 different beers, one of the most popular being Lift, their Kölsch-style beer with a hint of orange. But their portfolio includes everything from the seasonal Thundersnow, with ginger, vanilla and nutmeg, to the limited Rubus Cacao, an experimental blend with raspberry and chocolate.


MadTree recently partnered with food truck Catch-a-Fire Pizza to create a permanent in-taproom café. The kitchen is still under construction but will serve an expanded menu of pizzas and appetizers. Currently the truck is posted at MadTree several times a week. The brewery also offers a popular Hop Up dinner series, where local guest chefs head to the taproom to prepare a casual meal.

Taproom hours:

4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; noon-1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday; noon- 8 p.m. Sunday.

Tours:

3 and 4 p.m. Saturday. 5164 Kennedy Ave., Oakley, madtreebrewing.com.

Mt. Carmel Brewing Company


Cincinnati’s oldest craft microbrewery started out in a farmhouse cellar as a two-vessel system. Now Mt. Carmel and the almost-100-year-old farmhouse have expanded into a 40-barrel brewhouse, brewing six-pack bottles, kegs, porch packs and growler-fills. These are all available directly from the Mt. Carmel Public House, which boasts eight taps plus offerings from their seasonal line, including Coffee Brown Ale made with Deeper Roots Coffee and their new draft-only “Snapshot Series,” limited releases like the Ardennes Belgian Quad with banana, citrus and a toasted cream head. 


Farmhouse tours take place every Saturday and last approximately 45 minutes. The Public House does not serve food, but they do have food trucks and live music on select nights of the week, along with happy hour 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Also on Wednesdays: Last Call Trivia at 7 p.m. The brewery updates who is performing, which food trucks are there and the taproom tap list regularly on their Twitter page: @mtcarmelbrewing.

Taproom hours:

4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday; noon-11 p.m. Saturday.

Tours:

2:30 p.m. Saturday. 4362 Mount Carmel-Tobasco Road, Mt. Carmel, mtcarmelbrewingcompany.com.

Rhinegeist


The name means “Ghost of the Rhine” and refers to the brewery’s location inside the skeleton of the 19th century Christian Moerlein bottling plant in OTR’s historic Brewery District. Prohibition forced out the original Moerlein company, and in 2013, Rhinegeist stepped in.

Rhinegeist has a passion for hoppy West Coast-style brews, and the brewery pours 10 to 12 beers — predominantly pale ales like their popular Truth IPA and Pure Fury hoppy pale ale — in their taproom and event space. The 25,000-square-foot Rhinegeist includes the taproom/bar, TVs playing sports, a big picnic table area and games like cornhole, ping pong and foosball. They also host a variety of special events.


You can take a free tour of the brewery on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to learn about Rhinegeist’s brewing process, the building’s history and their recent expansion into Northern Kentucky.

Taproom hours:

4-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-midnight Friday; noon-midnight Saturday; noon-7 p.m. Sunday.

Tours:

4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, rhinegeist.com.

Rivertown Brewing Company


Rivertown Brewing Company’s recent new ownership — aka co-owner Jason Roeper, who bought out his former partner for full control of the brewery — is choosing to stray from Rivertown’s previous focus on traditional brews to incorporate more wild varieties of beer such as Belgian and sour styles, including choices like their spring-release Old Sour Cherry Porter, which is a malt beverage aged in bourbon barrels with a Belgian souring bacteria. 


The company, which has been around since 2008 and distributing their brand in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida, has expanded to an eight-tank brewery, which you can tour on weekends for $6; the price includes a Rivertown glass and pint of beer.


Their taproom offers 12 taps in total: five feature their year-round line up, like their Helles lager and Hop Bomber rye pale ale; one features a seasonal rotation; another is completely dedicated to their unique sour series; and the other five are limited releases and taproom exclusives. Growler fills aren’t available for the taproom exclusives.

Taproom hours:

4-9 p.m. Wednesday; 5-10 p.m. Thursday-Friday; noon-10 p.m. Saturday.

Tours:

6 p.m. Fridays and 3 p.m. Saturdays. 607 Shepherd Drive, Unit 6, Lockland, rivertownbrewery.com.

Tap & Screw Brewery


As the West Side’s first microbrewery, Tap & Screw has been in the process of transitioning from sports bar Tom & Jerry’s (named after owner brothers Tom and Jerry Lorenz) to a brewery. They held their official reopening in December and recently tapped their first six house brews, including Dr. Kool, an IPA; Irony, a Belgian dubbel; and Brazen, an English bitter.


The taps rotate between their own brews — two to three staples and three or four seasonals/small-batch — and six to eight other craft brews. And the food, a carry-over from Tom & Jerry’s, will be made fresh in-house and feature dishes that incorporate Tap & Screw beer.

Taproom/restaurant hours

: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursday; 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday. 5060 Crookshank Road, Western Hills, tapandscrew.com. 


TOURS


Cincy Brew Bus


Offers public and private tours on their branded bus. Tours last between four and six hours depending on the day and leave from four locations: Rock Bottom on Fountain Square, the Moerlein Lager House’s hop garden, HalfCut in OTR or The Growler House in East Walnut Hills. Each tour includes several 45-minute stops at a rotating circuit of local breweries (find a schedule online) and includes a pint or three to four samples of beer. Tours 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11:40 a.m. Saturday. $55-$65 per person depending on group size. cincybrewbus.com.

Cincy Craft Connection Brewery Tours


Visit four breweries in four hours on a chartered bus, enjoying tours and beer tastings at each brewery: Rhinegeist, Blank Slate, Fifty West and Bad Tom. The tour departs and returns to HalfCut in OTR. The bus (which seats 14) is equipped with a cooler if you grab a growler to go. 7-11 p.m. Friday; noon-4 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Saturday. $55. cincycraftconnection.com.

Pedal Wagon


You’ve no doubt seen the 15-person, pedal-powered Pedal Wagon rolling down Vine Street at some point. The mobile party travels a variety of themed excursions, like the Over-the-Rhine cruise, which is a two-hour tour of Neons, Arnold’s Bar & Grill, Knockback Nat’s and MOTR Pub; or the Progressive Dinner three-hour showcase of restaurants, with a stop at Kaze, Arnold’s and Taste of Belgium for dessert. You can’t actually drink on the wagon, only when you get to your destination. But you can rent the entire wagon for private parties. Prices start at $25. pedalwagon.com

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