Four narrow flights of stairs up from the entrance of a 19th century warehouse in Over-the-Rhine’s historic brewery district, the old and new of Cincinnati’s rich brewing history have collided yet again.
Your final step off of the stairs at 1910 Elm Street positions you directly in the middle of Rhinegeist Brewey, which held its grand opening last Saturday afternoon. Something else happens on that final step, too. You’re transported back to the turn of the 20th century, when beer was king—and when Cincinnati was the king of kings when it came to producing it.
Not much has changed in the last century at what was once the Christian Moerlein Brewery’s bottling facility. The original brick still lines the walls on the inside of the 250,000 square foot complex, which is just a few steps north of Findlay Market. Eighteen parallel pillars line the center of the complex. Looking out over the floor are a pair of glass-walled offices; I like to imagine that these were the domain of heavyset, heavy-handed floor managers unbound by the common labor laws of our lifetimes.
It’s not until you walk toward the center of the room that you’ll see anything that looks like it hasn’t been there for 100 years—a massive mural depicting a tiger reaching for a California sunrise while escaping a fish that has just burst from the innards of a hop. Unusual, yes. But it symbolizes the importance of rare hops in the West coast-style beers that Rhinegeist produces.
In the alcove below the mural is the Rhinegeist tap room (open Thurs-Sat). Based on the continuous line of people that approached the bar for the entire time I was there and the roughly 300 people standing where Moerlein Lagers once sat by the thousands, it’s off to a nice little start. Rhinegeist currently make four core beers, two of which really stand out:
Uncle: A dark brown British mild with a slight aroma and taste of chocolate. In just about every aspect (taste, aroma, pour) it’s remnant of a “Guinness Lite,” if such a thing existed At only 3.8 AVB, it’s every thing a session beer (that is, one that can be enjoyed multiple times over) should be.
Truth: Imagine being punched in the face with a bouquet of flowers, in a good way. That’s what you get when you order a pint of Truth. A combination of three-pounds worth of rare hops (Amarillo, Centennial, Citra and Simcoe) thrown in late in the brewing process produces one of the most potent, pleasant aromas I’ve ever encountered in a beer. More than one person stopped to ask me what I was drinking because they caught a waft of Truth as they passed by—it’s that strong. The taste, crisp and refreshing with a short, sweet finish, lives up to the aroma.
Already in talks with numerous local bars and stores, Rhinegeist will be on taps and shelves near you soon. But, the combination of new-age brewing and Cincinnati history on display at Rhinegeist is something that’s truly worth seeing for yourself.