Here’s the thing: Cincinnati likes its beer. And there’s a reason we’re so frequently ranked highly as a place to live (and drink) for beer lovers. With a rich history of making, selling, and imbibing brewskies (the first Cincinnati brewery is said to have opened in 1812), the Queen City has been getting its local drink on for more than 200 years. The pandemic, like Prohibition before it, may have pumped the brakes on the brewpub boom, but that’s not to say new breweries aren’t opening around the area. A couple of new places to belly up to the bar have caught our attention over the past few months.
For frequenters of the Little Miami Scenic Trail, the old Peters Cartridge Factory in Kings Mill put the “yikes” in biking for many years. With broken windows and vine-heavy walls, the dilapidated building was a site you either pumped the pedals to get past or stopped to behold in macabre wonder.
But in 2017, Bloomfield Schon announced plans to redevelop the historic site, and for Kyle Hackbarth, Cartridge Brewing co-founder and chief operating officer, the news corresponded with a lifelong dream to open a brewery. One meeting and a site visit later, Hackbarth signed a letter of intent that same spring to build what would become Cartridge.
Hackbarth, his wife, Lindsey, and Anthony Cook put together a team that included Head Brewer Adam Mills, Executive Chef Jerry Johnson, and General Manager Sara Haarman. They partnered with Over-the-Rhine’s Platte Architecture + Design as well as construction company Furlong Building to bring the old site back from the brink. And on Halloween 2020, the years-long process culminated in a grand opening … pandemic-style. “[We used] a random lottery system to seat our first guests in safe, spaced increments over two days,” Hackbarth explains.
Today, you can visit Cartridge on a first-come, first-served basis. (There are no reservations, but groups of 10 or less will be seated in a safe manner.) Inside, you’ll find an open-industrial design—high ceilings, large windows—complete with touches, from the tap handles to charcuterie boards, that honor the building’s past. “I think the devil is in the details,” explains Lindsay, who, as chief brand manager, took the task personally. “And we hit those out of the park.”
Beer lovers will, of course, find a lot to love here. “Conceptually, I like to make beer that is accessible to a wide range of people, from somebody that is the beer geek to somebody who’s a novice,” Mills says. “We’ve done coffee beers, stouts, fruit beers … with more of those coming along with some fruited sours. But I think something we already do very well, one of our differentiators, is just that notion of balance—while still being able to push bold flavor.”
Not into beer? Cartridge has you covered, too, with specialty craft cocktails and a full lunch and dinner menu, a la chef Jerry Johnson, of what Hackbarth calls, “approachable, elevated pub food.”
Cartridge Brewing, 1411 Grandin Rd., Maineville, 513-697-3434
North High Brewery
A Columbus mainstay since 2011, North High Brewery decided to move into Cincinnati this year with the opening of its new Hyde Park location. And the opening isn’t in spite of COVID-19; in many ways, it’s because of the pandemic.
“We were Ohio’s first BYOB Brewery (Brew Your Own Beer),” says Ryan Peirce, general manager of the Hyde Park taproom. “You could come in and work hand in hand with a brewmaster and brew your favorite type of beer, come back after fermentation and pick it up. Once COVID hit, they had to find other ways to make the income they were making with the BYOB program. They hired a chef and now have a successful and thriving culinary program at each establishment.”
The expansion to Cincinnati was a result of the brewery’s partnership with co-working business COHatch, which paved the way for the successful move to Cincinnati. “With COHatch being as successful as they were during the pandemic, the only challenges we really felt were on the hiring side of things,” Peirce explains.
If you want to check out the brand-new brewery (they open at 4 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. on the weekends), Peirce recommends making a reservation. And come hungry—in addition to 16 on-tap brews, wine, and an extensive bourbon shelf, North High offers about 20 different Cincinnati-themed New York-style pizzas, salads, subs, and shareables. And come March, the brewery will be open for brunch.
Make a plan to check out what Peirce calls the space’s “revolutionary style choices” and Cincinnati-sourced decor, including custom-made pieces from Queen City Clay.
North High Brewing, 2724 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, (614) 639-8800