With a town that was literally founded on beer making, the rich history of Cincinnati and beer is well worth exploring. Not only does the town have some truly beautiful architecture, but you’ll also be able to see first-hand how history, passion and a love of beer blended to create the unique landscape of Cincinnati breweries today.
Cincinnati Brewing History
The term beer baron is not normally bandied about today but is one which was quite commonly used back in the 1800s to describe the might and reach of beer breweries owners. In the town of Cincinnati and across the river in Northern Kentucky, there were just under forty breweries that had lagering cellars dug out to store the 30 million+ gallons of beer they were producing for the region and beyond. Most beer producers were based in Over-the-Rhine, a predominantly German suburb. The men who owned and ran these operations created entire empires for themselves, and they very easily grew wealthy in both renown and riches, earning the term beer barons. One of the most well-known beer brewers was Christian Moerlein Brewing Company which not only sold thousands of gallons locally, but they also exported beer around the world – from Europe to South America.
The Cincinnati beer barons thrived right up until Prohibition’s ugly head reared, and they were forced to close. While some struggled quietly in the underground, as time ran on their funds ran dry and their beer empires dried up. Very few recovered, and sadly, none were able to survive into the 21st century. Those who survived prohibition and tried to continue on and compete with established commercial beer brewers were Bavarian, Burger, Hudepohl, Schoenling and Wiedemann. One by one they began to close their doors, and the oldest to date, the 114-year-old Hudepohl Brewing Company finally shut its doors in 1999.
Luckily, the honourable tradition of beer brewing has reared its head once more, and to date, there are over 80 breweries – both commercial and craft – that can be found within Cincinnati. While most of the old breweries, and beer tunnels that led to giant lagering cellars, were forgotten, the beautiful architecture of the past breweries can still be seen.
Specifically, keep an eye out for the old Felsenbrau-Clyffside Brewery which dates back to 1887, and the Kauffman Brewery malt house which was built in the 1860s. The old tunnels that were once so often used are once more in the spotlight too, since their rediscovery in 2008 led to them being a key feature on the Brewing Heritage Trail Tour. Even the last beer baron holdout, Hudepohl Brewing Company, has been revived as a subsidiary of Christian Moerlein Brewing Co – though its original brewing site was demolished in 2019 after being vacant for years.
What Beer Is Made In Cincinnati Ohio?
The nation renowned Little Kings beer is back after a brief few years of being brewed elsewhere, and once more is produced and made in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati. The tiny bottles are produced by the Christian Moerlein Company.
What Beer Is Cincinnati Known For?
Microbreweries draw on beer industry history for inspiration, which has ensured there are a wide variety of beers available in Cincinnati. The main ones that Cincinnatians seem to love, however, are IPA’s. Local Cincinnatians were polled to list their favourite beers, and IPAs scored higher than most other beer styles. The top beers based on reader scores over at Cincinnati.com are:
- Rhinegeist: Truth IPA
- MadTree: PsycHOPathy IPA
- Tap & Screw: Dr. Kool IPA
- Dogberry Brewing: Wildfire IPA
- Fifty West: Coast to Coast IPA
How Many Breweries Are In Cincinnati?
While Cincinnati may have lost out on its original brewer’s recipes and their historic Cincinnati breweries, they’ve rebounded with ease in the 21st century to have double the original breweries count. Currently, there are over 80 breweries, taprooms and even brewpubs which proudly have locally made and produced beers in stock.
What Are The 5 Best Breweries In Cincinnati?
While some of the best Cincinnati breweries were listed above under beers Cincinnati is known for, some of the best additional breweries include:
Rhinegeist Brewery, found at 1910 Elm Street, is a taproom which is housed in a historic bottling plant. From in-house brewed beers to a ping-pong table, you’ll fall in love with the blended atmosphere. Not to mention their rooftop dining and drinking options. Their top beers include Andromeda, Cheetah Lager, Dad Holiday Ale, Truth, and Knowledge.
Taft’s Ale House, located within an old church at 1429 Race Street, has a decidedly inviting atmosphere. From the rich, warm scenery to the pendant lights, cosy lounge areas, sweeping upstairs views, to the painted black brickwork interior, you’re sure to have a memorable time. The on-tap beers change often, but favourites include Nellie’s Key Lime Ale, Cold Boy, Taft’s Fruit Tarts, and Under the Mango Tree.
Urban Artifact is found at 1660 Blue Rock Street, within the historic St Patrick’s church in Northside Cincinnati, Ohio. With indoor and outdoor seating and a thoroughly unique decor theme, locals love their fruity beers, some of which are produced seasonally. The top beers to try year-round are The Gadget, Spyglass, Bushel, and Teak, while seasonal favourites include Astronaut food, Pinwheel, and Fire Iron.
West Side Brewing is located at 3044 Harrison Avenue, and they are known for their large variety of brews available. Locals often pop in for a pint, and the bar staff are highly knowledgeable and are able to offer detailed beer suggestions. Some top choices include a Barleywine, Amber Ale, ESB, Gose, Imperial Stout, Pilsner and Oktoberfest style beer. There are plenty of other choices, so you’re certain to find one you love.
Streetside Brewery, found at 4003 Eastern Avenue, is one of the most relatable breweries around. With a host of modern-styled craft beers available and a down to earth atmosphere, you’ll find yourself returning here more than a few times. Their beer names are long but taste incredible and favourites to try include Be a lot cooler if you did, Stay golden, Return of the Mac, Who’s a good beer, Barrel-aged speak of the devil, and ‘Suh, brah?’.
What Is The Oldest Brewery In Cincinnati?
The oldest brewery in Cincinnati is Christian Moerlein, which is also based within one of the oldest original Cincinnati breweries. They are the oldest brewery in Cincinnati since they were first founded in 1853, and despite closing, were reintroduced in 1981 by the Hudepohl Brewing Company which had taken them over. They were bought out in 2004 by a local resident, Greg Hardman, who has since acquired several original Cincinnati beer brands, including the popular Little King.
What Are The Major Beer Festivals Or Events In Cincinnati?
Cincinnati has numerous beer festivals throughout the year. The most popular ones are the Cincy On Tap beer festival, Crafted Cincinnati, the Cincy Winter Beer Fest, and the Cincy Summer Beerfest. Each of these beer festivals offers a chance to experience the seasonal delights and local craft beer options in a relaxed and beautifully decorated setting.
Which Brewery In Cincinnati Has The Best Food?
With an eclectic interior and solid wooden tabletops, BrewDog is a place to head to on a night out with work friends or to relax with your special someone. While they’re a branch of the original one based in Scotland, their food is something locals regularly rave about – and being child friendly until 9pm means mom and dad get to head somewhere fun for them without a play area in sight.
Their food menu includes half vegan and vegetarian fare to balance out the meaty feast on the other end that includes buffalo wings, monster burgers and tasty tacos.
We can’t wait to head to one of the local Cincinnati breweries’ food festivals and maybe try some new craft beers like the locally loved PsycHOPathy IPA by Madtree.