A Different Viewpoint of the Moerlein Lager House

[Ed.: As I’ve said in numerous other places, the authors at QCD are given almost full discretion to create critical and/or contrarian content. We aim to maintain QCD not as a vehicle to softball or pander, but to provide a voice that is willing to say when a product is subpar. As consumers in the beer, wine, and spirit market, we owe it to ourselves, our readers, and those industrious men and women who create and sell these products to be as honest as possible. With that in mind, this is the first (and definitely not the last) piece treading this ground. If you disagree (or agree) with Steve, let us know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for more! – J]

I know many of you are going to disagree with me on this article, but I am going to write it anyways.  Part of me thinks I am going to get excommunicated from the city of Cincinnati for voicing this opinion.  Oh well, here goes nothing.

As a craft beer destination, I think the Moerlein Lager House is not as spectacular as most people think.  It is fine; just not the second coming.

Sure the structure is beautiful, the location is perfect, the food is good and the outdoor space is phenomenal.  I also think it is going to make a ton of money and be wildly successful and great for downtown.  But I am talking about the beer.  And that is where it has fallen short, at least thus far for me.

Let’s start with the guest tap and bottle list.

Yes it is good and yes it is great that before the game you can buy craft beer downtown.  At the same time, if you showed me the beer they sell at the price it is sold, I would not be more compelled to go there over many of my favorite Cincinnati beer bars (Dutch’s, Dilly, Fries, and Comet in particular).

Moving onto the brewery part.

The funny thing about the Lager House is I don’t even really think of it as a brewery but more of a Cincinnati focused gastropub that brews beer on the side and is owned by a large brewery.  Want proof?  They had a grand opening with exactly zero beers brewed on site and to date have made two styles.

This is a place that has every resource available to make fantastic beer.  They have state of the art equipment, a world-class brewer, and a ton of capital.  To me, it is clear that the brewing part is just not high on their list of initial priorities.  Seeing that the commercial turn around on an ale is about 10 days and on a lager is about 28 days, they could have easily knocked out several batches by now (even if they started brewing the day they opened).  This is the part I don’t understand- why pay for that brewer if you are not going to give him the keys to the car?

Maybe it is still in the working out the kinks stage.  Maybe I’m being overly critical because there were such high expectations.  Maybe I just need a to display a little patience.  Or maybe everyone else loves the beer and thinks I’m crazy.  But at least for the time being, when I am in the downtown area and want a locally brewed beer, you can find me drinking Mitch’s beer at Rock Bottom.

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7 Comments

Filed under Bars, Beer, Cincinnati, Places, Restaurants

7 responses to “A Different Viewpoint of the Moerlein Lager House

  1. JD

    Fair enough opinions. Knowing someone close to the brewing operations, I heard that there were numerous technical challenges in getting the system up and running. They chose to age their ales about 5-10 days, and lagers turn around in about 28 days. Beers brewed on site now that are available are: Vienna Lager, Hefeweizen, OTR, IPA and the Batch 1 (a specialty). I do believe they have brewed over 30 batches of beer to date.

  2. Tom Aguero

    Wow… here I was about to log onto QCD to write a review of my experience at the lager house tonight and to my surprise/horror you had a similar experience. Though as you will see my opinion is from a slightly different view.

  3. Local beer guy

    Being a brewer myself in a commercial setting, I’ll say that the turnaround on our ales, from brew day to going into the tax determination server is 14-16 days. 10 days is fast, even for a brewpub.

    With that being said I’ve visited the Lager House once. The beers were pretty spot on style-wise, although unremarkable. Given that they’ve only been open a couple of months, the beers are above average, in my limited opinion, considering the newness of the facility.

    And I would hardly consider their equipment “state of the art”. It is functional commercial brewing equipment…nothing more. It looks pretty but isn’t really anything special. The Brewmaster Richard is the heart and soul of the beer side, and he is doing a good job despite what he is working with.

  4. smarks2327

    I think everyone is misinterpreting a lot of my critique. For starters, I didn’t say anything was bad, but just unremarkable compared to the initial response. I know the first batches served of the Moerlein house beers were not brewed on site, Maybe the new ones are; I have only been twice.

    The excuse of having problems initially seems silly to me. It is probably true, but it goes with the overall theme here; a 10+ Million dollar brewery was built and it seems that the brewery part was the last concern. The state of the art part might have been an exaggeration, but the point is they have a brand new brew house with all the technical ability to brew very good beer.

    I am in no way criticizing the brewmaster, Richard, here. It just seems like he is handcuffed and the brewery part is an after thought. I don’t care for OTR Ale and Northern Liberties more resembles a pale ale and is totally forgettable. Neither of those recipes are Richard’s; I would LOVE to see what he could do with an IPA and maybe we will with time.

    Nothing I had there was ‘bad’ and that was also my point. But for all the fuss and hoopla about this place before it opened, and for all the praise it has received, I just wanted to share what I thought was a more realistic viewpoint.

  5. Local Beer Guy

    I’d agree with most of what you are saying. I look forward to what will be brewed as specialties when Richard is allowed to formulate his own recipes. I also am not a big fan of either the OTR or the Northern Liberties, but the Vienna Lager was pretty good, as was the Hefeweizen (although a bit low on carbonation). For the record, no where near 10 million was spent on the brewery side of things (that sounds like a number for the entire project, but I don’t know). I suspect the brewery is where things were bought on the cheap, because the brew system seemingly wasn’t built in the States or in Germany. A state-of-the-art German system seems like the way to go (after all, that is where lagers originated), but at the Lager House, they did not do that. On the flip side, the kitchen side of things seems to be doing well, as the food has been very good. Too bad the wait to get in the place can be long at times.

  6. I haven’t been to the Lager House yet, but a lot of the wait time stuff can be mitigated by making a reservation on Open Table. Reservations weren’t available when they first opened, but they are now. That might save one a great deal of time, considering the popularity it’s enjoyed so far.

  7. JD

    I talked with a guy when I was there (Mark or Mike, can’t remember). He said that he was the brewer at the production facility and came up with many of the recipes. I didn’t talk with him very long when I was there, but it sounds like they are brewing most of their beers own on site now. I live near Columbus, and I’ll definitely go back (especially before a Reds game), but Rock Bottom was also worth the stop.

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