Tag Archives: cincinnati

Call for blog post topics from MadTree!

I’ve somehow talked the guys at MadTree into writing a guest blog post. Here’s the thing though, we can’t really decide what’d be best for them to write about. Due to our indecision we’re turning it over to you, our dear readers, to voice your opinion on what you’d like to read from them.

Just keep it beer or brewery related and we’ll take the idea that’s most popular or that we like the most. Leave a comment below, on the Queen City Drinks Facebook page, or shoot us a tweet. Here are some ideas that I had as well as that we’ve heard from folks on Twitter already:

  • strategies for acquiring tap handles and shelf space at bars and liquor stores
  • how they market themselves for the casual drinker vs the committed followers.
  • new seasonals, and marketing.
  • Suppose I’d like in-depth “why.” Obviously they love beer, but why the need to make it or people? also enjoy talk about branding/marketing. What’s the brewery’s unique voice? Why? How does it fill a hole as local biz?
  • Decision to go with cans instead of bottles and the process for actually canning the beer

Hopefully this guest post works out well for everyone and I can talk more local breweries into it later. But that will come then, for the time being you need to tell us what you want to read from MadTree!

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New lagering tunnel discovered in Cincinnati!

After being sealed 18 years ago an entrance to the Hudepohl lagering tunnels has been reopened by the hard working Over-The-Rhine Brewery District team! IMG_5715 Continue reading

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BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse Cincinnati

BJs-Restaurant-Logo

A few weeks ago while I was leading a microbrewery tour with Tonic Tours, I started talking with a guy named Dave Reed who was enjoying a pint at Rivertown’s taproom. Turns out he is the beer manager at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and he invited Charlie and I down to enjoy some beer, check out their food, and see what we thought of the place.

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Because I live near Tri-County Mall I have driven by BJ’s a number of times since they opened but something about the name and the location in the mall had caused me to write them off as a cheesy sports bar with too much testosterone and too many chicken wings so I’d never actually been inside. In the end, I may not have taken Dave up on his offer except that my cousin who usually has pretty good taste in beer recently told me that BJ’s has one of the best pumpkin ale’s he’d ever had. I was intrigued to see if I had judged BJ’s too harshly.

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BJ’s started as a deep-dish pizza restaurant in 1978 in Southern California. The chain took off in California and in 1996 they added a brewery to their line up and began brewing their own beer to serve in their restaurants. All of the beer served at the Cincinnati location is brewed in the Reno brewery. In addition to the Tri-County location they have recently opened a location in Florence, KY and a BJ’s will be opening in Dayton later this month.

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BJ’s has 12 of their own beers on tap, with selections ranging from their standard American-style light beer to a stout and a double IPA coming out later this month. When we sat down with Dave at BJ’s he brought us a flight of their four most popular beers: the LightSwitch Lager, BrewHouse Blonde, Piranha Pale Ale, and Jeremiah Red. All of the beers were solid, approachable, and fairly safe which makes sense given that these are the best selling beers in a fairly mainstream restaurant. There was actually a barely detectable hint of hops in their light beer and I particularly enjoyed the Jeremiah Red. It has a fairly complex malt profile although it may be a bit sweet for most people’s taste in an Irish Red Ale. I wish that we had gotten a chance to try some of the darker varieties of beer as well to see how they compared, but overall I would rate the beer good but not great. In addition to their own beer’s BJ’s also has 12 more beers on tap with everything from Blue Moon to Rivertown’s Hopbomber.

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I have to say that the food impressed me a little more than the beer. The deep dish pizza was delicious, a nice amount of toppings that didn’t get overwhelmed by the crust. The seared ahi tuna salad I ordered was amazing, with the tuna cooked to perfection and nicely balanced by the rice-wine vinaigrette and generous portion of avocado. I was actually most impressed by the wide selection items on their menu that fit different diets. They had a surprisingly large number of gluten-free dishes that they apparently even use separate utensils and trays for to avoid cross-contamination. Their low calorie dishes, including the salad I got, were great even if they insist on calling them “Enlightened Entrees.”

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Over all the biggest disappointment was that this pumpkin ale I’d heard about from my cousin was not available yet. I guess I will just have to head back in October when the finally tap it and try a few more of their beers before I make a final decision. Over all I would to head to BJ’s for the food first and enjoy the beer as an accompaniment to the meal rather than the main attraction. With easy parking, little to no wait, and plenty of big screen TV’s there are worse choices for a night out with solid food and beer you can’t try anywhere else. If you want to check out BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse a good opportunity is coming up at the end of the month. They are doing a beer and cider dinner September 30th; for $30 per person you get five courses of food with a beer or cider paired with each one. Call the restaurant to reserve a seat at (513) 671-1805. And be sure to check out Episode 30 of Bottoms Up to hear Charlie and I try the beer and get a rundown of each one.

BJ's Restaurant and Brew House on Urbanspoon

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King of the Cincinnati IPA

As previously teased one beer has been named the King of the Cincinnati IPA. Last Saturday a plethora of local beer bloggers expert tasters and myself got together to drink a bunch of free donated beer, hooray free beer! The full list of bloggers is:

The blind tasting was proctored by

If you don’t read these guys blogs and/or follow them on twitter I’d highly advise it. They’re all cool and knowledgeable dudes each covering Cincinnati beer in a slightly different way. Also we’re each blogging our thoughts on this whole event and covering everything slightly differently so you should spend a few minutes reading all their posts on the event.

But back to the King of the Cincinnati IPA competition. I’m not sure who’s idea this first was but over the course of ~200 some emails we set a date and a place and got all the local brewers to donate growlers of their IPAs. To ensure fairness Jack & Matt stepped in to randomize the growlers and take care of pouring the samples so we were blind to what beer was in what cup.

The city has some fantastic IPAs some like Mt. Carmel, Cellar Dwellers, and Moerlein are more classic IPAs while Rhinegeist and MadTree produce more over the top hop-focused IPAs that are currently the rage. Rivertown comes in with a session IPA aiming for plenty of flavor with less alcohol so you can drink it over an extended session, hence the name. Blank Slate brings in a very different kind of IPA, as it does for all it’s brews, with what it calls a White IPA. It’s described as a wheat IPA “containing two different wheat malts in addition to oats and honey malt meld with copious amounts of Columbus, Cascade and Nugget hops”.

With all these slightly different IPAs it was hard to pick 1 winner but alas we did, in fact we picked two! Rhinegeist’s Truth and Blank Slate’s Lesser Path tied for first in the initial scoring. We then did a final round with no scoring just a straight up preference pick and while I myself went with Rhinegeist on the basis of it being more a true IPA I was out voted 3 – 2 so Blank Slate’s The Lesser Path took the King of the Cincinnati IPA title.

King of the Cincinnati IPA

Since we crowned a king IPA for the Queen city folks may be anxious to give this a taste. If that’s you then the following list should help, but these places may have already sold out so call before you go!

•Allyn’s •Arnolds
•Bar Louie •Beer Sellar
•Dilly Deli •Firehouse Grill
•Flip Daddy’s – Mason •Liquor Box
•Mios Blue Ash •Northside Tavern
•Remke Hyde Park •The Comet
•Valley Wine & Spirits •Vito’s Cafe
•Washington Platform Saloon •Whole Foods – Mason
•Yard House

Since our winner is draft only I want to give a special mention to Christian Moerlein’s Northern Liberties which was the highest ranked packaged IPA we tasted. Now I’m also realizing that out of 10 beers we tried only 3, Mt. Carmel, MadTree, and Moerlein are available in non-draft forms.

I want to thank all the breweries for making such great beer and letting us try some, all the bloggers for helping throw this together, and the Brew Professor’s family for putting up with us all for a night! We all had such a great time that it’s agreed we’ll do something like this again. Perhaps another style of beer or perhaps tap rooms or perhaps some other idea we’ve yet to think of!

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El Arco Tequila

 

El Arco bottles

 

“I love my unpaid job” was my facebook status last Thursday afternoon. The reason for this love? I had just come from a lunch time tequila tasting that was provided to me because El Arco Tequila reached out to Queen City Drinks to ask if one of their writers would be interested in sampling their tequila and writing a review. Never one to shirk my duty, I bravely stepped forward.

 

el arco blanco and anejo

El Arco is a newcomer to the craft tequila market. Arco Ventures LLC, a Cincinnati-based tequila distribution company bought Arco del Cabo Tequila, renamed it El Arco and began selling bottles in 2011 I believe. The change in marketing, branding, and investment seems to have them taking off quickly. When you think Cincinnati you don’t normally think tequila. So when we sat down with the owners, former NFL lineman and St. Xavier graduate, Rocky Boiman and Greg Meyer who is vice chairman of the Commercial Real Estate Council of Greater Cincinnati, we were curious as to how this brand would compare to other tequilas. Despite the owner’s connections to Cincinnati, it is clear that El Arco is a true tequila in every sense of the word. El Arco is produced by the Tres Mujeres Distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. It is made from 100% organic blue agave that grows for at least eight years before it is harvested to be made into the tequila. But how does the final product compare to other tequilas? El Arco advertises its taste rating on tequila.net right on the label, an excellent marketing strategy since both the blanco and the añejo are currently rated higher than other well known craft brands like Patron and Cabo Wabo.

I learned about all of this while sitting at a table with the two pours of tequila sitting in front of me waiting to be tasted so my expectations were pretty high by the time I got to actually try the tequila. I have to admit I was not disappointed. The blanco was smooth and really enjoyable to sip. It had a sweet, grassy flavor on the initial tasting with a spicy, spearmint-like finish. Hints of citrus can also be tasted in the flavor. The añejo is aged for a full two years in an oak barrel before being bottled but other than that it is the same product as the blanco and tasting them side by side was fascinating. If you have ever compared white-dog whiskey to bourbon you will know that the aging process radically changes the flavor of the initial product. With this tequila, you can taste a lot of the same flavors between the two different products. The grass is still there, as well as some lighter citrus but the oak transform the spearmint into more of a cinnamon with a hint of dark chocolate.

el arco margarita

 

Rocky and Greg were also kind enough to make us a margarita using El Arco Blanco. Fresh squeezed lime juice, top shelf ingredients, organic agave nectar; it had to be good right? Unfortunately the one thing they didn’t have was a jigger and the result was not optimal. While I am sure that the blanco makes a delicious margarita the one I got was too heavy on the lime for me to evaluate how well the tequila worked in the cocktail. However, if you want to try one yourself I recommend going to Bakersfield where the blanco is the tequila in the premium margarita, or if you are at the Western and Southern Open this week you will see that El Arco is the chief sponsor of the bar were you can order a pitcher of the El Arco ‘Ace’ Margarita. Either way I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

If you want more detail on El Arco you can listen to the whole tasting and hear Greg and Rocky explain their company philosophy on Episode 26 of Bottoms Up With Ginny and Charlie.

 

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Introducing Jackie O’s to Cincinnati!

Up until today the only (as far as I’m aware) place to get Jackie O’s in Cincinnati was at Dutch’s in Hyde Park. Jay Ashmore, owner of Dutch’s, said that he’d been making the trip out to Athen’s, having them bring it all the way, or somewhere in between. Now that they’ve signed with Cavalier life will be getting easier for Jay and we’ll all be getting more Jackie O’s. 

Starting today, August 7th, cans of Firefly and Chomo-Lungma will be available across Cincinnati. However, draft will be limited and I have a feeling Dutch’s may still be the hot spot for  Jackie O’s.

First Josh has some background info on Jackie O’s, after that I’m taking a look at their Firefly Amber and Chomo-Lungma brown. First off here’s Josh:

If you don’t know about Jackie O’s out east in picturesque Athens, Ohio and you are an enjoyer of well-crafted beer, you are doing yourself a disservice. Located in and next door to the old, long-time O’Hooley’s spot on West Union Street, Brad Clark has been kicking out some high-quality, extremely unique beers since 2006 or so. Well-known to the small undercurrent of craft beer enthusiasts interested in non-run-of -the-mill sours and barrel aged beers, the small Brewpub blew up after being featured on the cover of Beer Advocate magazine a couple years ago.

If you’re interested, a full, in-depth history of Jackie O’s can be found on their website.  Their bottle releases are legendary in the craft beer scene and are one of those things you just have to do at least once if  you’re into good company and even better beer. They are typically very well attended and in the four or so I’ve been to, you encounter people from all over  the United States. In the last year or so, they had acquired property and were getting setup to package their product in can format. It looks like that time is upon us.


Beer: Firefly Amber
ABV: 4.5%
Malt: American 2-row, Maris Otter, Pilsen, White Wheat, Special Roast, Cara 8
Hops: Hallertau, Athantum, Cascade

Firefly is our lightest offering at Jackie O’s. We like to refer to it as our gateway ale. Introducing macro drinkers to this beer has proved to be effective in converting them into craft beer drinkers. Seasoned craft beer drinkers also admire the drinkability and soft but wide rage of flavors embedded within this Amber ale. A fusion of Maris Otter, Belgian Pilsen, and American 2-row provide an interesting and complex malty base for this refreshing ale. Lightly roasted malt gives Firefly a biscuit-like finish. Carefully selected hops provide an herbal and mildly citrus aroma and flavor.

Very forward malt aroma of caramel and grains. Initially only a hint of citrus/grass hops that increases as it warms.

Looks like a penny that’s been around for a bit showing off a dingy copper color. Nice third-inch off-white head that hung around for a wee bit before skimming down.

Caramel is the dominate flavor with some citrus hop action, light sweetness, and a moderate level of very balanced bitterness.

Body is medium and has a fair bit of carbonation with it.

Very nice amber ale, not amazing or top of the style by any means but still highly enjoyable and worth trying.


Beer: Chomo-Lungma
ABV: 6.5%
Malt: 2-row, Munich, Crystal 60, Chocolate, Biscuit, Belgian Aromatic, White Wheat, Cara 45
Hops: Warrior, Mt. Hood

This brown ale was brewed to commemorate the Lungevity Everest Expedition. Brian Oestrike the brother of Jackie O’s owner Art, sumitted the unforgiving mountain on May 22nd, 2007. The climb was a vehicle to raise money and awareness about lung cancer. The people of Tibet call Mt. Everest “Chomolungma” this exceptional ale carries on the spirit of the climb. 8 Malts, 2 hops, and twenty pounds of wild flower honey give this ale an exceptional character. Baked muffins, dark fruit, bittersweet chocolate, rich honey and earthy subtle hops caress the palate. Booze soaked chocolate raisins round out the warm finish. Now available in cans.

Very pretty very dark brown with a nice light-tan head showing no signs of going anywhere.

Aroma definitely gives off plenty of malt and nice signs of that honey the description talks about.

Flavor is a bit of a toffee and caramel malt bomb. Some light herbal notes with a fair bit of honey that tastes a little weird, I’m guessing that’s cause it’s wildflower honey.

Body is much lighter than I expected based on color and malt profile.

Not sure I’ve ever heard a better story for naming a beer. Just being named after Mt. Everest alone is pretty sweet in my opinion then on top of that you’ve got the dude climbing Mt. Everest for a lung cancer fund raiser. In the end it’s a nice beer but not one I would quest after and it leaves me questioning why some people get so worked up over Jackie O’s brews.


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Coming soon: King of the Cincinnati IPA

cincy-ipa2 (1)

 

More on this soon…

Special thanks to designer Dan Schmidt (@schmidt) for the artwork.

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Handcrafted Cocktails Cincinnati Book Launch

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After months of buzz and anticipation Cincinnati was finally able get their hands on Handcrafted Cocktails: The Mixologist’s Guide to Classic Drinks for Morning, Noon & Night by mixologist and local alcohol-celebrity Molly Wellmann. The book’s Cincinnati launch was held last Thursday at Molly’s bar Japp’s Since 1879 so of course I was there to get my autographed copy and to check out a few of the cocktails that Molly was demonstrating from the book. Here are some of the highlights of the evening.

Molly Wellmann

Molly signing books and looking fabulous.

 

She likes us. She really likes us!

She likes us, she really likes us!

 

Molly Wellmann making a "sweet heat" cocktail.

Molly making a “sweet heat” cocktail.

I haven’t gotten a chance to dig into the book too much yet but it looks great so far. I really like that she divided the chapters into times of day, “Drinks for the Morning” and so on, and then in each chapter categorized them by the main spirit used in the cocktail. The recipes are a mix of classic cocktails with the stories to go along with them, as well as original creations. We tried two of the original recipe cocktails featured in the book, Little Boy Blue and the Sweet Heat.

Bourbon, blueberry simple syrup, and a stout floater

Little Boy Blue: bourbon, blueberry simple syrup, and a stout floater.

 

Sweet Heat: vodka, jalapeno simple syrup, and salt & pepper.

Sweet Heat: vodka, jalapeno simple syrup, and salt & pepper.

It was a great night out. Charlie and I really enjoyed the food, drinks, and atmosphere of the event as well as running into other local writers like Sharon Rudd and Anne Mitchell who were checking out the books as well. Of course the dangerous thing about starting to drink in Over the Rhine is that there are so many places to continue drinking once you’ve gotten a few under your belt. We ended up at friend’s birthday party being held at Neon’s once we were done and the next thing you know we are having a drink at Arnold’s with a guy dressed up like Marie Antoinette.

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Yeah, it was that kind of night.

 

 

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Bunbury Beer Bonanza

OK, 19 may not be a “bonanza” but I love to alliterate and 19 standard craft beers + 1 specially brewed craft beer is pretty damn good for a place with a “Bud Light Stage.” Here’s the list of the standard craft beers:

Mt. Carmel Amber Ale
Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold
Great Lakes Wright Pils
Great Lakes Commodore Perry
Great Lakes Burning River
Angry Orchard Crisp Apple
Unita Hop Notch IPA
Unita Wyld Organic Pale Ale
Magic Hat #9
Pyramid Heffe-Weisse
Highland Gaelic Ale
Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat
Sierra Nevada Torpedo
Sierra Nevada Summerfest
21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon
Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale
Victory Summer Love
Victory Prima Pils
Anchor California Lager

Cincinnati’s own Christian Moerlein is also brewing a special beer just for this event, the Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale. Here is Moerlein’s blurb on this beer:

A new star is being discovered this summer – Christian Moerlein’s Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale is ready to take center stage at Cincinnati’s greatest summer concert. Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale showcases the unique characteristics of a traditional Ale, while boasting the flavors and aromas of German noble hops. The malty backbone imparted by Pilsner and Munich malts is accented by delicate floral and fruity notes thanks to a generous late kettle hop addition and dry-hopping. The crisp, refreshing result makes Christian Moerlein’s Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale a headliner at every venue.

ABV: 5%
IBUs: 40

I haven’t had the Bunbury Bavarian Pale Ale yet but look forward to having it as soon as I hit Bunbury on Friday. Follow me on Twitter @Tom_Aguero as I’ll be tweeting my thoughts on the brews, the music, the food, and the whole Bunbury experience in general. Finally I’m no music blogger so check out Each Note Secure for great info on the bands at Bunbury but personally I’m psyched about the following less well known bands:

Night Terrors of 1927

The Features

WALK THE MOON (from Cincinnati)

Vacationer

Black Joe Lewis

Of course it’s likely needless to say I also can’t wait to see FUN., Cake, MGMT, and The National.

FULL DISCLOSURE: We were contacted by the PR firm working with Bunbury and were given the opportunity to apply for media passes which, to my pure amazement, they gave me! To our readers, and any companies interested in sending me stuff, giving me free stuff impacts the review in only 2 ways. That I WILL review it and that and I WILL write a blog post about it. Giving me free stuff does not guarantee you a favorable review or that I will tell everyone to go buy it.

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Tonic Tours – Cincinnati Brewery Tours

When I went to San Diego for a bachelor party earlier this year we were able to sign up for a local brewery tour which provided a bus, a driver, some water, and tours at each of 3 breweries of our choice (we picked Stone, Green Flash, and Lost Abbey). As soon as we were done with that tour my friends and I began debating and plotting away to do that same thing in Cincinnati.

Luckily someone else has already done that for us making Tonic Tours are the first local tour of breweries that I’m aware of. I’ll let you read Tonic Tours description of the event before we dive into my thoughts:

Tonic Tours is launching public microbrewery tours in Cincinnati. We start at Everything’s d’Vine for an introduction to beer tasting before we drive the van to Rivertown Brewing, Fifty West, and Mad Tree before ending back up downtown at Everything’s d’Vine. Food will be available at Fifty West and water and snacks will be provided along the way. You will learn a little about the past, present, and future of making beer in Cincinnati as well as getting to try some amazing local beer at each stop.

For $90 you get a van ride from Everything D’Vine to Rivertown to 50 West to Madtree and back to Everything D’Vine, a tour and tasting at each brewery, water and snacks in the van, a commemorative glass, and some light food at Fifty West as well. If you want dinner at 50 West (I suggest the C.A.B. sandwich) or more beer at any of the stops then that is extra. Just getting tasting and a tour at Rivertown, 50 West, and MadTree is pretty sweet in itself. If you’ve already been to those then hang tight as the schedule will rotate up every few months.

If you’ve lived here your entire live or are only in town for the weekend this is a great way to discover, or re-discover, Cincinnati’s local breweries! These tours will be running the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month for $90 a head, you can book your spot over on www.TonicTours.com.

Full Disclosure: I was invited on this tour by Ginny Tonic who comped the tour and all beer, I still paid for my own food. Ginny Tonic is a writer for this blog and I gave her some advice and suggestions to help plan this tour. I will not say that this has in no way impacted my review of the tour since it very well may have. However, I have done my best to be objective and non-biased in the above review. If anyone wants to provide me with things to review I only promise that I will review them and I will write a blog post about them. I do not, under any circumstance, promise a positive review.

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