It’s no secret that Cincinnati has more microbreweries than we can count on our hands, but the real secret is that a fair amount of them are all located in one part of town… the Eastside. Well, we use the term “Eastside” pretty loosely. Most of them are spread out a pretty good distance, but each of the are proud to be separated from the rest of the city, and even more proud to be bringing us some of the best beers Cincinnati has to offer. With the Lunken Beer Festival coming up, we decided to give you an inside-look on why the Eastside’s brewing scene kicks so much ass.
1. Blank Slate Brewing Co.
It’s one thing for a group of dedicated individuals to come together to make quality beers. It’s another to have two dudes working their asses off to supply a whole city with original beers. That’s what it’s all about at Blank Slate: originality. When talking to Scott, the proprietor, we could tell that he was pretty much the Walter White of craft brewing. He informed us that he was, at one time, a chemical engineer, but wanted to create something that had “a little more art to it” than the plastics he was creating on a daily basis. Well, sir, you’ve definitely impressed us. To find out more on what’s going on in this small-time brewery, we caught up with Scott to get an insider’s perspective on their amazing beers.
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Yeah, he’s pretty much obsessed with his beers, but that’s exactly what’s given Scott the reputation of being one of the most dedicated brewers in Cincinnati. When asked about what makes his brewery so unique: “We really like to focus on making things as non-traditional as possible. Of course we start with a similar brewing template as anyone else, but we then mess with the styles and bring in culinary influences from all over the world.
“We’ve actually grown pretty rapidly since our inception, which wasn’t all that long ago. We now have over one-hundred taps all around the city, and plenty of regulars like Arnold’s, Firehouse, and Brass Tap that consistently keep us on their taps,” he said. Especially, these days, it’s hard to walk into most bars in Cincinnati without finding at least one of their beers on tap. If you had to ask us our personal favorite? Easily Pitter Patter or Fume. Both offer unique twists.
The Next Step:
After hearing the enthusiasm, and trying all of Blank Slate’s beers, all we can say is that we’re too stoked to see what’s next on the slate (pun intended). Just to give you all a little sneak peek, we found out that they have an Oktoberfest beer coming out later this year called Turn for the Wurst. Knowing them, I’m sure you can figure out where they’re about to take this. They’re also stoked to open their taproom later this year -the construction was quite impressive- and they hope to start canning beers sometime within the next year or maybe even sooner than that. Keep an eye out. This little microbrewery is about to do bigA�things.
2. 50 West Brewing Co.
It’s all about reverse-engineering around 50 West, and being able to experiment has allowed the to create some of the most interesting beers Cincinnati has to offer. Being on the brewpub system has allowed for plenty of room to change whenever they want, and they have rows and rows of beer on tap to prove it. That also goes without saying that their food is well worth the drive in itself. To get a more in-depth read on the constantly-evolving style of 50 West, we talked to two of their charismatic brewers, Blake and Max.
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Four words, one on each wall, decorated the inside of their brewing room: Patience, Craftsmanship, Innovation, and Tradition. Upon asking about these words, their faces lit up. Each word obviously held a close meaning to what 50 West was all about, and it all came out when we asked their Masterbrewer, Blake, where it all started: “It’s really all a labor of love around 50 West. We fell in love with brewing when we were still in college at OU. It was a mix between that fine balance of science and art.”
“To keep people entertained we decided we wanted to make this bigger than just a beer, too. That’s why brewpubs are the best. We have live music every Thursday, and we have a crazy tasty Cheddar Apple Bacon sandwich, too. You won’t find it fresher than from the actual source, and you’ll always leave feeling fulfilled with your experience,” added Max. When asked about their beloved VW van, Penny, they gave each other a saddened look, before telling us that she had come to an unfortunate end. So, as we promised, here is our eulogy for that voluptuous van, Penny Lane:
Penny was a van that cared deeply about the city of the Cincinnati. When the Reds made it to the playoffs last year, she was there to party with us. When we lost the entire front end of our car to one of the city’s arm-sized potholes… yet again, she was there to comfort us with a case of beer. Although we may never see her beautiful grill as we once did, we have a feeling that, although she was burned to the ground, that she will rise from the ashes to see us again.
The Next Step:
Although Penny has moved on to that great highway in the sky, we know for a fact that her remains are going to be used for something amazing. Keep an eye out for it around 50 West. Until then, you can enjoy a pilsner named in her honor that’s being served on tap over there. They’re also about to be serving up a very unique stout, Blue Melvin, that’s infused with blueberry. With the way they’ve managed to balance everything else around 50 West with their values, we have no qualms in saying that Blue Melvin is about to be one of your new favorites.
3. Mt. Carmel Brewing Company
Ah, it’s peaceful to be so far away from the hustle of the city streets. Looking over the fields of rolling grass and their tiny pond; we can say that this is definitely the “beer oasis of the East.” In fact, until you go back, away from the street, Mt. Carmel pretty much looks like any other house that you pass along the way. Once you walk in, it hits you: it’s all about simplicity. Staying true to their family values and small town charm has led Mt. Carmel to become the one of the biggest distributors in Cincinnati. To find out why they’ve decided to stay so small, we caught up with their Brand Coordinator, Patrick.
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It all started in the basement of that little house, but, looking at the brewing room now; you’d never be able to tell. Their new machines towered over our heads as we walked in. It was truly impressive to see, and Patrick’s brewing experience was evident as he went over Mt. Carmel’s history. On his inspiration: “I was inspired to pick up brewing because I was truly impressed with the time and effort of the craft. I fell in love with the science as I smelled the hops and started experimenting with them.”
“We’re taking huge steps in our growth right now, too. We recently got new fermenters, and we have a new tank coming in that will allow us to make more large batches and experiment. We can’t wait.” Even though it’s already experienced quite a bit of growth over the past few years, we have a feeling that things are about to keep growing. Chances are that they’ll still keep that small town charm.
The Next Step:
With all of their new equipment, Mt. Carmel made it clear that they’re wanting to start making more, unique beers for us to try pretty soon. They also want to start bottling more of their snapshot beers that everyone has been falling in love with. They were selling their growlers before it was even “hip” to do, so who knows where their next innovations will take them? They also want to keep expanding their “oasis” to have plenty of hiking trails behind the house. Ah, fresh air, fresh beer, and more new beers coming soon? Thank you, Mt. Carmel.
4. MadTree Brewing Co.
So, I bet you didn’t know that the first canned craft beer came from right here in Cincinnati. Well, it did, and MadTree is 100% responsible for it. As we walked through the door, we were taken aback at the vast scale of both the size of the taproom and the never-ending rows of fermenters along the warehouse. If you haven’t seen it yet, the taproom is connected to the rest of the entire brewing facility, with no barriers in between. As we would later find out, in talking to one of its founders, Brady, this is all to provide a more authentic feeling for everyone to enjoy.
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The beards have taken over MadTree, and, if it’s the source of their power to create some of the best damn beers we’ve ever tasted; grow on, brothers! Brady was all too stoked to speak of his inspiration: “Well, I like to think that I was more of the creative side of this brainchild of ours. Jeff and Kenny are both engineers; I like to add my personal creativity into everything we do. I think it all became an obsession after going to the Great American Beer Fest a few years ago. About a year later, I met up with the other co-founders. We’ve been in love with the craft ever since.”
“If you want to enjoy one of our beers to the fullest extent, you have to come in to the taproom. You get to see it all happen when you come through here. You know it’s fresh because it’s being made right in front of you.” Maybe it was the fact that the beers were being made only a few feet away, maybe it was that we were enjoying the beer with one of the owners… Whatever it was, there was definitely something something special about having the beer in their taproom.
The Next Step:
There’s no way around the fact that Madtree has become the most successful microbrewery in the city. They’re still as humble as can be, though, and realize that the sky is still the limit. They’re going to be working on adding a patio and taproom improvements pretty soon, and you won’t want to miss their seasonal beers in the fall/winter. A new beer, The Great Pumpcan, will be revealed for the fall and their Thundersnow Spiced Scottish Ale will be coming to cans. To showcase all of this, they’ll be having their own beer festival in September called Summerfest. We have a feeling those beards will keep growing, too. They really are that impressive…
5. Listermann Brewing Co.
Luckily we got a two for one special when we went to MadTree, because the two are partnering up for a beer that’s going to blow your mind.
It was time to mix things up a bit, so Listermann stepped on the scene to spice things up with their own unique flavorings. Working alongside a great number of flavor experts, they perfected both a Peanut Butter Porter and a Hazelnut Brown Ale. Oh, and they didn’t overkill the flavors. In fact, they’re some of the most delicious, unique beers we’ve yet to have tried in our beer adventures. To get to the source of their obsession with being different, we had a discussion with their “General Badass,” Jason.
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“I started brewing to expand the potential of possible beers available to everyone who was looking. We just like to push the limits on anything we think can be made better. There’s no telling what you can do with just a little extra spice, or a completely new flavor that no one imagined would be good. It’s a lot of fun.”
“I have to agree that it’s all about trying out the beers when you’re in our taproom. We put a lot of effort into our taproom to make it as comfortable as possible. There’s something about knowing that you’re so close to the source. When you put so much effort into both the product and where people enjoy you’re product; there’s something harmonious about that.” Just a few cups of their beers will definitely leave you feeling more than fulfilled, though. You’ll be experiencing beer bliss.
The Next Step:
Apparently the patio idea is catching on for everyone, as Listermann also has one in the works to be attached to their tasting room. As they’ve grown, so has their demand. So, at this point, they’re not so worried about spreading their territory as they are about making sure everyone gets all of the beers that they want. Don’t think this will distract them from their epic Volksfest, though, because they’re already getting primed for it. Oh, and don’t forget to be on the lookout for their combination beer with MadTree, it’s a Blackberry Gose. Yes, it’s going to be amazing.
6. Bad Tom Brewing Co.
Tom was a bad, bad man. Luckily, three generations later, one of his descendants is making up for it by making some excellent beer. The place is definitely small from the outside, but there’s plenty of work going on for the ever-expanding little brewery over by Lunken. Perhaps the consistent drone of the plane engines was their inspiration to get involved and start their own beer festival at the tiny airport. One of their charismatic founders, Sean, is more than excited to give exposure to some of the best beers Cincinnati has to offer, including his own.
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“It’s kind of crazy how everything came together. Myself and Charles, one of the other founders, have kids that played soccer together. We used to have soccer parties and he would have six beers on tap in his basement. I was so impressed to see his work. Now we have a whole line of our beers and we only plan to keep growing.”
“We just really like when people go out to the local restaurants to try our beers. There’s a lot of reciprocity that goes on in the beer scene around Cincinnati, and it’s truly something wonderful to be apart of. Of course I like when people come into our taproom so we can all get to know them, though. It’s nice to create that relationship with customers,” he said. It certainly seems that everyone only has positive things to say about Bad Tom as they continue to grow. Tom may have been bad, but the beer is just so damn good.
The Next Step:A�
The guys at Bad Tom won’t be sleeping any time soon with all of their upcoming work. New equipment purchases have increased their capacity to brew beer, and they plan on doing plenty of that. For now, though, their eyes are set on Lunken’s Beerfest this week, where many brewers and beer junkies alike will come to taste some of the best beer and food in the city. If you’re not stoked to check it out yet, you will be after you see the list of everyone participating. It’s going to be one of the best beer events of the year, and you won’t want to miss it.
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At the end of the day, there are plenty of microbreweries in Cincinnati, but the scene from the East is the hottest right now. If you get the chance, you need to celebrate our rich brewing heritage by stopping in to these places or buying a beer from one of their supporting bars. We have something beautiful here, people. Let’s live it up with a few of Cincinnati’s own!