by Vince Guerrieri
Of all Ohio’s cities, Cincinnati probably is the one best known as a “beer town.”
Thanks to an influx of German immigrants in the 19th century – they referred to the nearby canal as the Rhine, and named the adjacent neighborhood Over-the-Rhine (OTR) – the city became a haven for brewing, particularly German lagers. In the days before Prohibition, OTR was home to 18 breweries, with legendary names like Schoenling, Christian Moerlein, Hudepohl and Rhinegeist – literally, “ghost of the Rhine.”
Today, Over-the-Rhine is on its way back and trading on its historic status as a brewery center. “About a decade ago, we started doing tours of the old breweries,” says Steve Hampton, executive director of the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation. “We use the amazing brewing heritage we have here to renovate and repopulate the area.”
Many of those vintage beers are available again, albeit in different forms. Christian Moerlein – which produces its beer and has a tap room in OTR, in addition to its Lager House near the riverfront by Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark – owns many of what Hampton calls the “heritage brands,” and it’s possible once again to drink Schoenling, Hudepohl or Rhinegeist. “So many people have a connection to those breweries,” Hampton says.
Another notable Cincinnati name can be found in Over-the-Rhine: Taft. The family that produced a president, a pair of senators and a governor is also the namesake for a brewpub in a repurposed church.
In addition to neighborhood tours currently offered, plans for a brewing heritage trail, including signs, smartphone apps and public art are in the works. “You can enjoy a good craft beer and soak in the history of brewing here like you can nowhere else in the country,” Hampton says. “It’s pretty powerful.”