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Updated July 14: An Adventure To Cappy’s Craft Wine And Spirits

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Join me as I play recreational Cincinnati cyclist and finally try out the Loveland Bike Trail. There’s one major difference however: I didn’t drive a car, park it, then start my ride. I rode from my house. Yes, take that. I believe most of the time a bike ride should not involve gasoline and an internal combustion engine.

Cappy’s Craft Wine And Spirits is a place I’ve heard of a few times and finally had brought into the forefront of my consciousness by the web presence known as Hoperatives here in the Cincinnati area. It clicked that this was a place not far at all off the Loveland Trail that fills growlers and carried a lot of craft beer. Sounds like an adventure to me.

Allow me to take a moment to address something: One day as I was at Rivertown Brewing recently, there was a guy I’d just met talking about cycling with me and the Loveland Bike Trail came up. Suddenly from my other side came a loud, adamant, somewhat obnoxious voice proclaiming that it’s not the Loveland Bike Trail. It’s the Loveland Multi-Use Trail! The man, a cyclist, insisted that walkers did not want him blazing along the trail at 30 miles per hour or something like that. You know what? He has a point, albeit a point I already understood. It is indeed a multi-use trail and cyclists should yield and give as wide a berth as possible to those on foot. His point I do think bears repeating here, as I believe most folks call it the Loveland Bike Trail. Many cyclists – almost exclusively those clad in bright Lycra and atop expensive road bikes – ride fast, disrespectfully and unsafely to others on trails such as this.

I feel bad leveling a dig at serious and somewhat serious roadies, or even wannabe lookalikes. I love and promote all forms of cycling. The more people in bikes the better! People, though, need to be respectful and considerate of others. I love to ride fast, and would like to think I’m pretty good at it. I, however, almost always slow down, and put as much space as is reasonable between me and slower riders, and those on foot.

Something else very much needs addressing here: Pedestrians have their own serious burden of responsibility in sharing paths and other ways of travel. So many people traveling on foot (cyclists too) are oblivious to the world around them, but particularly anything and anyone behind them. Walkers, please, if you’re going to spread out and take up most or all of the way of passage (as is apparently human nature) please put in some effort toward periodically checking behind you or at least listening!! Almost every time I come up behind people walking, whether I am running or whether I am cycling, my attempts to get their attention with anything less than a loud, rude holler, fail. Pay attention, or don’t spread out and block the way, people! This should be basic.

Now, back to beer adventuring.

Pretty nice selection for what feels and looks like a traditional small town.

Pretty nice selection for what feels and looks like a traditional small town.

Cappy’s is located in Loveland, in case I haven’t mentioned it. The ride from my house, I think, was about 25 miles one way. This place is part of the trend – one that amazes me – of offering beer on tap at stores. There is a grocery store in Cincinnati that fills growlers, and this is one of two convenience stores that I know of in the area that also do. Cappy’s has a very nice selection of bottled beers as well of course. It’s a place to find nice wine too, though I didn’t take the time to check that out on this maiden voyage. I refer you to my post on Chuck’s on 85th, known now as Chuck’s Hop Shop for a writeup of a place that is doing the same thing in Seattle. The main difference, aside from the fact that Chuck’s has a lot more on tap, and more in bottles, is that Chuck’s is allowed to serve glasses of beer to be consumed onsite. Cappy’s currently is limited to offering four tiny samples for $1. The guy who helped me this day at Cappy’s, though, told me that this coming fall they would become allowed to pour beer for consumption on premise. Two pints he thought would be the limit. Neat! Guess it must be up to Loveland lawmakers, as the Whole Foods in Cincinnati makes no mention of a pint limit.

Nice stuff.

Nice stuff.

Getting to Cappy’s from my location in Hyde Park was not bad. Basically you ride the same route you use to get to Fifty West Brewing, but you proceed a fairly short distance past it, crossing the intersection at Newtown Rd. and then find the beginning of the trail on your right.

I will provide a map next, and further describe the ride and the growler filling experience at Cappy’s.

July 12 update follows:

Here’s the map:

http://goo.gl/maps/IkeRN

The ride from Hyde Park to Cappy’s brought back memories of Seattle. How? Think Burke Gilman Trail. From my home on Bainbridge Island, WA I’d ride to the ferry, take the boat, then sometimes ride a handful of miles to where I could pick up the Burke Gilman then head off to my destination. Here, I rode a handful of miles where I could pick up the Loveland Trail and head to my destination. Of course a major difference is that there are far fewer useful places the Loveland Trail can take you compared to its Seattle counterpart.

I took Erie to the east, followed it and enjoyed the bike lanes that are present on parts of it, and at Murray Rd., turned right. See, there is another short separated multi-use path to enjoy here that takes you into Mariemont. On this trip I had a nice experience talking to a fellow cyclist on the Murray Trail. An older gentleman in riding gear pulled up alongside me and asked where I was headed. Informed that we had moved here last fall from Seattle, he shared some information about the Loveland Trail with me that I already knew. A nice experience that you just cannot get driving a car. Human connection.

The Murray Trail ends and leaves you to ride on a residential street with, oddly, another residential street running parallel to it. Take this to the intersection with Plainville Rd., a stop sign intersection where you cut diagonally across and proceed on Madisonville Rd. which curves right and takes you down to the heart of Mariemont’s business/entertainment district. Cross the stop light intersection, turning left onto Wooster Pike/50.

From there you ride on the roadway with no bike lane or appreciable shoulder through the eastern part of Mariemont. There is a great downhill stretch before you pass the big grocery store. Not too long after that you pass Fifty West Brewing which is on the left. Proceed past the intersection with Newtown Rd. and shortly after that find the entrance to the Loveland Trail on your right.

Before long you pass a park. This is always great, as you can possibly fill a water bottle and use the restroom unless these facilities are closed for the winter (hate that!).

The rest of the ride is pretty self-explanatory. There are some places where you deal with intersections with roads. At least a couple of them are pretty treacherous.

When you get into Loveland, get off the trail and go left on Loveland Ave. (I recommend staying on the near side of the road, dismounting and walking/running on the sidewalk) It’s not far to where you cross an intersection then see Cappy’s on the left.

Cappy’s, frankly, doesn’t look very nice on the outside. Well, neither does it on the inside. This is pretty much on par with Seattle’s Super Deli Mart and Chuck’s Hop Shop however. It’s a quickie mart that has beer on tap.

Notice I didn’t say it pours beer. Not until this fall according to the guy who helped me.

On this visit to Cappy’s I filled two growlers – one with the local Mt. Carmel Snapshot Series Imperial IPA (very good) and the other with Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. I’ll quickly mention Mt. Carmel Brewing since I probably won’t document an adventure to that brewery. See, it’s not possible as far as I can tell to ride a bike there. One day I had to drive to Eastgate Mall and I made the trip more worthwhile by finally visiting Mt. Carmel. I was quite impressed. The tasting room space is very nice, the service is friendly and the beer is good. You’re inside an old house and can proceed back into other areas of the house that are very tastefully appointed. Outside there is a sitting area and a pond complete with two fake ducks and sometimes two real ones. Any time I have to drive out that way I’ll be stopping in (if they’re open).

Back to Cappy’s. Well, more on Cappy’s next!

July 14 update follows:

Pull your bike up to Cappy’s and, of course, find no bike parking. I locked up to something out front and hoped no locals would complain. Yes I was struck by how, oh how to I phrase it, towny this place appears. I had heard good things about it online and was impressed that Cappy’s is smart enough to maintain an active web presence, providing Twitter updates showing their current tap lineup. What do I expect, I guess. It’s a convenience store in a relatively small town in the Midwest. Even the two quickie marts in Seattle that pour beer are frankly pretty crummy in appearance, and only one of them has a bike rack out front. The standard macro beers occupy a surprising share of Cappy’s coolers and floor space.

On to the good: Cappy’s does have a nice selection of both bottles and draft beer. If I recall, they have as a standard offering Bell’s Two Hearted Ale for a decent price per growler fill. The prices on the rest of their fills are typical – mostly somewhat overpriced for this bargain hunter.

On this visit there was a mixup. The cordial, genuine young man helping me filled one of my growlers with the wrong beer. This wound up being a slightly bigger issue than I would expect. He couldn’t see his way to pouring the beer into another vessel where it could serve another purpose. Instead he offered, to my dismay, to swap out my growler for a new one. I got the feeling he didn’t fully understand the basic tenet of growlership that states that the growler is the property of the customer. This was my growler from Seattle’s Peddler Brewing Company – a bicycle-themed brewery that I’ve written about. There was no way I was letting him keep it, and I was offended that he seemed to think he had the right to take it. I don’t want to be hard on the guy. He was nice and in the end came up with a solution that was agreeable.

An interesting thing about Cappy’s: They offer 1/2 size growlers pre-filled with beer that comes out of their lines just prior to their cleaning the lines. I really appreciate their finding a use for this beer that otherwise would go wasted. It’s sold at a decent discount, however, this discount is wiped out by the fact that you must purchase the new 1/2 size growler glassware at the same time. I wish they would provide this offer while allowing you to exchange a 1/2 size growler of your own, thus relieving you of purchasing the new glassware each time.

The selection of bottled beer at Cappy’s is fairly impressive. I have some pics of the bottled beers that I may share at a future date, but my wife and I have switched phones temporarily. You get the idea regarding Cappys though. It’s a solid place that I’m glad to have available. I look forward to their beginning to offer beer for consumption on premise. I wonder if they will install a seating area, and how far this will be taken. I don’t personally need seating, as wandering around a bottle shop while sipping a beer is a favorite activity.

Well that’s Cappy’s, folks – at least from my unique perspective. The ride home is just a reversal of the outgoing trip and of course can feel sort of long. I stopped in Fifty West on the way back and found it overrun with what I found out to be a load of tour bus revelers. Don’t get me started on the whole craft beer tour van/bus thing taking root in Cincinnati.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Look for an adventure that may take place in the immediate future that will see me on the Loveland Trail again and blazing all the way to Morrow, OH for a visit to Cellar Dweller Brewing!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

Updated May 20: A Jaunty Jaunt to the Whole Foods Beer Station

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Have I lost it?

Meaning 1: Am I crazy for seeking out a beer drinking experience at Whole Foods? Meaning 2: Have I lost my drive for adventure?

I appreciate the concise information provided here. The only things missing are the ABVs and the location of the breweries.

I appreciate the concise information provided here. The only things missing are the ABVs and the location of the breweries. Oh, and the type of beer.

I’ll let you decide.

Sure, I was the only one sitting there in Whole Foods drinking a beer. Sure, the trip to Whole Foods was a mile long.

The essential elements.

The essential elements.

This experience has something in common with my experiences at Chuck’s on 85th in that I’m in the middle of a store enjoying a beer. Its weirdness adds to the enjoyability.

No doubt my blissful little roll on over to Whole Foods bears almost no similarity to many of the epic adventures I’ve had such as those to Trade Route Brewing, or Snoqualmie Falls Brewing (both chronicled here at twopedalsacouplepints).

It was, however, a highly enjoyable craft beer by bike experience, and one I plan to repeat. Lest you doubt me, I proceeded from Whole Foods on to Bad Tom Brewing (formerly Double Barrel Brewing), then into the OTR neighborhood for Moerlein Brewing Taproom, then to the brand new HalfCut beer place, also in OTR.

Yes, you sit there drinking a beer and can watch everyone checking out with their groceries. Love it.

Yes, you sit there drinking a beer and can watch everyone checking out with their groceries.

Let me provide you with my route to Whole Foods for what it’s worth. I’m sitting pretty in my location in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati. I cut through the back of the Rookwood Commons shopping center to where Whole Foods is found. This lets me avoid a bunch of busy parking lot navigation and delay. It is also pretty awesome that the beer station (nestled into the coffee bar) is located at that end of the building at which I arrive first, coming this way.

http://goo.gl/maps/F0QS2

They had some very good beers on that day, making this an even more essential experience.

May 20 Update follows:

You can see by looking at the chalkboard that Whole Foods’ prices on draft beer vary pretty widely. They want $4/pint and $3/pint for some, which is almost unheard of these days. Some others are $7 and up. Consider also their growler pricing which is wonky. For instance the Battle Axe is the same price per ounce in a pint as it is in half gallon growler. Finally, it’s important to know what I was told by the “beerista” (my term, what with this being a tiny beer bar inside a coffee bar): They plan to soon start serving beers in their “proper glassware.” What this means mostly is that a lot of their offerings are going to served in smaller sizes for the same price they currently charge. Yes, I understand proper glassware and serving higher alcohol beers in smaller pours. The point is that Whole Foods is currently offering beers in a full pint (and not a false pint glass – those thick-bottomed glasses which look just like a pint glass but only hold about 13 oz. – watch for them!) that are not available in that size just about anywhere else. Forgive me, the value hound in me takes note of this.

For me, the standout beers on the chalkboard were Fat Heads Battle Axe, a baltic porter, and Jackie O’s Matriarch, a big IPA. The beer list was almost unchanged on my subsequent visit which took place last Friday. This makes me wonder about how long it takes Whole Foods to go through a keg of beer.

I first got a pint of MadTree Brewing’s Galaxy High, an imperial IPA which weighs in at about 11.2%, and is delicious. I’ve enjoyed Galaxy High at the brewery taproom here in Cincinnati, but it’s $7/10 oz. pour. This is not the first time I’ve gotten a brewery’s beer offsite cheaper than at the brewery, which defies what at least used to be the logic that states that beer obtained directly from the source is cheaper. I consider it sweet revenge to avoid the overcharging that some brewery taprooms do these days. I love MadTree. It was my sort of home-base brewery when I lived in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. Their pricing is a beef I have with them, and they’re certainly not the only brewery doing it these days – I presume taking advantage of the growing popularity of consuming beer at a brewery taproom.

A bright beautiful day and bright, clean (expensive) scenery. A great spot to people watch.

A bright beautiful day and bright, clean (expensive) scenery. A great spot to people watch. You see my bike parking spot on the right.

Next, having asked the very helpful and courteous beerista what type of beers were the Matriarch and the Battle Axe, (and having gotten tastes) I decided I would like to have both. Not wishing to consume too much alcohol, and not having that much more time, I asked if they had a smaller pour size. The answer was no. This woman, however, was so willing to help and make things nice for the customer that she offered to go ask the manager what they could do. Upon returning, she offered to pour about 1/2 pint of each into smaller glasses and charge the price between the two beers. One beer was $7 and one was $5 so I was charged $6.

A lot of talk of price here, I know. What I wish to convey is that I have been quite pleasantly surprised by the good customer service I have been having at this Cincinnati Whole Foods location. I hadn’t paid Whole Foods much attention in the past, believing them to be overpriced and probably pretentious. They are in fact overpriced on some items, but reasonably priced on a lot of others. More importantly, it seems that Whole Foods management dictates that their employees measure up to a certain standard of customer care. I have seen it at the checkout counter, and when I ask questions. I also see it written on the wall as part of a huge display detailing their company mission. It says something like delight every customer. A pleasant surprise, and something that will keep me coming back with my dollars.

Back to beer: The Fat Head’s Battle Axe was a nice example of the baltic porter style – deep, rich and having a particular flavor I find hard to describe but yummy. Its ABV is up there around 10%. The Jackie O’s Matriarch is amazing. Rarely have I been wowed by a beer. This one is powerful good. Strong fruity-hoppiness and a backbone to support it. It, too, is quite strong – above 10%, I believe.

A couple notes on the experience of getting to Whole Foods via my route: If you choose to walk instead of ride a bike, know that there are not sidewalks taking you through the parking lot. Once you enter the shopping center from Madison, you are on a sidewalk that seems to belong to the Valvoline oil change center. After you leave that, you are on the ground sharing a fairly narrow area with parking lot drivers making time cutting through the back of a very busy lot. If you arrive by bicycle, a bike rack awaits you on the side of the building. It’s a shame they relegated bike parking to this obscure, out-of-sight location. I have always locked up to a light post right in front of the coffee bar. Another practical note: On my most recent visit, I found the convenient entrance I mentioned earlier to be closed, and a sign telling you to use the main entrance. Much less convenient. By the time I left, however, the sign was gone and the door usable. Not sure why.

Whole Foods offers self-serve water, which is always a big plus!

Nice going!

Self-serve water. Nice going!

Last time I was there, I noticed, on the other end of the counter, to my left, someone getting water from a bottled water cooler. It appeared to be self-serve for the customer as well. Weird. I’ll have to check out that option.

I will note it’s surprising that the counter here is kind of less than clean looking. I see newspapers have left remnants, and I’m not sure what else is going on. Plenty of plug-ins for your electronics though (haven’t confirmed that they are live).

III

IIIXXX

A couple of interesting things were observed as I Wholly enjoyed my beer. The first was perplexing, the second pretty cool. 1.) I observed three middle-aged/old men gather at the front of the parking lot and light up various smoking articles. Right there they stood, smoked and seemed to have planned to meet for an organized old-guy parking lot smoke. A Meetup Group?

Perhaps: "

2.) I saw a couple of guys in the store sporting UFC shirts and clothing. They were obviously into MMA fighting, but I assumed they were just fans that worked out and possibly trained. A bit later I saw a white Ford van in the parking lot. My first thought was this looks like the sort of van you see on TV that transports UFC fighters on the show “The Ultimate Fighter.” I then saw a few of these UFC decked-out guys go out and get into the van. Turns out, later that week I just happened to find a UFC event on TV – on the lowly cable package we have. Watching it, I saw them show a Cincinnati Bengals player in the audience. It clicked. The guys and the van I saw at Whole Foods were with the UFC and some of them were probably fighters participating in the event that I found out was taking place at US Bank Arena. As a fan of, and student of MMA, I find this pretty neat!

xxxxxx

Don’t confront.

Ending on a couple of random notes, I’ll sign off this account of an odd, awesome beer enjoying opportunity. I hope you experience it sometime.

Join me on my next adventure. Cheers and keep spinning those spokes!

An Adventure to Mayday and Northside Tavern

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Join me as I roll over to the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati to visit Mayday Northside and Northside Tavern. Both these places feature local craft beer (as thankfully just about every drinking and eating establishment does these days!). They also feature craft beers from other regions. The point is: good beer available and thus worth visiting.

For me, the craft beer is just about the only reason to visit Northside Tavern. That and its decent prices, especially during happy hour.

I discovered Mayday Northside more recently and narrowly decided to give it a try. Turns out I like it better than Northside Tavern. This opinion may change with future visits however. It happens that on my maiden visit to Mayday, there was a good bartender there who was professional and nice. He and I, in fact, wound up talking a fair bit. It was an indicator that he’s a either a genuinely open, friendly guy or understands the true meaning of customer service. He made me feel welcome despite the fact I didn’t visually fit the place’s vibe (as I rarely do anywhere). As I’ve talked about before, I certainly don’t expect or want my beertender to make conversation with me. I simply expect prompt, courteous service.

On that topic, I will mention that there is a bartender at Northside Tavern that has done a good job as well. Her name I remember as Billy. She’s a nice lady and makes the difference between my wanting to return and not bothering. One night springs to mind. I had made the ride to Northside Tavern from Pleasant Ridge using the longest route shown on the map (10 miles). It was this past winter and the temperature was about 20 degrees, not counting the wind chill, when I embarked on the adventure. Temperatures dropped as I rode, I believe. Snow also began to fall. I was using my mountain bike and riding on sidewalks for part of the journey. The ride took about an hour. By the time I was a few miles away, I was not having any fun. My hands were numb and I felt frostbite setting in on parts of my legs (wearing shorts as always). Billy was so sweet as she offered a bunch of concern – concern  I didn’t need, but appreciated. She gave me a mug of hot water to sip. She also all but insisted that I call a cab for a ride home rather than attempting to ride home. See, the weather was expected to deteriorate soon. She wrote down the number of three cab companies for me. What a sweet lady.  Turns out the ride home (who am I kidding – to MadTree Brewing) was much more enjoyable than the ride there. I think the wind was at my back a lot more.

Check out my map from Pleasant Ridge to Northside. It includes three routes. My preferred route is the one that includes the information pins.

http://goo.gl/maps/fqIId

I don’t have any pics of my visits to these two spots, and I don’t know if I’ll invest time in any updates to this post. The story’s pretty much told. Northside Tavern and Mayday Northside fit that description of several of the taverns I’ve experienced in Cincinnati. Gritty. Dirty in some cases. Offering a bit of relief from the silly-high prices many places charge for beer around here.

Next time I roll over to Northside, I’ll likely try Mayday first. If it goes like last time, it’ll be my only stop in the neighborhood.

I look forward to our next adventure together.

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

An Adventure to Habits Cafe. On Foot!

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Join me as I stroll – not roll – down to Habits Cafe in Oakley. As I pointed out in my previous post, I have an arm that I had to have operated on. It kept me off my bike for weeks, and kept me from typing with two hands for a while as well.

Interesting graffiti in the bathroom.

Interesting graffiti in Habit’s bathroom.

During that time, I wasn’t going to let it keep me down, or inside the house! Living in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Cincinnati, options are few in terms of decent places to get a pint. MadTree is the obvious exception.

I’ve run down to Keystone Hyde Park, and its neighbor, Dutch’s. That run is three miles straight down Ridge/Marburg. Nothing exciting to report about that journey, though it’s a perfectly viable one especially with two wheel capability. The run is a bit annoyingly long, especially given the largely inhospitable conditions for pedestrians much of the way. Yes there are sidewalks most of the way, but it’s not a nice route. It becomes nicer as you get toward Hyde Park. I’m not being a snob here. In the ridiculousness that is Ridge Rd., or Marburg through most of Oakley, sidewalks are, in places, often blocked with trash like discarded mattresses, weeds and you name it – or the sidewalks are non-existant. A person out walking or jogging for pleasure or exercise is a rarity. Man, I can’t wait to get out of Pleasant Ridge.

More interesting graffiti.

More interesting graffiti.

One of the things my disability to ride a bike brought me was a bit of creativity in plotting an active beer outing.

The two Pleasant Ridge options, Gaslight Cafe, Molly Malone’s suck quite frankly. The service I’ve received there on my few visits has been abysmal. I know many people like those places, but crappy service, or lack of service all together (being ignored) is not my thing.

My mind turned to the question of where can I get on foot from here that’s viable? I give you this adventure’s route:

http://goo.gl/maps/QqOGE

For detailed information on what it takes to traverse Ridge Rd., see my post on Moerlein Brewery Taproom. The map of today’s adventure shows the same route down through there, but without the detail pins found in the map to Moerlein.

They have craft beer! Cutting edge! I almost walked home and got my car!

I passed this on my way there. A common phenomenon in these parts: a drive thru liquor joint. They have craft beer! Cutting edge! I almost walked home and got my car!

You get to leave lovely Ridge Rd. on the street where Steak & Shake is found. Cross the often busy street, then cut through parking lots. Pass in front of Target, then in back of Meier. Proceed across the movie theater parking lot. See the grass/dirt field ahead. Enter it, heading toward the chain link fence.

On my first tryout of this adventure that I had planned using Google Maps, I came very close to giving up and using the roadway instead of cutting through across the railroad tracks. I saw the fence, and didn’t see any openings in it, though I felt there had to be at least one. I knew for sure I wasn’t the first person who wanted to cut through here. At the last second, I saw a grocery cart in the corner of the fence to the right. Clearly this was here to help someone climb over the fence. Was I going to climb the barbed wire-topped fence with my arm in a sling? Of course not. But I moved toward the fence corner where the cart was located. I saw nothing viable. Turning back in defeat, my eyes scanned the fence one more time. That’s when I saw it. Behind the giant mound of dirt I assume was piled there during the excavation process for the building of the movie theater, I saw an opening in the fence! Eureka!

The interesting thing about this opening in the fence is that it appears a boulder rolled down the back of the hill and busted through the fence. It’s laying there on top of the knocked-down portion of the fence. Could it be that this opening in the fence, an opening which provides a critical link for walkers between Pleasant Ridge and Oakley was brought about by mere chance? Thought-provoking.

I crossed through with jubilance, then I crossed the railroad tracks. Right in front of me awaited a nice street with sidewalks. I was as good as there. A stroll through a neighborhood brought me to a sidewalk running along side Habits Cafe!

Habits is located in the heart of Oakley Square. It seems to have a restaurant side and a bar side, though seating for diners is throughout. The place is surprisingly lowbrow at the bar for what seems to also be a nice restaurant. Macro piss beer flows along side a nice little selection of regional and American crafts.

Every time I’ve visited, I’ve gotten decent-to-good service. They have almost always plopped a beer menu down in front of me, which I appreciate obviously. Their pricing on beer is surprisingly reasonable.

That’s about all I have to say about Habits.

I was quite psyched to find success on my snowy pedestrian adventure out of Pleasant Ridge and right into the back door of Oakley. Thankfully, I didn’t slip and fall on my arm at any point, which would have been pretty terrible.

Thanks for joining me on this unique outing. It really was an adventure for me with its uncertainty, discovery and success. It’s just what I needed at the time, and will hopefully come in handy some day for at least one of you readers.

I look forward to your company on my next adventure which will be awesomely on bicycle!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

Nice To Peck To You (Adventures Forthcoming!)

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Pedalpinters, I’m typing to you as a hunter-pecker tonight. See, I’ve got an arm in a splint. No, thankfully, I didn’t get hurt riding a bike.

As always, I’ve got numerous stories, routes and ideas to share with you. It’s going to have to wait until I can properly type, which should only be a few more days.

The next thing I will likely share with you is a little adventure on which I embarked just yesterday – on my thankfully very capable feet! Capable they need to be in order to ambulate on the sidewalks around here if snow has recently fallen. (The concept of clearing sidewalks here: not real popular among the city, the residents and businesses – just one of the ways non-motorized travelers in the Cincinnati region are underserved at best.)

This adventure, however, was a major victory for me in that I discovered a pretty direct connection between Pleasant Ridge and Oakley! This will resonate with Cincinnati dwellers. Pleasant Ridge offers me almost nothing of value besides lower housing cost, while Oakley offers much more – including the establishment which I visited for a couple pints.

Type to you soon!

Updated Jan 24: An Adventure to Fifty West Brewing

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Let’s cruise on down to Fifty West Brewing’s comfortable taproom. Actually it’s a restaurant and brewpub, but of course I treat it as a taproom. I’ve recently placed Fifty West near the top of my go-to beer joints. It’s pretty strange in a way that I, the fool who rides bicycles to breweries, would visit Fifty West whose theme is the automobile, or perhaps the American roadways.

Really though, I have some pretty epic memories of road trips that have spanned much of the country. I’ve moved around a lot and have taken some trips with nothing more than enough cash to cover gas. No roadside assistance. No credit card. No cell phone. Nothing but me, my earthly belongings, and my best friend (and enough kibble for him). Sadly, on one of my moves, under the stress of moving and all that comes with it, I left behind a bike that I sorely miss. I didn’t think I had room for it. If only I realized I could have strapped the thing down on the roof, on the grille, or somewhere. I had to leave a Hercules Centurion that I had bought at a thrift shop in Tempe, AZ. I left that trusty, interesting bike, into which I had invested some sweat, by the barn in the backyard of the house I was renting in a small town in Minnesota.

The great American road trip does hold a special place in my memory banks, though I realize I’m mostly remembering the good parts, not the bad.

Never mind all that, Fifty West is a local brewery. Nuff said!

A pleasing sight.

I must say that I have largely dismissed Fifty West until a couple weeks ago, despite the fact that we have precious few local breweries here in Cincinnati.

Pretty, eh?

Pretty, eh?

I developed the impression before I moved here that Fifty West was an overly expensive place that would almost always be too packed with people. I had not made it a priority, but did visit the place with my wife and child on one occasion – having a quick bite and a taster flight. On that visit I was able to check out the bar area and note that it was not as overrun with revelers as I expected. It seems pretty certain though that this place is going to be quite busy during peak hours.

Recently, I was running through my mental list of breweries and good beer joints and decided to give Fifty West a real try. I was excited to find that they are only about five miles from my current residence, which surprised me. I felt like Pleasant Ridge was somewhat far north, and they were south.

I found what is really one of the most enjoyable routes I have yet enjoyed in this town. Yes, as is my norm here in Cincinnati, I have traveled a good amount of the route on sidewalk for safety reasons. One of my two rides there was in the snow and that certainly dictates sidewalk riding around here. If I were to go with a group of fellow riders, however, the full on-street route would be pretty good.

Let me get you started with a map.

http://goo.gl/maps/nuXGR

December 27 update follows:

I recently returned to Fifty West, enjoying my nice route on a Sunday afternoon. This was the Sunday before Christmas which might help explain the odd, unpleasing experience I found myself having. When I arrived, I found a predictable amount of patrons inside for a Sunday late afternoon. A few tables of youngish folks, some of those tables quite loud. After-Bengal folks, I figured. There were a few people at the bar, but a handful of open seats. Great! I grabbed a seat and got settled, peeling off a couple layers.

After enjoying a pleasant little while of sipping some Mooving Violation Stout, things began to change. A couple groups of people came in. Then more. And more, and more – many of them of the same age range and volume range as that of those couple of loud tables. It occurred to me that Fifty West tonight was the Fifty West I had thought Fifty West was.

In the following pics, the place may not look that busy, but I think I snapped these shots before it reached its silly peak. Some of them were taken from my seat at the bar. Some were taken as I walked to and from the bathroom.

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How did I manage to get these pics? Over the shoulder shots, and under the arm pit shots – concepts and techniques with which I came up that very night. It’s not creepy.

FiftyWestCrowd2

This expression sums up how I was feeling.

This is how I was feeling.

I told these guys to quiet down. Just kidding. I did not.

I told these guys to quiet down. No, I did not.

I figure this was unusual for a Sunday evening, and this was pretty much confirmed by a guy named Wit that I spoke with outside as I was getting ready to saddle up and take off. Turns out, Wit is one of the owners and brewers – a very nice guy. He was cordial enough to speak to me, asking if I had a good time. I do try to be honest, so my response indicated a just okay experience. See, Wit seems to get it right. He wouldn’t let that go. I told him I didn’t want to call anyone out, but he pressed and I went ahead and explained to him the biggest problem with Fifty West (the same problem I had experienced on my prior visits): When it gets busy, the bartenders (yes, they serve liquor here too, so I don’t call them beertenders) do too much ignoring of the customers sitting at the bar, serving instead the folks who walk up to the bar. I did way too much sitting there with an empty glass or waiting to pay, getting ignored as the bartenders focused on moving the crowd of walk-ups.

I did, in fairness, tell Wit that I had found the staff to be professional and courteous for the most part. The problem remains however. He apologized and explained that they were not expecting the crowd that evening. That’s nice, but it doesn’t address the problem. Oh well. I appreciate the contact. I really do.

Now let’s look briefly at the route from Pleasant Ridge to Fifty West. Consult the map for additional details. Heading east on Woodford Rd. from the intersection with Ridge Rd., I ride the sidewalk. This stretch, despite its residences on both sides, sees fast-moving traffic driven by Cincinnati drivers that are not respectful of cyclists. It’s a “cars rule” area if I may coin a term. The road curves right and soon goes over a railroad track. The majority of traffic makes a left turn near here, but we’ll go straight, heading onto what is unquestionably a residential street. The street is now named Robison Rd. Though this is a residential street, it’s still in a bike unfriendly area of course. Further, this is a popular cut-through for drivers seeking to get to southbound Kennedy Ave.

This is what we are going to do. When the road curves right, make a left turn to stay on Robison Rd. Ahead you see the somewhat busy Kennedy Ave. Turn right onto Kennedy, and you may choose to go ahead and ride on the roadway. The first time I took this route it was dark outside, and I didn’t know how much of a descent it was going to be, or how bumpy the road was. With drivers behind me, I rode the brakes due to low visibility and a headlight that wasn’t of the caliber capable of actually lighting your way (just capable of notifying drivers of  your presence). My poor wheels took a beating that night. On subsequent daytime trips through here, I have done pretty well on the road, flying on down and making fast progress.

After your descent you reach a stop light intersection. Just after that is an overpass crossing I-71. Use caution, as soon you reach the onramp onto which drivers are wishing to zoom without having anything slow them down. Do what you must to get their attention and let them know you intend to go straight (duh).

A very significant landmark is now in view on your left: MadTree Brewing. Yes, you are correct in assuming that MadTree is one of my regular stops. I have yet to write anything about them. Heck, I may tack them onto this post at a future date.

This area has been under construction for some time now. The project aims to extend Kennedy Ave. down to Madison Rd., which seems like a great idea. What we do here is follow the curve to the left onto Duck Creek Rd. This curve is not a great place to be as a cyclist, but hopefully you’re decked out in visible gear. On the map, I indicate that you should soon seek to get onto the sidewalk on the north side of the road, but recently it occurs to me that your next turn is so close, you may want to just stay out on the road.

Your next turn is Oaklawn Dr. – a right turn. This stretch is debatable in terms of road ride vs. sidewalk. Depends on current conditions. It’s only about 1500 ft. until your left turn at the stop light intersection with Madison Rd. It’s about two miles on Madison through some not-so-nice areas, but nothing too bad. For some reason, I feel fairly okay with being on the road here, but if traffic was hectic, I’d use the sidewalk. I certainly did on a snowy trip.

You’re looking for your nice right-hand curve into Plainville Rd. You don’t have to stop, but as the sign indicates, use caution. It’s about a mile on Plainville Rd. until you turn left at a stop sign intersection at Murray Ave. which curves right and becomes Madisonville Rd. This stretch is brief and leads you to a stop light intersection which allows you to turn left onto Wooster Pike (U.S. 50).

Cruise largely downhill on Wooster Pike, passing some big shopping centers. I have found it feasible to road ride here, but have not yet been here during a particularly busy time. Of course should you choose to sidewalk ride along this stretch, you will find that it disappears after the big shopping center.

Fairly soon, you see a big green sign over the road ahead that indicates Newtown Rd. If (I said If!) you can find a break in traffic in order to safely cross over the road and onto the sidewalk on the north side of the road, do so. Otherwise, proceed to the stop light at Newtown Rd., use the crosswalk which is located on the far side of the intersection, then come back toward Fifty West which lives in the big white house which will now be on your right.

So far, I’ve always been the only person at the place who arrived by bike, so I lock up to the railing outside the front door – the best parking spot in the place!

I’ll talk a bit more about my experiences at Fifty West, and about some of their beers next.

January 24 update follows:

 

FiftyWestBarShotNice

Fifty West has some beers I’ve found tasty and have enjoyed in their cozy, attractive bar area. I think the environment would be improved a bit if the TV behind the bar in the corner were not present, especially given that the ambient lighting is fairly dim.

FiftyWestTV

On this most recent visit I was offered a snack by the bartender, which I appreciate. Have a look at this:

What are these? Thanks though.

What are these? Thanks though.

The beers that I have liked are the Mooving Violation chocolate milk stout, the Coast to Coast, their standard IPA, the Coffee Please stout (brewed with local coffee from nearby Madeira), and their two big IPAs, Spooner Summit, and the cleverly named Punch You In The Eye PA.

Makes me feel big.

The largest coasters around?

One very refreshing thing about Fifty West is the simplicity of their pricing. All their beers (almost all) are $5, tax included. If I recall, all their growler fills are $10, tax included. One surprise I received was delivered with my Coffee Please stout: It costs more, and comes in a snifter, despite tipping the scales at only 6% ABV. Produced in a pretty small batch at a high cost, I assume. Just wish this budget-conscious beer lover had warning.

I’ll go ahead and mention something that needs mentioning here while we’re talking beers and growlers: When I’ve gotten my own growlers filled here, they have gotten dunked in soapy water, then in the sanitizer sink. Yes, they then rinse the growlers with water on that device below the taps that sprays water upward. This isn’t cool with me though. I keep my growlers clean and do so without ever using soap or any other cleaner. It’s about water, agitation and exposure to air when stored. I asked about this, and the bartender (nicely) explained that there is a local law that states something like because they are a restaurant they must do this with outside vessels. The couple of growlers of Spooner Summit I’ve gotten on different occasions have both tasted bad at home. Could there be a link?

I understand the building that houses Fifty West has quite a rich history. I’m not going to take the time to look it up again tonight; I’ll let you.

On the way to the restroom.

The rich, historical trip to the restroom.

Also on the way there. I always like it when the brew equipment is on display.

Also on the way there. I always like it when the brew equipment is on display, and this is framed tastefully inside a window.

My beer and bathroom water.

My beer and bathroom water.

One potentially great feature of Fifty West Brewing is that they are located quite near one of the area’s only significant bike trails. This of course doesn’t help me in the area of town where I currently live, and doesn’t help a whole lot of the Cincinnati area residents, but it could come in very handy for those who live near any part of the Loveland Bike Trail, or the short, pretty much adjoining section in Newtown. Those folks, if they wished, and were able, could roll out of their garages, mount up and hit a local brewery/restaurant, enjoying the protected joy of a separated bike trail most of the way. I hope more people do! Right now I’m remembering longingly Seattle’s Burke Gilman.

I also hope you’ll join me on my next adventure!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

 

Updated December 13: An Adventure to Christian Moerlein Brewery Taproom

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Join me as I roll on over to Christian Moerlein Brewing’s taproom in the Over The Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. Moerlein beer is a standard in this town. You find it in all the stores, and they have a beautiful, upscale restaurant/Lager House down by the water in Downtown. That establishment is not what we’re going to visit on this adventure, though it does serve its purpose (and did so especially when I briefly lived in Covington, KY, just a bridge away). No, we’re talking the brewery taproom.

Nice logo. They have a very cool graphic identity.

Nice logo. They have a very cool graphic identity.

I didn’t initially know about the taproom when I moved here, and have been very pleased with it. Yes, it’s in the same nasty neighborhood that I described in my post on Rhinegeist Brewery, but it’s definitely worth visiting. The brewery taproom is a unique atmosphere with so much to offer the lover of local craft beer.

A very great place to lock up. Just up the steps is the taproom. I love that I don't have to leave my bike outside in this neighborhood.

A very great place to lock up. Just up the steps is the taproom. I love that I don’t have to leave my bike outside in this neighborhood. It’s not official bike parking, but no one has said anything.

I’ll get you started with a map of my route to the taproom from Pleasant Ridge. Examine the map and its details and tips, then stay tuned.

http://goo.gl/maps/70AAG

December 13 update follows:

MoerleinPig

As I have taken to doing these days, more detail has been included on the map so I can devote less space here in the text to describing the routes. Just click on the various pins for info.

This first section does warrant some detailed description. Setting out from Pleasant Ridge, we’ll start at the intersection of Woodford Rd. and Ridge Ave. As you see on the map, this area is not bike friendly in the least. Cars and their drivers rule these streets. I don’t know who originally named Pleasant Ridge, but I’m confident they were not a cyclist. Ride at your peril. Personally, I ride the sidewalks through here.

Head south on Ridge. I am riding on the sidewalk on the east side of the road. Unfortunately, shortly after you bump over the railroad tracks the sidewalk disappears, a bumpy beaten path taking its place.

If this doesn't prove Cincinnati needs to put in a sidewalk here, what does?

If this doesn’t prove Cincinnati needs to put in a sidewalk here, what does?

Proceed, and at the stop light intersection you come to next, cut into the parking lot of what is apparently a former Kmart. Cutting through here, paralleling Ridge, gains you some separation from silly hectic Ridge Ave. At the end of the parking lot, go down the short grass hill that dumps you at the driveway of a Gold Star Chili place. Now you have your sidewalk back. Of course be in high alert, as drivers will likely not see you, and almost certainly will not yield to you.

Still on the sidewalk on the east side of Ridge Rd., traverse many more business driveways, the majority of them belonging to fast food places. Before too long you reach an intersection beyond which is the bridge over I-71. Here it gets especially interesting. I’ve got the routine down, as this is the only way to get from my house to the Target store. You’ll definitely want to dismount here and walk/run. Bump onto the narrow sidewalk of the bridge over the interstate. Just after the end of that sidewalk, step down about a foot onto the dirt, then step over a square utility box of some sort directly in your path that sticks out of the ground maybe 10 inches. From here, you have a great vantage point of the big circular offramp which brings cars you’ll have to wait for. You are standing in what feels like a precarious spot as, were a driver to turn too sharply,  you have just about a couple feet of separation. I plan to jump over the guard  rail if this ever happens. But really, you do have a great vantage point from which to watch cars coming and find your opportunity to cross over the offramp lane and onto the dirt then continue your trek south on another bumpy beaten path.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you ride/walk around here, you’ve really got (how do the kids say?) street cred. You’ve got to want it. The route is actually pretty doable, but I realize it will be utterly unpalatable to most cyclists. Me? I’ve got no choice. I refuse to be relegated to my car by my crappy surroundings.

Next, you arrive at a spot that feels nice. It’s a very large concrete pillar beside which you have protection from any vehicle that may come careening. This is at the currently closed Duck Creek Rd. Cross over the street onto the sidewalk and proceed to the next intersection where you have a crosswalk with a walk button. Cross over onto an island where you need to cross one more lane of traffic – the offramp from the Norwood Lateral Parkway. Here be very careful! Even though you are crossing in a crosswalk, there is no line of sight from drivers roaring off the Parkway toward you. They can’t see you, and aren’t looking for you. Assume 100% that you must wait for them, or you will probably be wiped out. Problem is you can’t really see them either. You must gauge how many cars are coming down the offramp when you are crossing over onto the island in order to have an idea what is heading your way. With haste, cross when you have a chance onto the sidewalk and proceed up the hill.

As I write this, I am chuckling inside. It really sounds atrocious, doesn’t it? Well, this is the state of non-motorized infrastructure, and of drivers’ mindset in the Cincinnati area.

Now on the west sidewalk of Ridge Ave. heading the same direction as traffic, continue to keep eyes and ears peeled, as most drivers will not give you your legal right of way at cross streets and driveways. They will turn right in front of you. That is just the way it is in this town. Make your way forward to Madison Rd. where you turn right. When you find a good spot and time, mount up and get out on the roadway, finally beginning your “ride.”

On this stretch of Madison, there are sharrows symbols in the road. Yep, there actually are. There are, in fact, also bike lanes on Madison that appear and disappear. Enjoy the approximately 8 mile blast along Madison. Expect congestion at certain points such as near Edwards Rd.

As described on the map, turn left onto what is ultimately Vine St., but at this point is called Jefferson Ave. Proceed on a road without bike lanes, if I recall, but is downhill. The name changes to Vine St., and at a certain point becomes a pretty steep, fast descent. It’s fun.

Soon you wind up in the Over The Rhine neighborhood. It’s not a safe place to be but I assume you’ve either chosen to ride here here in daylight or have some friends with you. At Liberty St., cross over onto the sidewalk to your left (not crossing over Liberty). The next street you come to is Moore St. Turn left.

Ahead on the sidewalk you will find on your left the entrance to the Moerlein Brewery and Taproom. I have found the double doors open when the place is open. There is also usually a sandwich board out on the sidewalk. I don’t know if in cold weather the doors will be open.

Ahead. See it? A beacon of hope.

Ahead. See it? A beacon of hope.

Here's one of the open doors.

Here’s one of the open doors.

Across the street you see a small area of parking for the taproom. There is also a larger, I believe paved, parking lot for the taproom that you passed before arriving here.

The across the street parking lot devoted to Moerlein.

The across the street parking lot devoted to Moerlein.

Enter and see a large space, but see an equally large arrow on the wall directing you forward toward the taproom.

View from near the "bike tie out" toward the entrance.

View from near my “bike parking” toward the entrance.

Climb a few steps and enter a large, unique space. The ceiling has to be the most interesting, cool feature of this place. It looks to me like some of the ancient Gothic church interiors. Arches blend into arches and still more arches, forming the ceiling. Neat. A very cool place to drink a beer.

the

The place is nicely appointed. Attractive lights hang from the ceiling. The seating consists of nice, I’m sure repurposed, benches. This large space is ideal for friends to come and revel. Pool playing is available (for free, I think!). Cornhole awaits the interested. There is a super-sized “Jenga” game made of 2x4s. There is a juke box that also can take pictures of you and your buzzed friends for a fee. Apparently Moerlein is targeting, just as is Rheingeist Brewing, the younger crowd that finds it hip to make forays into this “up and coming” neighborhood for evenings of entertainment.

The place, however, also provides a nice place for more mature folks to either join a group of friends or belly up to the very nice shiny bar for a view of the game, or most importantly, a couple pints of some pretty good local beer.

MoerleinBartop

Quite neat place at which to sit with your beer.

A neat spot at the bar.

Moerlein’s beer occupies space on shelves of most, if not all, the markets and liquor stores in the area. I initially viewed it as a quality, but barely “craft” beer. I know the Moerlein name enjoys a deservedly rich, important history in Cincinnati beer and beer in America.

I had found, however, their beer to be nothing special, the lineup consisting of mainly unmemorable beers hovering around the  5.5% ABV mark, conjuring impressions of semi-mass-produced mediocrity. My favorites from Moerlein were their OTR, a unique-tasting amber, and Northern Liberties, their IPA which reminds me the Interurban IPA from Seattle’s awesome Fremont Brewing.

My opinion has recently changed though as I have tasted surprising beers such as Helltown Brown, and their coffee porter with one of the most pronounced coffee flavors I’ve experienced, their Christkindle winter warmer, and more.

Okay, I’m impressed and excited, Moerlein. These beers all sport a more substantial potency which, while I recognize has nothing directly to do with quality or viability, does reflect something different from what I thought Christian Moerlein was capable of, and willing to, provide.

I’m taking Moerlein beer more seriously now. I was already appreciative of them as a local brewery, but now they rank, in my mind and on my palate,  among true craft breweries.

Twelve taps of beer including, somewhat strangely, at least a couple Hudepohl beers.

Twelve taps of beer including, somewhat strangely, at least a couple Hudepohl beers.

I have found the service here to be good. The beertenders have often engaged me in a bit of conversation. This is certainly not something that I require (or often want), but it appears to point to management’s policy that the employees be professional and welcoming.

All beers are $5 per pint. I don’t recall them providing self-serve water for the customer, so bathroom water it is. They are big on their tours, some of which take you through some historic underground areas. I want to take one of these tours someday, but never seem to have the time.

Overall, I love this place so far. Christian Moerlein Taproom, I’m very glad to have you around.

If I were to return home after dark, I would likely not retrace my outgoing route, as I would face a fairly steep ascent through some very rough neighborhoods. Instead I would head down to downtown then proceed along the waterfront, using the route I detailed in my post on Double Barrel Brewing.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. I look forward to our next one!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

 

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