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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.

yyyy

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!

 

Updated Nov. 21: An Adventure to Rivertown Brewing and Listermann Brewing

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Here’s a great ride I recently discovered. It took me from my Pleasant Ridge (Cincinnati) home to the awesome Rivertown Brewing in Lockland, then to Listermann Brewing right across from Xavier University.

Industrial. This building reminds me of Two Beer's building in Sodo, Seattle.

Rivertown Brewing. Industrial. The outside of this building reminds me of Two Beer’s building in Sodo, Seattle.

Both these places are great. I will get you started with a map of the route I took, complete with tips and relevant information.

http://goo.gl/maps/uKYte

Rivertown Brewing is one of my favorites in town. I am always reminded of a couple of the breweries in Poulsbo, WA and Kingston, WA. These two adjacent towns are, oh, how do I describe it, rather no-frills, blue-collar-ish towns. The naval base is relatively close which strengthens this effect. These two down-to-earth establishments stand in contrast to most of the breweries in Seattle, just a few miles across the Sound. You are enjoying the company of some really nice folks who aren’t overly concerned with how you dress or things of that nature. Many of them are open to striking up a conversation, though I am prone to receiving some “you ain’t from around here, is you” stares as I enter – especially having ridden a bicycle.

Rivertown has that same feel to me, and stands somewhat in contrast to MadTree, most certainly to Rhinegeist, and of course to Fifty West which is a brewpub complete with nice restaurant. As I write this, however, it strikes me that Listermann Brewing and Double Barrel Brewing are also similar in their blue-collar feel (forgive me for overusing the term). Maybe it’s this – the most significant quality of Rivertown Brewing – their $4 price point on pints. Both the aforementioned small town Western Washington breweries charge $4 for pints. Yes, the Rivertown  beers that are higher in alcohol are $5, but most of them are $4. That’s including tax.

I know many of you are thinking: “Come on, man! Live a little. What’s an extra dollar or two?” Well, while local craft beer is worth paying for, and their makers worth supporting, I have yet to hear an explanation of why some small breweries can pay their bills while charging $4/pint and others claim they have to charge $5. Rhinegeist, for some reason, has chosen to charge $6 as their starting point. It’s more than a matter of a few buck here and there. If local craft beer is one of your passions, it adds up; and face it: many of us don’t have a lot of money to throw around. Further, the price of beer is a very important thing. Question: How many of you don’t give a rip when the price of gas goes up? How about the price of a gallon of milk? Or the price of a pack of cigarettes (for you poor folks that smoke) (what is it, 5 or 6 dollars a pack now?) It matters. Not only does it have an impact on your budget, but once consumers accept a higher price, the price rarely ever goes back down. No, overall, it only moves in one direction.

So, thank you, Rivertown, for your $4 (and $5) price point.

By the way, if any of you are going to argue that quality has anything to do with the pint price, I give you Sound Brewing in Poulsbo, WA. Or, now that I think about it, Silver City’s Brewery Taproom in Bremerton, WA which I believe is also at $4. (See my posts on those two breweries).

SoundPorterPint27April2011

Poulsbo, WA’s Sound Brewery taproom goodness.

Silver City Taproom goodness.

Bremerton, WA’s Silver City Taproom goodness.

Go ahead and try to argue the quality of those beers. I will submit to you (though I don’t claim to be possessed of a particularly intellectual palate) that Rivertown Brewing’s beers are of fine quality. I don’t find anything better about Rhinegeist’s beer than Rivertown’s beer – though the people who run Rhinegeist choose to charge 50% more for a pint.

Now, I know I have just taken up for Rivertown mightily, but I will admit it’s confusing to me that in terms of the price of their bottled beer in stores, they are just as expensive as the other locals. The price of beer in Cincinnati is a topic unto itself and Rivertown falls in line with local convention when it comes to bottles.

Rivertown makes some tasty beers, and offers a nice variety. Standouts for me are their Roebling Vanilla Espresso Porter and their Hop Baron Double Down IPA. I just had the pleasure of paying another visit to Rivertown last night and was pleased to try their Winter Ale. Good, but sweeter than I like.

I have gotten a full flight of tasters in the past and found the beers to be fine, though I must say most of them are at least a bit more “sessionable” than I like. Their Hop Bomber is a good pale ale with pronounced hop flavor (which it had better have with that name). The Dunkel is good as well.

Allright, let’s hit the road. The route from Pleasant Ridge to Rivertown Brewing is pretty nice overall. I’ve sought out some residential street options and the route even includes a pedestrian overpass – always a favorite thing of mine. My written description of the route will be more brief than in some previous posts, as I have gone to greater verbal detail in the map. Just click the pins for information.

Head out from Pleasant Ridge at the intersection of Ridge Road and Woodford Road. Go south on the sidewalk of Ridge just a short distance until you reach Parkview Ave. where you take a right. This runs you along the north side of Pleasant Ridge Park, though houses separate you and the park. Turn left on Lester Rd, then right on Douglas Terrace.

There is a stop light at busy Montgomery Rd. Cross over diagonally and continue now on Langdon Farm Rd. The Saturday I set out on this adventure it wasn’t busy on this road. It was pretty nice going actually. It’s downhill this direction and I put myself out on the roadway due to my speed. Suddenly a very pleasant surprise appeared – bike lanes! This was getting good.

At Seymour Ave. you go by Cincinnati Gardens. I haven’t heard anything about this place other than seeing, by sheer coincidence, that a somewhat lesser known pro wrestling event was going to be held there sometime soon after this adventure.

Now, you’re looking for the entrance to a shopping center on the right which, on the map, is Hirsch Dr. It has a couple of smaller rectangular signs at ground level which display the name of the major current tenant, which is some sort of community outreach or something. Make your way in through this parking lot, but note that currently it is under construction, so you must go to the right of chain link fencing and skirt that line all the way out to Seymour Ave. Turning left, you must go along Seymour a short distance, crossing over where you can – perhaps at the intersection with Hirsch Ave.

Continue N, NW on Hirsch through what is pretty much a road through commercial properties. It has some curves and takes some turns through a less than idillic yet not overly dangerous-feeling setting. You arrive at Losantville where you turn left and cross over Reading Road. The road changes names to Kenova Ave. Shortly, turn right on Elmshade Ave., a residential road.

When you arrive at Section Rd., turn left. It takes you a short distance to a pedestrian overpass over I-75 where you have the pleasure of rolling in utter safety from drivers. Ahead there is a train track. I encountered a train on this day, but it was fast moving and cleared in about 3 minutes.

Pleasing.

Pleasing.

Suckers.

Happy to be in this cage.

The road comes to a T at a fairgrounds. Turn right onto Anthony Wayne Ave. It takes you, pleasingly,  under some busy roads. Continue, now, on what were not overly busy roads for me. The sidewalk on the right side (heading toward Rivertown) goes away before too long, but there is one on the other side. There is a short bridge you have to cross, and it has you out on the roadway. I don’t expect drivers in this region to be at all bike aware or friendly, though I had almost no bad experiences riding on the road here on this particular day.

After about three miles you reach the intersection at Shepherd Ln./Dr. Turn left. From there it’s a short distance until you see, on your left, the building that houses Rivertown and other businesses. I don’t recall ever seeing a sandwich board out, so you just have to recognize the building. As I point out on the map, the building is  sort of terra cotta colored (see the pic at the top of this post) masonry on the bottom and tan metal on the top half. The building is set back from the roadway and you will be looking at the end of it as opposed to the front or back.

Ride on into the parking lot, but please beware of something I discovered: There is a towing company called Millenium Towing located beyond Rivertown, and its employees, based on a couple examples that I have seen, irresponsibly and rudely drive insanely fast through the parking lot.

I have taken to locking my bike up to the gas meters/pipes a bit beyond the second of two doors with “taproom” on them. There is, of course, no bike rack at Rivertown.

Enter and find a no-frills, yet nicely appointed taproom.

Beers listed on individual signs complete with ABVs (thank you).

Beers listed on individual signs complete with ABVs

There is no self-serve water here, nor is there a sink behind the bar where the beertender might refill you water. But I am used to refilling my water bottle in the bathroom sink. Speaking of sinks, I imagine Rivertown’s serving their beers in plastic cups is due to the taproom not being set up to wash glasses. Do I enjoy drinking my craft beer from a plastic cup? Of course not. But I still like Rivertown. Interestingly, the other brewery I visit on this adventure also serves their beers in plastic. This is something I had no idea went on until I moved here.

One pleasure of visiting Rivertown is seeing and interacting with Nugget. Nugget is the brewery cat taken in off the street/parking lot. A beautiful little boy, this cat is pretty social. They do make a point of trying to keep him off the bar and tables.

Awwww.

Awwww. Young Nugget seems to have a good life these days.

A couple tasters and a Roebling. Oh, and free pretzels complete with mustard!

Rivertown’s theme of historic Cincinnati.

A couple tasters and a Roebling. Oh, and free pretzels complete with mustard!

A couple tasters and a Roebling. Oh, and free pretzels complete with mustard!

A particularly nice feature of Rivertown is the free pretzels, usually accompanied by mustard! I can think of three breweries in Seattle that offered free pretzels, and some that charged for them. Very nice to have this here. Again coincidentally, my next stop today, Listermann Brewing, would also offer, if a bit less freely, free pretzels and/or chips of some kind.

The price on growler fills here at Rivertown, is awesomely in line with the pint price. A note on the growler fills though: I noticed on past visits that they spray sanitizer on the top margin of the exterior of the growler after filling and capping it. On my most recent visit, I noticed they also spray quite a generous amount of sanitizer inside your growler prior to filling it. They dump the sanitizer out of course, but I really don’t like the idea. I have read that these sanitizers used in brewing are safe, but I don’t trust this. I requested to have my beertender refrain from using it inside my growler, and he readily agreed. I realize that Rivertown not having plumbing behind the bar is probably a big part of the reason for their sanitizer use (most places run some water into customers’ growlers before filling), but I like to opt out.

Thanks, Rivertown for being a friendly, down-to-earth, affordable brewery taproom.

Next, off to Listermann Brewing.

November 21 Update Follows:

Leave Rivertown and retrace your route on Wayne Ave going south for about 2.25 miles. When you get to the fairgrounds and find City Centre Dr., turn left.  Enjoy your pedestrian overpass again which take you to Section Rd. Next take Elm Shade right, then Kenova left. Cross over Reading Rd. and the name changes to Losantiville Ave. Shortly, turn right on Hirsch Dr. where you ride through the curves of this commercial road. Turn left at Seymour Ave. and find, on your right, the spot where you emerged from the under-construction commercial property and ride along the chain link fence. Emerge onto Langdon Farm Rd. and turn left.

After about 1500 ft., you deviate from your outgoing route as you turn right on Rhode Island Ave. (it may also be called Section Ave., but at the intersection it is called Rhode Island), a residential road that takes you south. Ride about 1.5 miles to where you cross over Norwood Lateral Parkway. Proceed to where the road sort of Ts just after a conspicuous small yellow building where you dogleg right then left. The road changes names to Allison St. Next, the road Ts at Hopkins Ave where you turn right, then after a short distance turn left on Ivanhoe Ave.

Ivanhoe meets up with Montgomery Rd. where you turn right. You may want to sidewalk ride on this stretch of crazy Montgomery Rd. It’s not too far until you find Dana Ave. I recommend crossing over Dana Ave. then using the sidewalk to ride the remaining 1000 to 1500 feet until you find Listermann Brewing on your left.

Cool entrance. By far the fanciest thing about Listermann.

Cool entrance. By far the fanciest thing about Listermann.

Lock your bike up to the street sign just out front (it should go without saying there is not a bike rack here). Enter through a very cool stone doorway with a glass door. Listermann Brewing’s taproom is fairly small and basic. Listermann is also a homebrew supply store. Perhaps this lends to the very no-frills taproom ambiance. The only thing that makes this place look and feel pub-like or tavern-like is the very small “bar” that accommodates something like 4 people.  This is all fine with me though. All I really require is good beer for a good price served with professionalism and/or friendliness. Listermann delivers on 1.5 – 2 of those criteria.

See the shadow of the street sign that is our bike rack.

See the shadow of the street sign that is our bike rack.

Beers here are good and fairly interesting if only in their names and graphic identities. You’ve got the 562 Lateral, the Leopold, the Jungle Honey, the revered Nut Case peanut butter porter, Intergalactic IPA, Friar Bacon smoked bock and so on. I’ve tried all these. Another revered one seems to be Cincinnatus which is apparently a bourbon barrel aged stout. I have not had the opportunity to try this one. You see though, the creativity in the naming and identities.

As for price: $5 is the starting point. Well, this is the new norm. Just recently I paid another visit to Listermann and was reminded that their Nutcase is $6.

In terms of service, Listermann is good and bad. I’ve had some very good experiences with a certain beertender who is quite genuine and nice but lacks a sense of urgency and an awareness of how to effectively move customers through the line. I’ve also had an experience or two with a guy who is apparently an important person there and is not very friendly (or is at least rough around the edges and quite gruff).

I’m going to get a bit controversial here and mention that I’ve seen a few instances at Listermann Brewing of benefits being given to those who are friends of the ownership – as in discounted tabs or free beer. Now of course I know this sort of thing goes on at every place that pours drinks. What I’ve seen happen here is simply less hidden, and it’s not too enjoyable for us poor unimportant folks to witness.

The front window.

The front window.

Listermann Brewing’s taproom has a few small tables with chairs where one can enjoy their plastic cups of beer. Points are scored with me by their offering free self-serve water in the form of a water cooler (as in the traditional workplace type water cooler). Nice. Not only self-serve water, but bottled water tastiness! A big TV is hung up in the corner behind the bar, and on my most recent visit was blaring ESPN complete with all its commercials. Not a very classy or enjoyable touch.

My favorite beer by Listermann is probably Nutcase, the peanut butter porter with its subtle peanut flavor.

There is another line of beers here under the Triple Digit name. As I understand it, they are also brewed in-house. I have yet to hear the official meaning behind the name, but it seems to imply more potent beers. From memory, I think they do tend, overall, to be stronger. The one that comes to mind and that seems to most often be on tap is Aftermath, the imperial, or double, IPA which weighs in at some 10% ABV.

A good place to be if your phone needs charging.

A good place to be if your phone needs charging.

If you are male and need to use the restroom you’ll find that Listermann is one of the places that features a beer keg urinal. This unit’s makers have thoughtfully used the cut-out piece of metal turned it upside down and welded it back on as a catch pan to help keep the floor a bit cleaner. I haven’t noted yet whether this keg urinal is made from an old macro brewery’s keg, such as Bud or Miller, as are the others I have seen (at Diamond Knot brewing in Mukilteo, WA, and Emerald City Beer in Seattle).

Listermann is a solid local brewery that I’m glad we have here in Cincinnati. I understand its founders are the folks who started it all in terms of modern craft brewing in this town. Not surprisingly, they have a loyal following that (judging by the turnout at their annual Oktoberfest) is none too small.
To return to Pleasant Ridge from Listermann Brewing, take Dana Ave. to the right to where you turn left on Montgomery Rd. Sidewalk ride until, after about 3000 feet, find Williams Ave. and turn right. Williams Ave. treats you to some nicer, and some not-so-nice riding as you make your way, crossing over I-71, where the road changes names to Markbreit Ave and takes you out to Madison Ave. at Oakley Square. Turn left if you’re going to Pleasant Ridge. Madison takes you to Ridge Road which, as I point out in the map, is quite bike unfriendly and requires me, at least, to sidewalk ride.

Thanks for joining me in checking out these two nice local breweries. I’m psyched to find a reasonably doable route. I look forward to our next adventure!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

Updated Nov. 13 w/Shortcut: An Adventure to Double Barrel Brewing

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November 13 Update is italicized paragraph below, and new map link:

Pedalpinters, I recently paid another visit to Double Barrel and tried out a partly different route from Pleasant Ridge. It cuts off about 2.85 miles but sheds the separated trail aspect of the journey. It’s a good tradeoff. Of course if you’re coming from downtown Cincinnati or some point near the city’s southern border, use the route that includes the trail. Below is the link to the updated map that shows the shortcut (the orange line) on Linwood Avenue. Enjoy!

http://goo.gl/maps/76oTI

Join me as I roll along Cincinnati’s southern, waterfront border on my way to Double Barrel Brewing. This trip from Covington, KY was largely on bike lanes and separated multi-use paths! Cincinnatians will know to absolutely not get used to this.

This is one of many beer places I have biked, or run, to thus far during my nascent residency in the Queen City. I chose to share it with you at this time both because I actually went to the trouble of looking like a geek and taking pics there and because it stands in contrast to the brewery “reviewed” in my previous post: Rhinegeist.

Double Barrel is, as I understand it, an operation started by two Dads who used to take their kids to the same sports practices or something like that. Apparently they took out no loans to build and start this operation, and took some two years to open it – doing much, if not all, the construction work themselves. This is pretty respectable to me.

View from the bar. Side garage door open.

View from the bar. Side garage door open.

I’m not, however, in the business of trying to be especially in the know on the beer places I visit; so enjoy as I provide my impressions of and experiences at Double Barrel – and more importantly as always – the experience of getting there by bicycle!

I’ll start off by supplying you with a map, complete with comments and tips, of the route I used to adventure to Double Barrel by bicycle. The map (use the link below) includes both the route from my then residence in Covington, KY and a route from the Pleasant Ridge area.
When I was living in Seattle (actually, a 35 minute ferry ride across from downtown Seattle) I would map my routes from the ferry terminal. I figured this was a good choice of starting points for my maps because it’s downtown. Now that I live in a less central neighborhood of of my wonderful new city, it’s less clear from where I should start my mappings. Hopefully, though, it will be useful to many of you especially since I have mapped the route from two different starting points.

http://goo.gl/maps/d51Cu

November 04 Update Follows:

The route to Double Barrel from Covington is an interesting one that includes some riding on separated multi-use trails and a stretch of bike lane – two things that are very scarce in Cincinnati. Yes, I know we have the Loveland bike trail; I wonder though how useful it is in actually traveling from one place to another. My family and I drove to Loveland a few weeks ago to visit a neat pumpkin farm. It was funny to see how the town caters to bicycle riders and the notion of bikes. I must admit I haven’t researched exactly where the Loveland bike trail starts and ends, but I don’t know that it provides connectivity. I imagine the vast majority of its riders drove their bikes on their cars to their starting points. I’d welcome news that I’m wrong.

After rolling over the Roebling Bridge into Downtown Cincinnati, literally make your first right, staying on the sidewalk and going between a building and a green space. If you use Street View on the attached Google map, you’ll see trucks blocking the sidewalk. This is not uncommon here as there always seems to be some event that has crews setting up or tearing down. This stretch of sidewalk can be busy at times, mostly depending on the weather and what events are going on. So of course be courteous and give right of way to pedestrians.

I go this way because it is the only way I’ve found that doesn’t require carrying your bike up or down stairs. I wouldn’t like to be someone trying to get around here in a wheelchair.

Soon you’ll be going right behind the Moerlein Lager House where the wide sidewalk becomes a nice ramp and heads down to Joe Nuxhall Way. By the way, if you take a look at Street View here you will see the Lager House is under construction and not yet really there, as the photos were taken in 2011 or so.

The Moerlein Lager House is, to me, an upscale restaurant built to cater to sports fans and other Downtown revelers. Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. has a very long history in Cincinnati, but I’m not familiar enough with it to describe it. They do have another presence in town which is more my speed: the brewery and taproom located in Over The Rhine (the lovely neighborhood I wrote about in my post on Rhinegeist Brewery). Moerlein’s taproom is actually great and is one of the several places I have backlogged in my brain, awaiting write-ups.

Back to our adventure: After turning right onto the sidewalk of Joe Nuxhall Way, go across Mehring Way and onto the sidewalk there where you will proceed left and begin in earnest your off-street trip to where you venture out onto the roadway onto Riverside Drive. I will only provide highlights of the route along the waterfront here, as the details are too numerous. Consult my map and, like me, you’ll find your favorite way to navigate this area.

About the time you go under the first bridge, you may want to begin riding along the old railroad tracks that are right there in the midst of this spacious, non-motorized area along the riverfront. I find choosing this line lets you avoid some waiting for meandering walkers to recognize your presence.

In the area under the second bridge (the yellow one) you go by a children’s playground so use caution.

The trail becomes fine gravel not very long before you get to get the the driveway of a fancy restaurant that often has valet parking employees present. It is here that you may choose to get out onto the roadway. I do so if traffic is light. Otherwise you can just ride on the sidewalk, which I have not yet found busy.

After about 3000 feet, you need to get out onto the roadway if you haven’t already. Here, the path continues a short distance, but it’s easier to just join the roadway. This is adjacent to International Friendship Park, and there is a driveway that has a gate that consists of long arms that raise and lower. It’s there to keep drivers from inanely driving into the park area. I’ve found these arms up just a bit sometimes. But even if they’re not you can still get through on bike. The good news is that bike lanes start here! They have been recently installed, so they aren’t pictured on Street View.

The next significant thing you encounter is the road curving to the right as it goes under a railroad bridge. Here the bike lanes tell you to hug the inside of the curves, which I find unsafe. I think it’s better to put yourself farther out into the roadway in this curve to increase your visibility. Of course, how you ride is up to you.

Another landmark will come up on your left after a short while: Brew River Gastropub. It’s easy to miss it unless they have a sandwich board out (which they usually do). Brew River is a nice thing to have here, but it has its drawbacks, not the least of which is the crazy prices they charge for most of their beers. I will give them credit for their nice little policy of offering $1 off your first drink if you show a bike helmet. I may be wrong, but I assume they adopted this policy around the time that it became known that the bike lanes were going in.

A bit more than 1.5 miles farther, you get to leave the roadway and head onto a separated trail!

November 6 Update Follows:

The street you’re looking for is Corbin St. You go toward the water on a street which ends where a sidewalk begins (always a joyous thing!) with short metal poles blocking car traffic. The trail turns left and parallels the water, but not too closely. Soon you go through a park.

Now, I have to divulge that I have yet to understand what is the deal with the names of the trail(s) in this area of Cincinnati. There is “Ohio River Trail” and there is “Ohio Bicycle route 1″ – the latter being something that sounds pretty cool and useful. It’s not just here that I see signs for the “Bicycle Route 1.”

I know that there is a bike trail that takes you from this southeastern corner of Cincinnati all the way up to Columbus (some 100 miles). I don’t know how seamless that trail is. Most trails have many gaps and unclear areas in them. If this Cincinnati to Columbus trail was nice, complete and well-signed, it sounds like a great adventure. I picture starting out early, bringing food along, making the ride to Columbus, having a nice dinner and crashing in a hotel. Stay a day and a night in Columbus, then make the ride home.

Back to our adventure: Very shortly after the trail takes you through the park, it ends at a road where you turn left and go over to the main road (Kellogg Ave.) which the trail then runs alongside. You’re essentially riding on a sidewalk here and you must deal with crossing over driveways and side streets. Nice “trail” eh?

Soon you come to an intersection with Carrel St. where the trail ends. Turn left with the light and roll along the lovely street, passing Kellogg Auto Parts and its distinctive baby blue building and fence. Fortunately before long you see a crosswalk and, on the right, a trail complete with car-blocking poles! FYI: The map (and I definitely am familiar with seeing signs saying the same) has this section of trail labeled “Ohio Bicycle Route 0.” It’s zero now? Okay.

The trail takes a big curve to the left. Shortly you arrive at an intersection (with Airport Rd.) where the trail ends. What you need to do here is cross the street to the right (Wilmer Ave.). The trail picks up again and parallels Wilmer Ave. This is apparently now the Lunken Airport Trail.

This section of trail, while it is at least a separated trail, crosses many driveways and has many significant bumps (which of course are the enemy of your wheels especially if you have narrow road-wheels like me). After something like 1.5 miles, the trail curves right a bit and moves away from the roadway and runs by a big park. The trail comes to a point where you are about behind home plate of a ball field. You’ll see a drinking fountain ahead.

A very nice thing to have a working water fountain here at this relaxing stopping point.

A very nice thing to have a working water fountain here at this relaxing stopping point.

Don’t follow the trail as it branches to the right. Instead you have to leave the trail here and get onto the sidewalk of the roadway Wilmer Ave. Travel some 500 feet then go left at the stop light intersection.

It then curves around to the right and goes under an overpass. Immediately after going under this overpass, look left and see the three-level set of stairs – lighted at night – that take you up onto the overhead roadway and over the railroad tracks, then back down the stairways onto Eastern Ave.

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Proceed, from the base of these stairs, to your right and quite shortly you arrive at Double Barrel Brewing! I must mention an important point: Though I really like pedestrian overpasses, and find it a unique part of this adventure, it occurred to me on my return trip that the only benefit this pedestrian overpass – and all its stair-climbing – gains you is passage in the event of the presence of a train. On my return trip, I simply stayed on ground level and crossed straight over to where the base of the stairs are on the other side then proceeded on my route toward home. If I recall, I had to pick up my bike to get it over those railroad tracks.

Double Barrel’s building is no-frills which is, of course, the norm for small breweries. The funny thing about it is that its parking lot at least used to be overflow parking for the, I guess, well-known Terry’s Turf Club which is a bit down the street. I would imagine folks still park at Double Barrel then walk to Terry’s. Fortunately, having arrived by bicycle you won’t have to worry about finding parking!

When I arrived the evening of my first visit, it was starting to get dark. I found a middle-aged guy sitting out front smoking. Yes, smoking just outside the entrance/exit of a building: The accepted norm here in this region despite what I thought was a standard law stating there must be a 25 foot distance observed by smokers. It’s common practice for businesses to place ash trays directly outside their front doors. This is where my negative impression started but fortunately began to fade quickly as my visit unfolded.

I began to look for something to which to lock up my bike when the guy spoke up and said to me that if I was there for Double Barrel, I could take my bike inside and just lean it up against the bar. I figured he was an employee or maybe even a guest but it turns out he is one of the owners.

Thankful, I rolled my bike on inside and did just that, checking with the young man running the place inside. This guy, my beertender for the evening, turned out to be a very nice guy and did Double Barrel right as he presented their offerings in a genuine, friendly and accommodating fashion. He and I, in fact, spoke at length as I tasted a few of their beers, then ordered a pint or two more.

Belgian, Helles, Bad Tom, Old Abe, IPA (I believe, in that order)

Belgian, Helles, Bad Tom, Old Abe, IPA

Behind these doors is the brewing equipment.

Behind these doors is the brewing equipment.

Double Barrel’s signature, perhaps flagship, beer is Bad Tom. If I have the story straight, the man known as Bad Tom was the last person hanged in Kentucky. (Someone please correct me if I have the story wrong.) The really interesting part is that the owner I met that night (he came in and out of the taproom that evening and was a nice guy) is a direct descendant of Bad Tom.

Of the beers I tried on this visit, my favorite was Old Abe if I recall.

It’s interesting how the building’s layout has things, but the beer taps are not behind the bar. They, of course, have to be attached to a wall surrounding the cold room (or the beer can be carried by long lines from the cold room to the taps, but this is less than ideal). So you order a beer and the beertender walks out from behind the bar and over to the taps and pours it. Not at all important to me – just interesting.

Double Barrel offers free popcorn (seen on the far right of the photo of the taps). At least they offered it on the evening of this visit. Despite the knowledge that almost all popcorn you find contains things that aren’t good for you, I often succumb. On this adventure, I was short on food so I was especially grateful for the popcorn!

Through that little hallway beyond the taps are found the bathrooms. Note the popcorn machine on the right.

Through that little hallway beyond the taps are found the bathrooms.

During my visit, Double Barrel wasn’t busy. I believe it was a Saturday evening. I understand that it does get packed in there sometimes, so it must have been a fortunate fluke for me. It remains to be seen how the experience will be in there when it is busy, but I came away from this visit very happy.

I will describe the return trip as a simple reversal of the outgoing trip. I would like to mention that, to my great surprise, I encountered a Ghost Bike on this trip. It was located along the trail somewhere in the airport region. I did not expect that the culture of honoring, and bringing attention to, the people who have died at the hand of careless drivers would be found here. I saw several Ghost Bikes in the Seattle area, but the one here – especially alongside a bike trail – really took me by surprise. I don’t know if the deceased’s life was taken out on the roadway adjacent to the trail, or if it happened at a crossing with a road or driveway, but the Ghost Bike was locked to a signpost along the trail.

GhostBikeOnWayDblBarrel

Based on my initial experience, Double Barrel is a good brewery/taproom and I’m happy to have it part of our local beer scene. Its location is pretty far down in the corner of Cincinnati, but it seems to me the ride from my Pleasant Ridge location would be about as convenient as my ride from Covington. I look forward to more visits to this, one of our precious few local breweries!

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

A Visit To Rhinegeist Brewery

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It’s time to run on over to Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist Brewery. I apologize, but I don’t have any pics for this post. Read on and you’ll see at least one of the reasons.

Yes, loyal readers, my first visit to a Cincy brewery after moving here was not only human powered as always, but the only equipment I employed to help get me there was a pair of shoes.

Coincidentally, those shoes have something in common with my bikes: They were obtained at a very low cost. How fitting that, due to my slip up, they were the only shoes I had upon moving here (I let the movers pack up all my other shoes). Yes, these Nike Air athletic/trail-running shoes were bought at a yard sale in almost new condition for $1. I tried to offer the seller at least $5 but he didn’t want it. Here you see one of the perks of living in an affluent community as I did.

Same thing with the bike that we had delivered to our temporary apartment days later: Got it for free. It’s a Fuji Grand SE, probably from the 80s or earlier, in what seems to me to be near new condition. It had a destroyed rear wheel due to its being accidentally dragged behind a car when it slipped most of the way off a bike rack. I just needed to add a new (used) rear wheel – that I got for free from a nice little Seattle bike shop because the owner wouldn’t officially sell it as it had a flaw he considered to be dangerous – and a new (used) tire and I had myself a great, sturdy bike with lots of life left in it.

As alluded to, I was in my new city with no bike for a few days. When I got a little piece of free time, I hatched a plan to run from our Covington, KY apartment to Rhinegeist – a trip of some 2 miles or so.

It’s interesting that this post has thus far focused on saving money (well all my posts have that focus when you consider how much money riding a bike saves). Money is one of my biggest complaints about Rhinegeist Brewery. Their beers start at $6 per pint. I’d like to hear their justification for this. Do they believe their beers are 50% better than those of one of their Cincinnati counterparts, Rivertown Brewing who charges $4 per pint? Yes, I know $5 is the new $4. But a brewery going ahead and setting their base price at $6 sucks and should be taken very seriously by all beer lovers. Listen to me, people, this cracks further open the door for beer prices to continue to rise.

My take on the reason? They feel they can get away with it. Sadly, they’re right. It seems to me that what Rhinegeist is selling is not beer but an image. Yes, this is hippest of Cincinnati’s breweries. Beer made by hipsters for hipsters. The brewery is located in the gritty, gritty Over The Rhine neighborhood. It is in, I guess, a historic old brewery building. It’s industrial with historical cred. Rhinegeist’s Facebook presence, which of course is more important these days even than a website presence is, let’s just say, too cool for this aging beer lover. Their beer names are catchy and cryptic. Spikelet, Uncle, Truth, Fiction, Cougar. I know there must be meanings behind these names but I’m pretty sure I just wouldn’t get it.

Enter Saber Tooth Tiger, their imperial IPA. Yes, this beer is so awesome that a release party complete with early sign-up and admission charge was held. A release party for a beer from a brewery that is barely a year old? It must have been some good beer.

Let’s step back and take a look at the simple route I used to run to Rhinegeist.

After running across the Roebling Bridge on the awesome separated pedestrian/bicycle lanes, I went left at the roundabout then followed the curve to the right onto Rosa Parks St. which quickly becomes Vine St. From there it’s maybe 1.5 miles of running through downtown and waiting at the stoplights (or as is customary here, jaywalking as soon as there is a break in traffic) to where you take a left onto W Liberty St. From there, the next major street you cross is Race St., then the next major one is Elm St. where you turn right. Maybe 1/4 mile up Elm St. is Rhinegeist on the right. I have since discovered a better (less congested, safer) route into Over The Rhine that I will discuss in an upcoming post.

I first saw the parking lot they use on the left, and thought the next doorway into an old building (they’re all old) might be the entrance. I heard some loud talking behind that door but thankfully I chose not to try to open it. I thought I’d check things out and make sure I knew where I was first. So along I walked – in fear. Let’s shoot straight here: I’m a fit, man near somewhere near his prime with mixed martial arts and self-defense training and a nasty mean streak but I was afraid as a lone white person in this neighborhood. What? I don’t think we should be talking about this you say.

Allright, back to my assessment of Rhinegeist, which I realize will also draw plenty of ire. Oh well. In case you haven’t learned by now, I’ve got to call it as i see it. You deserve nothing less.

There I was walking up and down the sidewalk waiting for, I think it was, 4:00 when they were scheduled to open. I had found what looked most like their front door on the east side of the street. I would have taken a picture of it for you but I didn’t think it would have been smart to display my phone. To my relief, after a while a car pulled up and parked directly in front of the front door. From it emerged two folks who adjusted the odds slightly in my favor. I did go ahead and step up the concrete steps and try both glass doors at one point, but they were locked.

Finally on one of my saunters by the entrance I thought I heard some action at the door. The nice woman who had been standing by her car told me that she saw the front door being unlocked. I thanked her and again stepped up to the entrance where I found the open door. That was how Rhinegeist greeted its waiting customers: coming down, unlocking and opening the door and quickly disappearing into what I found was a somewhat confusing entrance. No signs welcoming you or courteously pointing the way to go. Just dark hallways and concrete flights of steps leading up. I get it. This is part of the appeal.

I went the way that seemed most logical. I kept ascending the flights of stairs. When I had gone as high as I could climb, a doorway opened up a view of an expansive warehouse area with no immediate view of anything indicating I was in a place customers ought to be. Finally my scan to the left revealed a bar in the distance. Okay, now I knew where to go.

Once I reached the mostly empty bar with its row of taps behind, I took a seat. Shortly the woman asked what I wanted. Now, I’ll give her a bit of credit – she did at least display some modicum of courtesy as she took my order, but that faded somewhat as my visit progressed and she became increasingly engrossed in whatever business she was conducting on her cel phone.

I inquired about tasters, which of course is the best way to experience the offerings of a new place. I agreed to the price and found the beers to be fine. Most of Rhinegeist’s beers are sessionable. Yes, it seems this is the new trend. So I enjoyed my 4.8% ABV Cougar and my 3.8% Uncle (Are you kidding me? This is pretty close to “3-2 beer” which I learned about during my extended stint in Minnesota) and my 5.5% Spikelet, etc. After, I ordered their other taster lineup that included a couple of beers from their “rarity” series. You know, what other breweries call seasonal or limited. I will mention the beer called Mosaic. This beer impressed me. Even at its somewhat diminutive ABV, it took my palate by surprise. Pretty tasty. This taster set included their beer named Truth. Surprisingly, Truth comes in at 7.2% and also happens to be pretty good.

Unfortunately, Truth costs more. Yes, Truth will cost you more than $6 per pint. It costs more in ingredients to make a stronger beer, you know.

I honestly don’t recall, but I do think I got to try, with great reverence, the Saber Tooth Tiger as well.

Two things give Rhinegeist any chance of seeing me there again: A while after I had been there, the beertender wheeled out a bucket of self-serve water. In addition to that, a stout, bearded young man who had been carrying out various tasks began to also man the taps. He and I actually struck up a conversation after a while and he turned out to be pretty cool and genuine. Rhinegeiest has no idea what a service that guy did their business that day.

After finishing my tastes, I went ahead and paid the, if I recall, $7 for a pint of “Truth” (amazing that it comes in a full pint, not a smaller pour). Hilariously, a couple weeks later I would purchase a pint of “Truth” at a rather historic, crummy bar called Fries Cafe for a dollar less. I proceeded to take a second walk around the place, observing the giant overhead fan that is actually pretty cool, and the cornhole games they have set up, I used the restroom and began my descent of the flights of stairs.

Once out onto the street, I ran toward the safety of downtown. It bears mentioning that downtown Cincinnati near the river is very nice. I certainly don’t require this, but the whole area down toward the river and by the stadiums looks pretty new and is clean. Witness the power of sports in our society. Yes, this area is a total contrast to the Over The Rhine area and is also a contrast to downtown Seattle. The only redeeming quality I have yet seen in OTR is the Findlay Market (think Pike Place Market) and the cool but mostly very overpriced Park and Vine store that peddles green home goods and food. I’d also like to note that I’ve seen far fewer panhandlers in Cincinnati than in Seattle. Cincinnati’s harsher climate partially explains this.

Rhinegeist, carry on. I’m at least glad you’re there having folks with the money to spend spending their money on a local product. If I’m ever in the neighborhood – at Findlay Market or at Christian Moerlein Brewery’s taproom – and I find myself needing a place to get a beer, I might pay another visit.

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