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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