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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