Pedalpinters, please note the bold heading near the end of this post that reads: August 14 update: And please take a look at the updated map, as I have discovered a better way that takes you right to Whole Foods from Hyde Park.

Have I lost it?

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

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

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

I’ll let you decide.

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

The essential elements.

The essential elements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://goo.gl/maps/JPTcL

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

May 20 Update follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice going!

Self-serve water. Nice going!

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

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

III

IIIXXX

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

Perhaps: "

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

xxxxxx

Don’t confront.

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

August 16 update follows:

Neat! I’ve discovered a better route from Hyde Park to Whole Foods. Even if you’re not coming from Hyde Park – for instance If you’re coming in on Madison from either direction – it’s your ticket to avoiding the parking lot blues. Yes, this route features one of my very favorite things: A pedestrian/non-motorized cut-through!

Right this way.

Right this way.

Now, this route is useful whether on foot or on bike. If on foot, follow the route on the (updated!) map and you’ll have stop light intersections to get you across roads. The new route avoids that major flaw in the original route if you’re on foot: your having to navigate the parking lot without the benefit of sidewalks (seems the Rookwood Commons shopping center was not designed with pedestrians in mind – at least not those who would be stupid enough to try to arrive in a manner other than by motor vehicle).

This new route puts you right at the back of Whole Foods! See, at the end of Burch Ave (a dead-end street) there is a chain link fence with a gate that is open. You can see that people use this route, as there are crude stepping stones in place and steps dug into the hill to help you down and up the dirt/grass hill! Neat!

See the railroad tracks that you cross. Hopefully one day soon there will be the Wasson Way trail in place of these tracks!

See the railroad tracks that you cross. Hopefully one day soon there will be the Wasson Way trail in place of these tracks!

Looking from the other direction (leaving Rookwood) you see that folks have put down stepping stones of various types. Power to the people!

Looking from the other direction (leaving Rookwood) you see that folks have put down stepping stones of various types. Power to the people!

Looking from the parking lot. The hill is steeper than it looks here. If Whole Foods wants to appear "earthy" they should advertise this path.

Looking from the parking lot. The hill is steeper than it looks here. If Whole Foods wants to appear “earthy” they should advertise this path.

An update on the Whole Foods beer station: They have started pouring some beers in smaller glasses for the same price – as I said they would.
Another discovery: I’d reported that there was a water cooler, that appears to have nice purified water, on one end of the long counter, and a different kind of cooler on the beer station side that I assumed contained tap water. I was told recently that both contain the same water: reverse osmosis good stuff from the filling station they have where it’s available for purchase. In fact, since both coolers were empty on a recent visit, an employee told me I could just take my bike bottle back and fill it at the station – like it was no big deal. That’s cool, and something I would have considered shoplifting before being given permission.

Enjoy the new route, my friends! It’s a sweet thing.

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