Mark, as he gives tours, has the keys to some of the derelict breweries. We start at Felsenbrau.
Entering through the front door, we go straight into a large, bare space. This used to be the brew house, though all the equipment is long gone. Just as well Mark has supplied us with torches as it’s pretty dark.
There are some old decorative touches that remain. Like the barrels on the stair railings. But it’s pretty spooky. We make our way up rickety staircases and over dodgy looking floor.
“Be careful where you step.” Mark warns us. “There are some holes in the floor.” That’s reassuring.
Many of the walls are daubed with graffiti, left by the squatters who occupied the building for a while. It must have been a weird place to live.
There’s a cast-iron water tank still in place, with a ladder leading down into it. You wouldn’t get me in there. Some of the pulleys for transmitting steam power are still attached high up on the walls.
Interesting as it is, I’m quite relieved to be back out in the sunlight. But not for long. Our next destination is just up the street. This time it’s not the brewery but the cellars dug beneath it that we’re visiting.
Thankfully, there is electricity. Meaning it’s quite well lit. The empty tunnels are still pretty eerie. There are two levels of tunnels. Because of the way they’re cut back into the hill, each has an entrance at ground level. Very handy for getting beer in and out. In one spot there are rails embedded in the floor which look like they were used for rolling barrels out of the cellar.
It’s chilly and damp underground. Emerging, it feels wonderfully warm. And less claustrophobic. Fascinating as it was, I’m glad to be outside again.
Remember I mentioned Rhinegeist was in part of the old Moerlein brewery? Confusingly, there’s a new Moerlein brewery, owned by Greg Hardman, who bought the rights to the name when they were up for grabs. It’s housed in an old Malthouse and that’s where we’re headed next.
Greg is there to meet us. After I’ve got myself a Maibock, he takes me on a tour of the brewery. It’s another quite large one – 30 barrels. When I spot a pair of horizontal tanks, I mention a discussion about the merits of horizontal versus vertical lagering tanks at the Lager Fest.
“The Trüb drops out much better in horizontal tanks.” Greg tells me. Which is what its proponents said in St. Louis. The ones who were brewing Lager.
I see stacks of Little Kings all over the place. It’s a Cream Ale sold in a tiny 7 oz. bottle.
“It’s still very popular.” Greg tells me. I’m surprised. It seems a frustratingly small serving of a standard-strength beer.
I get myself a Doppelbock. It seems the obvious place to finish. It’s sweet, heavy and malty, as you’d expect.
I’m trying to cross off as many US states as I can. When I noticed Kentucky was just over the Ohio River from Cincinnati, I hoped to persuade someone to drive me over. Before realising on arrival that Cincinnati airport is in Kentucky. Landing in an airport. Does that count as visiting a state?
So I’m pleased when, on our way to our next stop, Wooden Cask, I realise we’re crossing the Ohio.
“We’re crossing over to the dark side.” I quip.
“It is very different on this side of the river. I lived over here. The produce section in the supermarkets is tiny.” James tells me.
Weird that such a short distance should make such a big difference.
We’ve two reasons for our crossing: beer in Wooden Cask and food in La Mexicana. An ethnic restaurant whose persuasion you can probably guess. Sounds like a good plan to me. The surroundings don’t have to be fancy for me. Just feed me that good foody stuff and I’m as happy as Barry.
We find a boothy-type thing half way to the back. And plonk ourselves down What to drink? A beer? I notice an enormous margarita, literally the side of my head, served to another table.
“I want that one. The drink the size of my head.”
I should learn to stop showing off. It’s an enormous serving. In volume and calories, doubtless way outweighing my goat burrito. Which, without flying, hit several spots. Especially with that hot-saucey stuff. I do like my spice.
Wooden Cask’s brewer joins us for a quick taco. Before we return to his gaff for a farewell Ale or two. I try a Scotch Ale then a Barleywine.
It’s emptied out. A hen party is leaving as we arrive. But we’ve still time for another couple of beers before being thrown out into the still night. Still in the not-stopped-being rather than quiet sense.
James drops me back at my hotel downtown. It’s been a very long and full day. No Rock Bottom tonight. My bottom is going to be parked on my bed as soon as possible.
And wait for sleep to wrap me in blankets of unease. Or cover me with a duvet of delight. Be kind to me, you unpredictable, vindictive bastard. Pretty please.
Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.
1621 Moore St,
Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Tel: +1 513-827-6025
La Mexicana Restaurant
642 Monmouth St,
Newport, KY 41071.
Hours: Closed ⋅ Opens 11AM
Tel: +1 859-261-6112
Wooden Cask Brewing Company
629 York St,
Newport, KY 41071.
Tel: +1 859-261-2172
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