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Collective Espresso goes mobile to reach more Cincy coffee drinkers


Dave Hart is co-owner of Collective Espresso, a business that is synonymous with quality coffee in Cincinnati. It currently operates out of brick-and-mortar coffee shops in Northside and Over-the-Rhine, and just recently, a mobile coffee truck was added to the blend.

This development, called Collective Field Services, began around the same time Hart and his business partner Dustin Miller lost their lease at the Contemporary Arts Center. That was their third coffee shop; it was replaced with a second Bottle & Basket, a deli owned by the ever-expanding Wellmann’s Brands.

The coffee truck, a 1982 Chevy G30, made its first venture into the city at the first spring City Flea, and later that day, at the Pollination Festival in Northside. Hart spoke with Soapbox about what led to the acquisition of the truck and what it means for Collective Espresso’s presence in Cincinnati.

So what's the story behind the truck?
The truck also comes from Berlin, Ohio. It’s kind of an interesting story, how this all came about. It started in a very organic way. We had a meeting with the guys from Such and Such to fabricate a bike for us, and we’re building this bike — it’s a pedicab that’s going to haul kegs of cold brew — and it’ll just do weekend events. It’s not like a staple of the business or anything like that, it’ll just be for special events.

When we first started talking about this, we thought this could be the launch for a whole mobile food and coffee operation. At the time, this truck had been in the fold. Dustin’s brother had two delis up in the Berlin area and he does a hot dog cart during special events. He bought the truck to sell hot dogs, but he’s got a million things going on. Right around the time of our talks with Such and Such, we found an espresso machine, a Synesso, for a really reasonable price outside Philadelphia. It’s similar to what we have at Collective Espresso Northside but  smaller — it’s a two-group Synesso. We found a heck of a deal on it and we kind of just bought it with no real intentions. We knew at some point we would need it. It could have been a backup.

At this point, we have no CAC location and we have an espresso machine. We needed to do something. It was a week later when Dustin’s brother, Ryan, called and said he was selling the truck and asked if we wanted it. It all happened in the span of two or three weeks and it made perfect sense to us as a logical progression. We have a killer staff from CAC and we figured we could absorb them into something new that we do, so all signs pointed toward it as a no-brainer.

The truck is named after a bus that hauls Amish people from where Dustin and I are from, and it’s called Pioneer Trails. It takes Amish people from Berlin to Florida. A lot of Amish people go to Sarasota in the winter. We want to get “Pioneer Trails” painted on the front of the truck.

When did you buy the truck?
We bought the truck in November. It sat at my parents’ house for a while and we’d go up on weekends to work on it. We gutted the whole thing. It used to be a book mobile — growing up in the country, if your town doesn’t have a library, the book mobile will come to your school and once every two weeks, you’d get a break from class to go look at what’s in the book mobile. The truck had been decommissioned years ago and then it was owned by a television station.

What can customers buy from the truck?
It’s a basic coffee shop menu. We’re looking to do something with a keg for cold brew, but it’ll be just like any of our coffee shops. We’ll have light baked goods. Lots of food trucks have miniature espresso machines, but we have a full-sized espresso machine, so we’ll be able to work at the exact same pace as we do in any of our shops.

Are there any long-term plans where the truck can be found?
We’re going to start doing things to see what ultimately ends up being successful. The idea is twofold: to service the food truck areas — we have a customer base downtown from our CAC location, so it makes sense to stick near Fountain Square’s food truck space. Weekdays we’ll be there and also at Washington Park on nice days.

Weekends, it’s not just a mobile vending thing, it’s an opportunity for us to get in front of people we’re not normally in front of. If there’s a neighborhood that might warrant opening a Collective Espresso in it, this is a great way to go there, meet people and test market the business. We’d like to be in various different neighborhoods on the weekends: Walnut Hills, College Hill, maybe somewhere on the West Side. New people. Special events are also a given. We’ll see as it goes along.

Going mobile, what’s the truck’s maximum radius going to be?
If there was a big event, we could take it far out of town, but it’s an ’82 — an older piece of equipment. I don’t think it’s going to be taking trips to Louisville every weekend. We kind of exist in these little bubbles where everybody knows what Collective Espresso is, but then I go to some big event in town and realize there are all of these people out there who still have no idea. There are even people in OTR who ask when we opened and it’s weird to tell them almost five years ago. I think that the truck gets rid of that limiting factor of having to be in these little, obscure up-and-coming neighborhood situations. There’s nothing wrong with a bunch of people knowing what we do.

To keep up with the coffee truck, follow @collective_field_services on Instagram.
 


Increased focus on development creates stronger neighborhood vibe in College Hill


Over the past 15 years, many of the businesses in College Hill's central business district have closed or relocated, leaving vacancies and a struggling business district. But fresh ideas and new businesses have started to spring up in the neighborhood, bringing new life to College Hill.

In the midst of the current community transition, Jacob Samad, College Hill native and VP of the College Hill Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, believes one of the constants has been a group of engaged residents that never gave up on revitalizing College Hill. Through organizations like CHCURC, the College Hill Forum, the College Hill Business Association, the College Hill Ministerium and College Hill Gardeners, invested members of the community have stayed involved, continued to work with the city and ultimately developed a plan to address the unique needs of the neighborhood's business district.

"Much of the redevelopment work has been aimed at creating opportunities for people to call College Hill home for the majority of their lives," Samad says. "By increasing walkability and working on creating spaces for people to interact, there is much greater opportunity for neighbors to live life together in their neighborhood. While it is not new that residents of College Hill have cared about their neighborhood, there is a sense that that caring is beginning to pay off.”

By focusing on the mid-district area and acquiring blighted properties, CHCURC and other community partners were able to begin redevelopment by helping to encourage the new Episcopal Retirement Services development, Marlowe Court. CHCURC has also been redeveloping aging buildings along Hamilton Avenue with the goal of drawing in new business.

The most recent success was the opening of Brink Brewing. One of Cincinnati’s newest breweries, Brink has become a community gathering spot; it's been open a little over a month, and its Fashionably Late IPA recently won Tour de Cincinnati's #CincyCraftMadness.

Ultimately, Samad hopes the concentrated effort to improve the mid-business district will attract a large-scale development to the corner of North Bend and Hamilton. The idea is to fill the vacancy with mixed-use development College Hill Station, which will break ground in fall. Plans include first-floor retail with three stories of market-rate residential units above.

Local leaders hope the proposed development will increase population density while providing new rental options in the neighborhood.

“There is a palpable sense of excitement and expectation as new businesses continue to open and be announced that did not exist 10-15 years ago," Samad says. "The new development is the culmination of years of hard work and countless hours of planning and executing. It has galvanized the community and forced various parts of the community to come together to accomplish this together."


Museum Center curates CurioCity events to reach a different crowd


While Union Terminal undergoes renovations, museum staff has had to get creative to make our community’s shared history available. The Duke Energy Children's Museum is open during construction, but the Cincinnati Museum Center wanted to tap into the 21 and up crowd too, so they designed the monthly CurioCity series, which aims to teach young professionals about history in a fun, informal way.

“A lot of young professionals want to learn about Cincinnati history,” says Emily Logue, manager of community festivals and events at the Museum Center. “Whether it’s beer history, little-known facts, the arts or pop culture.”

Rather than attending a lecture, CurioCity prioritizes interaction, experience and socializing. Six of the eight events from the inaugural season of CurioCity were held at local bars and breweries and featured an eclectic mixture of history and fun.

“The best quote I’ve ever heard is, ‘This is the most I’ve ever used my brain at a bar,’” Logue says.

The series started last September and really hit its stride in November when Arnold’s Bar and Grill hosted Wizard Meets Flapper to mark the release of the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Logue says the history of Arnold's, and the fact that it's the oldest bar in Cincinnati, makes it an ideal location to hold CurioCity events.

“Ninety-eight percent of guests were dressed as a wizard, a flapper or both,” Logue says. Attendees listened to jazz music and danced at the “speakeasy” style event.

Beer-centric events have proven popular with the young professional crowd, especially if centered around a local brew. CurioCity went hyper-local by partnering with Urban Artifact for Crafting Culture, where guests learn how beer is made. The event featured a specially brewed beer, the Union Terminal Bach — a beer brewed from yeast collected at Union Terminal.

In March, the Viking “Mead-up” at Arnold’s gave guests the opportunity to tap into their inner Viking with mead brewed at a local meadery.

The grand finale of the first season of CurioCity Throwback Thursday at 6:30 p.m on April 13. Attendees will relive their 1990s childhoods as they take over the Duke Energy Children’s Museum for the night. Guests will be able to make their own ice cream with liquid nitrogen, make friendship bracelets and enjoy '90s-themed coloring pages. The Children’s Museum’s famous wooden jungle gym and ball machine will be open as well.

Light bites will include childhood favorites like tater tots and bagel bites. Jenco Brothers Candy will have samples and local shop Full Frontal Nerdity will be on hand to sell buttons featuring '90s legends like Bill Nye the Science Guy. Logue says scrunchies and apparel with sunflowers are encouraged but not required.

The second season of CurioCity returns this summer. See the full schedule here.
 


NKU Six @ Six lecture series showcasing Appalachian arts, culture and talent


With success in its previous Six @ Six interactive lecture series, which began in 2010, Northern Kentucky University’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement is in the midst of its next series, held in conjunction with the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Titled Appalachia: An American Story, this series focuses on workshops, readings and discussions showcasing Appalachia’s traditions and ongoing contributions to the world of literature and art. According to the Center for Civic Engagement, the region has been an especially powerful artistic lens for novelists, poets, essayists, painters, photographers, musicians and others to interpret the American character and spirit.

The staple event of the six-part series will be a symposium at the CAM on April 28, when five artists who have depicted Appalachia in unique ways will take the stage. According to Mark Neikirk, the executive director at the Center for Civic Engagement, this is the fourth year that NKU has connected with the CAM for such an event.

“We began with a discussion of Machiavelli on the 500th anniversary of The Prince, the next year our topic was Moby-Dick and last year it was the environment as a muse to writers and other artists,” Neikirk says. “The topic changes each year. The constant is our collaboration with the Art Museum to host our discussion. The Art Museum symposium is a way for us to export the University’s intellectual capacity to community audiences — and to give the Greater Cincinnati community a taste of the rich life of the mind at NKU.”

Neikirk says the planning committee believes that the discussion of Appalachia, the mountains, mountain people and understanding mountain art should be of importance to people outside of the mountains themselves. The title of the series shows this as it reflects themes that are held by many Americans: love of kin, love of land, love of place, love of individual independence and love of neighbors.

Why Cincinnati and not the actual mountain area?

Neikirk says they hope to present a broader picture of Appalachia with more depth and a variety of voices. “No, I would not consider Cincinnati Appalachia, but yes, there are strong Appalachia ties here," he says. "Many of us, myself included, are descended from mountain families. People came here for jobs and opportunity, and we brought that heritage with us. There is a very active Appalachian community in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, including around the arts.”

While the CAM symposium is the main event of the series, there are other events scheduled that will feature poets, literature figures, artists and more. Some of these events are open to the public, while others are only offered to NKU students. The lectures and events are free of charge (with the exception of the photography workshop) as a method of getting people involved and interested in what the history of Appalachia entails.

Be sure to check out NKU’s Six @ Six lecture series in the events listed below:


• April 22, 1 p.m.: Readings by poets and writers and a discussion at Kenton County Public Library, Covington branch

• April 25-27: Malcolm J. Wilson photography workshop at Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center, Covington

• April 28: Robert Gipe, writing workshop, NKU (students only)

• April 28, 6:45 p.m.: Symposium, CAM (tickets are available here)

• May 2, 6:30 p.m.: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, reading and discussion, Grant County Public Library, Williamstown

• May 18, 7 p.m.: Poets' reading and discussion, Center for Great Neighborhoods, Covington

• June 17, noon: Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, memoir writing workshop, Roebling Point Books & Coffee, Covington
 


New ocean-inspired Eighth and English brings more than fresh fish to O'Bryonville


Longtime Cincinnati chef Chase Blowers is branching out on his own, with his new restaurant, Eighth and English, and a plan to deliver seafood-centric fare and eccentric flair to O’Bryonville.

Last month, Blowers hosted a series of soft launches in the space at 2038 Madison Rd., most recently home to Enoteca Emilia — a choice of both neighborhood and building that the new occupant says was very much intentional.

“I love O’Bryonville,” Blowers says. “The space itself is historic. The building from 1861 originally served as Mary O’Bryan's house. It has a lot of character — the exposed brick is genuine, and the mezzanine and private room double the size of the restaurant on busy nights.”

Though still new, Blowers says Eighth and English has received a warm welcome, with visiting foodies offering feedback and suggestions that his team is keen to hear.

In his first venture as a restaurateur, Blowers taps into years of experience cooking at local institutions like Boca, as well as industry relationships he’s forged peripherally in wine and spirits, to bring guests an experience he hopes will be a refreshing change from overly rich and heavier menu options often associated with fine dining.

The menu — which, according to the restaurant’s website, is subject to “change with season or rhythm” — currently emphasizes ocean fare with a daily raw/oyster bar and dinner menu featuring items like smoked rainbow trout, Sardinian baby octopus stew and grilled lobster.

“I wanted to fill a void in the market,” Blowers explains. “Although the cost of seafood is high and, if not managed correctly, the waste involved can be truly damaging, I think we have the right team to make it work.”

But Eighth and English also offers much in the way of turf — and at a very manageable price point compared to other restaurants of its caliber. An extensive array of pasta dishes, roast chicken, duck and lamb options round out a playful-yet-deliberate spread punctuated by thoughtful wine, champagne and cocktail pairings.

Eighth and English is as much about the vibe as it is about the food. The space features rotating installments by local artists, as well as a chilled-out private dining option. Second only to creating good food, Blowers expresses a desire for visitors to treat his restaurant like a second home.

“I want the staff to know by name and listen to every guest, and I want every guest to know the staff by name,” says Blowers, who has no desire to cater to any one type of patron. “If you want to drink a $200-plus bottle of wine or if you want to throw back a few High Lifes and eat some bottarga fries before a Reds game, we are here for both.”

Rothenberg School's Rooftop Garden is hosting a unique fundraising dinner at Eighth and English from 5 to 9:30 p.m. on April 27. Thirty-five percent of the proceeds from the event will support the garden in providing enhanced education to its students in an outdoor classroom setting. Garden lessons integrate math, science and reading into hands-on experiences that complement the students' academic curriculum.

Reservations are required; call 513-386-7383 or visit Eighth and English's website to book a table.
 


Cincinnati Type & Letterpress Museum to celebrate city's rich printing history


Off Eighth Street in Lower Price Hill sits a piece of Cincinnati history, one that Gary Walton learned to operate in middle school and consequently, turned into a 40-year career.

Cincinnati's rich printing history and a passion for the craft led Walton, a long-time professor at Cincinnati State, to partner with BLOC Ministries to open the Cincinnati Type & Print Museum and the BLOC Letterpress Shop.

The museum, set to officially open to the public early this summer, is a hands-on opportunity for visitors to not only see what the history of the printing press was from a Cincinnati perspective, but also to experience it firsthand.

One of the goals of the museum is to showcase the history that is the Cincinnati Letterpress — from former printing companies to those that continue to show success in the area, such as CJK Print Possibilities.

Today, printing is more commonly seen on handmade cards and announcements, but there is a solid history behind printing both on a national and local level. The printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, has evolved over the centuries from wood block type and print to large, heavy metal printing machines. According to Walton, the Cincinnati Type Foundry was a large manufacturer of typefaces, matrices and other type equipment from 1826-1892 (when it merged with American Type Founders).

Henry Barth, a German immigrant, was employed by the Foundry in the late 1840s/early 1850s and helped to make Cincinnati the center of the industry. He contributed to the invention of a number of special machines for the Cincinnati market, including the first cylinder presses, a double casting machine and an automatic casting machine. When the merge with the American Type Founders Company occurred, Barth’s work was exclusively owned and patented, as he was an expert in the field.

Aside from the historical nature of the museum, BLOC intends to make the print shop into a job creator, specifically for Lower Price Hill residents. In learning about the history of printing, the artistic character behind it and the skills required, both BLOC and Walton hope to see an increase in the number of students that wish to pursue a career in printing.

The building where the museum is located was renovated to the tune of $250,000. While this may seem like a thing of the past to some, printing is still a growing career. Plans to expand the facility, add more machines and historical context and offer classes are in the works as well.

For more information, visit the museum's website and stay tuned for more information as its opening nears.
 


Molly Wellmann opening second Bottle and Basket location in CAC


Later this spring, Molly Wellmann and Wellmann’s Brands will open another Bottle and Basket location in the Contemporary Arts Center.

Opening on the ground floor of the CAC, the restaurant will be a reflection of the partnership that Wellmann’s Brands has developed with the CAC over the years.


The space will be renovated in stages to accommodate the new concept. The café area was recently occupied by Collective Espresso, whose lease was up in late March. The coffee shop chose to close and focus on its locations in Over-the-Rhine and Northside rather than renew.

The café area of Bottle and Basket CAC will open at 8 a.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The menu will be similar to what is available at its other location in Over-the-Rhine — breakfast and lunch items, pastries, baked goods, coffee and other beverages. Wellmann’s Brands executive chef Lisa Kagen will oversee the CAC menu and plans to add to it over time.

Like its sister businesses, Bottle and Basket CAC will have a bar on the Walnut Street side of the Kaplan Hall lobby. It will open at 4 p.m. when the restaurant's menu will switch over to dinner. Many of the signature drinks and other cocktails found at other Wellmann locations will be featured at Bottle and Basket CAC. 

Other bar biz updates from Wellmann's Brands


Wellmann's Brands also owned and operated The Famous Neons Unplugged in OTR, which closed in mid-December after its lease expired. Plans to reopen are unknown, as the owners continue to search for a new operating space that will allow more seating, better access to parking and a larger outdoor space.

Another of its restaurants, Melt Eclectic Café in Northside, is moving from its long-time home next to Northside Tavern to a new, larger space in The Gantry. An opening date is yet to be announced, but you can keep tabs on its progress on Facebook. Until then, you can purchase a variety of Melt's menu staples on Wednesdays at the Northside Farmers Market.
 


Braxton Brewery announces second NKY location at former Ei8ht Ball space


Expect a totally different look inside Party Source's Ei8ht Ball Brewing space as Covington's Braxton Brewing Company takes it over this summer.

Braxton announced its plans last week, along with alerting consumers that the space will close for a few months for remodeling. This expansion comes just after Braxton celebrated its second birthday this past weekend.

The brewery will open Braxton Labs — a brewery and a taproom — that will become an innovation facility to make unique, small-batch beers, says Jake Rouse, co-founder and CEO.

Beers will be brewed in 15 barrel batches and available on tap, but only a limited amount will be packaged.

Much like its current location, the remodeled space will capture the spirit of the garage, which is where Braxton was born. That original garage on Braxton Drive in Union, Ky., was where head brewer Evan Rouse started his career.

"We'll definitely infuse some of our garage motif into the space, but the real point of emphasis in Braxton Labs will be the product that is poured from the taps, says Jonathan Gandolf, chief marketing officer for Braxton. 

While consumers are waiting for the new taproom, folks can find everything at Ei8ht Ball 50 percent off until they close April 1, says Hannah Lowen, general manager of New Riff Distilling Company, which owns Ei8ht Ball.

Even though Ei8ht Ball was doing well, Lowen says that New Riff wants to focus on distilling. It's beginning a $7.5 million project in Newport, which involves renovating the original Greenline Bus Building and building a 17,300-square-foot building for a rickhouse (where the barrels are stored for aging).

Rouse says that Braxton had to think about its next steps because the brewery wants to "push the envelope."

"We saw an opportunity to create an entirely new facility dedicated to focusing on experimenting and imagining new beers, and we can’t wait to share this experience with you in a few months," he says.

Experimenting is in Braxton's blood. A partnership with Graeter's lead to the creation of the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Milk Stout. They've also created a 1957 English Style Mild Ale to celebrate the baseball season.

Last year, Braxton partnered with Carabello Coffee in Newport to launch Bourbon-aged Starter Coffee from Braxton Brewing Co. Coffee, which is inspired by their dad Greg who liks his coffee black with lots of cream and sugar.

The new location will also allow Braxton to literally expand — as of October, the brewery was at full capacity for fermentation. They're planning on adding more fementers this year.

After Ei8ht Ball closes, Braxton will begin work on acquiring the necessary permits and making the taproom their own.
 


Q&A with Karen Arnett of the Mt. Healthy Renaissance Project


The Main Theater may be a treasured landmark in Mt. Healthy, but it needs renovations before new memories can be made under its roof. Karen Arnett of the Mt. Healthy Renaissance Project is part of a concentrated local effort to restore the theater to working condition after more than a decade of neglect. She answered some questions for Soapbox concerning the building’s ultimate fate and how The Main Theater can fit into a modern Mt. Healthy.

How and from whom did you acquire the property?
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority acquired it in 2015 through the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corp. (Landbank), which it manages, and spent nearly $41,000 on repairs — fixes to protect it from further deterioration, such as boarding up windows, gutting the interior and making roof repairs.

What was the Main Theater’s condition before your involvement?
The building had been empty for 10-15 years. Structurally, it is in surprisingly good condition. It was looking a bit rough around the edges when the Port did its stabilization. The Port had the front façade/cornice repainted, and it really glows now. The City has not done any work on the building as of yet, other than to replace a broken front window. We are still in the process of exploring possibilities for renovation, and haven’t yet developed a specific road map for funding or construction. Currently, we are moving forward to nominate The Main Theater for the National Register of Historic Places, and don’t want to do any construction work prematurely that might endanger our ability to secure the historic tax credits that will accompany the historic designation.

How much work and time has your organization invested in The Main?
When we learned that the City would be acquiring The Main Theater, the Mt. Healthy Renaissance Project put together a working group to lead the charge. Mayor Wolf and a Mt. Healthy city councilmember, Jenni Moody, are a part of the group, along with several members of the Renaissance Project. So it turns out that this won’t be a charge so much as a steady walk. Reclaiming and repurposing The Main Theater will be a long process, perhaps taking a few years.

Something rewarding last fall was that the UC/DAAP historic preservation class, under Prof. Jeff Tillman, included The Main and three other Mt. Healthy buildings in their practicum class. They took measurements and inspected the building and mapped current conditions.

What kind of work is still needed?
We are in phase one of this mid- to long-term project. Everything is ahead of us: getting an architectural plan in place and fundraising for the renovation. Phase I is a kind of friend-raising period. This year, we will be opening a pop-up shop in the intact storefront. We will be open weekly, hopefully a few hours each weekend, from May-September. The pop-up will be a fun experiment: we want to bring people to The Main, to let them know what’s in the works and to energize the building. We hope to have the work of local artists and artisans for sale, along with temporary art exhibits by our local community groups. In honor of Mt. Healthy’s bicentennial, we’ll offer some special wares. The pop-up will also be a performance space. We have some community members who want to bring spoken word, acoustic music and that kind of thing. We’ll also have some freshly brewed and locally roasted Deeper Roots coffee for folks to sip.

Another exciting thing in the works is that we are working with Elementz on a mural for the front entry wall of The Main Theater. The mural artist, Ben Thomas, is going to do the work, and it is going to make the place look vibrant. We expect that will be completed by the pop-up opening in May.

What is the plan for The Main's future use after revitalization?
Although things could change, our current vision on which the working group unanimously agrees is that we want the space to return to being an entertainment hub for our community. The theater was a mainstay in the lives of thousands of folks who grew up in and around Mt. Healthy, and those folks have many good memories of this theater. We think that Mt. Healthy deserves to have such a hub once again, though this time around, it will not be solely for movies. We envision it being a place for a mix of live theater, live music concerts, some film and other events. We’d be happy to find a theater group that might want to make The Main its home base.

What do you think is important for our readers to know about the theater?
The Main Theater had an incredibly long run — it was one of the longest-lived movie theaters in Cincinnati. The Blum family ran this movie theater from 1915-1971. It has a rich history and there are lots of stories. One fun story is that when the film broke during a movie, which it used to sometimes do in the celluloid days, the owner would go down to the front and play the banjo to entertain the audience until the movie resumed. And his cousin, who was a local Catholic church organist, played the piano for the silent movies before the talkies took over. The stories about The Show, as many locals still call it, are absolute gems.

You can follow the progress of The Main Theater, and find out more about the pop-up, by joining its Facebook group.
 


Second Sight Spirits looking forward to new products, expansion and the Bourbon Trail


This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Bircus Brewing here.

Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner, founders of Second Sight Spirits, shared an innovative dream. They knew what it took to make a world-class product, as their earlier careers involved creating Las Vegas shows Cirque du Soleil LOVE and Viva Elvis. The sights and sounds of their roots are the inspiration behind Second Sight and the unique and creative experience it has brought to Northern Kentucky since it opened in 2015.

Second Sight originally offered white rum, but has since expanded to include spiced rum and bourbon barrel rum, as well as several flavors of Villa Hillbillies moonshine. New products and projects are in the works for 2017 and 2018, says Couch.

“We will be releasing several new products this year, including a smoked cherry rum, dark rum and bourbon,” he says. “We are also working with local officials and other businesses to develop a local bourbon themed experience.”

A recent expansion has allowed for Second Sight to further connect with other local businesses. The $70,000 expansion, which included turning the 1,200-square-foot facility into a 3,500-square-foot operating space, connected the distillery with neighboring Wynner’s Cup Café for special events. It was partially funded by a Duke Energy grant.

Driven by the passage of Kentucky Senate Bill 11 in July 2016 that allows distilleries to operate more like breweries (in terms of what they can sell and what size samples they can offer), the expansion will allow the distillery to operate an event space, meeting space, cocktail bar and more.

Second Sight has also recently launched a new bourbon program where customers can invest $500 in grain and barrels to make a batch of bourbon and be involved in the distilling process. In doing so, the customers can taste their product during the aging process and be part of the bottling party where they can sign each bottle of bourbon that they helped produce. The original $500 can then be used to purchase a bottle of bourbon and the barrel it was aged in.

This is just one of the many elements of Second Sight that set it apart from other local and national distilleries. The process, in addition to the atmosphere, help to build a one-of-a-kind experience for customers.

“We have taken the idea of craft distilling a step further by not only handcrafting spirits from high-quality ingredients but by constructing our own still and the theatrical elements in our tasting room as well,” Waggoner says. “We developed a theme based on the future and designed our still to look like a fortune teller with a custom crystal ball condenser. We think we may have created the world’s first themed art still.”

Couch says that Second Sight will be increasing its bourbon production this year in hopes of joining the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2018.

Second Sight's tasting room is open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, and from noon to 8 p.m on Fridays and Saturdays. Tours are given at 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m. on Thursdays and at 12:30, 2, 4 and 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Tastings and tours are free. For more information, call 702-510-6075 or visit Second Sight's website.
 


Bircus Brewing serves first beer, focuses on community partnership

 

This week, we're exploring the burgeoning craft beer and spirits industry in Ludlow, Ky. Check out our story about Second Sight Spirits here.

A local clown is taking major steps to rejuvenate and nurture Ludlow's business interests, and he’s not joking around.

Paul Miller, a.k.a. Pauly the Clown from Circus Mojo, is a forward-thinking businessman. His newest venture into beer brewing, Bircus (pronounced beer-cuss) Brewing Co., is projected to be a means to an end for his already existing circus education program that provides both job training and entertainment to Ludlow’s residents.

Bircus thinks, acts and spends locally. Inhabiting the old Ludlow Theater, Miller and his troupe aim to invert the old idiom of “the circus comes to town,” and instead, bring the town to the circus.

“We are not going to worry about canning, bottling or putting Bircus on grocery shelves," Miller says. "The goal is to become a destination. For seven years, we’ve been doing events in Ludlow, but we’ve been selling other people’s beer. The margins just aren’t there.”

Mixing hospitality with live entertainment, this business model is nothing new. Miller has collaborated with Matthias Vermael of Circus Planeet, a similar brewhouse-circus venture in Ghent, Belgium. The intent is to mix the theatrics of circus performance and the concessions of a brewery to maximize showtime profits.

The first public batch of Bircus beers was recently sold in the brewery’s parking lot patio area during this past weekend's Shop in Ludlow event.

Crowdfunding is the primary source of income for the fledgling brewery, whose funds currently stand near $300,000 of the $500,000 goal. Bircus is the first brewery under a new section of federal law that allows crowdfunding investors to buy equity.

“I did that so I can maintain control because I don’t want to argue with someone about whether or not 'bellydance night' made sense, or something like that,” says Miller. “I’ve said no to money for a long time, where people have said ‘I’ll give you all the money you want, I just want 50/50.’”

The goal, he says, is to keep the heart of the business beating and to refuse any notions of straying from the best interests of his circus and his local community of investors.

“I don’t want to be a Rhinegeist, I don’t want to buy 8,000 kegs and 40 trucks, there’s no reason. I can’t depreciate what I didn’t spend and I don’t have any loans, so there’s no amortization. Our self-distribution will be the biggest turnaround. Instead of making maybe fifty cents each six-pack, we hope to be making four or five bucks a pour.”

Bircus has signed a three-year lease with Norfolk Southern for a parking lot near the brewery to ensure convenience for visitors. This was procured so the brewery’s adjacent parking lot can be utilized for outdoor patio space.

The brewery is still under construction with no established opening day yet announced. Keep tabs on its Facebook page for up-to-date information.
 


The Center hosting two-night pop-up restaurant featuring local home chef


On April 7 and 8, The Center for Great Neighborhoods will host a pop-up restaurant featuring Covington resident and home chef, Chako. It will be a culinary dining experience in omotenashi, or the Japanese art of hospitality.

“When people eat my food, I want them to experience omotenashi, a concept intrinsically attached to the Japanese culture,” Chako says. “In English, it’s translated as hospitality, but to us Japanese, it involves so much more. Cooking and baking are my passion, therefore, I want my customers to be pleased and feel satisfied in all of their senses. I want them to feel welcomed, excited, unique and special.”

The two-day pop-up restaurant is the culmination of The Center’s pilot Chef Fellowship Program, which was funded by a FreshLo grant from The Kresge Foundation. Grants were given to organizations that were developing programs to help create healthy, vibrant communities strengthened by the deliberate integration of creative placemaking and food-oriented development.

The Chef Fellowship Program is a two-month kitchen and art workforce development internship that gives a home-based cook who is interested in starting a restaurant the chance to experience what it would be like to run one.

The Center also partnered with the Life Learning Center to provide interns with a real-world hospitality training program that includes learning hospitality skills, cooking techniques and arts-related skills. The interns will be the ones running the popup’s front of house, as well as helping Chako in the kitchen.

“It’s important to us to support local entrepreneurs and help them get the tools and resources to turn their ideas into a reality,” says Kate Greene, The Center’s program manager for community development.

For $45, guests will receive an authentic Japanese meal featuring salad, miso soup, housemade Japanese pickles, Japanese-style potato salad, chirashi zushi (scattered sushi) and two entrée choices — pork cooked in black tea topped with a fragrant sauce or agedashi tofu, which is deep fried and topped with tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, fried eggplant and a green onion sauce. The main course will be followed by wasanbon mousse, which is a Japanese dessert made in the traditional Shikoku method.

Guests 21 and over will be able to taste different types of Japanese beer or they can purchase a handcrafted sake glass for an additional $10, which comes with a sample of sake.

Chako uses fresh products and ingredients sourced locally or imported from around the world to achieve the taste and texture that she’s looking for.

“When I cook or bake, I try to anticipate what it will take to please my clients: first their sight, then taste and touch,” she says. “When they eat, I strive to make them feel as never before. I want my food to be a special gift for each person individually.”

Seatings are at 5:30 and 8 p.m. each night, and are limited to 25 people each seating. Tickets can be purchased here until April 1.
 


Landlocked Social House to bring coffee and craft beer community spot to Walnut Hills


Anne and Andrew Decker have always dreamed of opening a place that would allow them the freedom to independently explore their passions while also running a business together. Their ideal venture would allow them to share information about their passions with others who share the same interest. Landlocked Social House, the newest craft beer and coffee bar coming to Cincinnati, will do that and more.

Located on E. McMillan Street in Walnut Hills, the bar will offer something for everyone, as the Deckers understand that coffee and beer are not necessarily for everyone. They plan to incorporate other talented food and beverage businesses into the bar, which is set to open early this summer.

The couple plans to have pastries from a few bakers around town, as well as curated meat and cheese boards and pickled items. They plan to work with two bakers and a bagel maker to fill Landlocked's pastry cases, and bring in cocktail veterans to create a small in-house list of drinks.

“Aside from those options, we will be a bring-your-own-food establishment and have the occasional food truck in our beer garden," says Decker.

Fifteen craft beers and an assortment of sodas, cider, white and red wine and cold brew coffee will also be available on the custom tap system.

The idea of having a neighborhood coffee bar where you can run into friends and family on a regular basis was an important aspect in the selection of Walnut Hills for Landlocked's location.

“We chose Walnut Hills in large part because it is being thoughtfully developed by people who love this neighborhood and that is something we want to be a part of,” Decker says. “I will say that it would have in fact been easier on us to open in another building and another part of town, but we like it here.”

Landlocked is just minutes away from Eden Park, Clifton, Pendleton and Over-the-Rhine, with easy access to I-71 as well. The diversity and history of the area led the Deckers to lay their foundation there. “There is a lot of heart and hard work in this part of town," Decker says. "We hope the neighborhood will feel the same about us as we do our best to be a positive addition.”

The Deckers started a Kickstarter campaign that ran from Feb. 1 to March 8 to provide financial stability — on top of private funding and bank loans — to get the Landlocked project up and running. The building, owned by Becki and Jeremiah Griswold (who also own White Whale Tattoo and are friends of the Deckers), was previously abandoned and needed a lot of work.

With the help of friends, the Deckers renovated the building, exposing the original brick interior, installing new flooring, the tap system, adding new landscaping and more. Remaining projects include a new storefront window, drain and sink installation, minor electric work and a few other small projects. According to the Kickstarter page, the projects should all be completed in time for the summer opening.

While the Kickstarter campaign has ended, Decker says that donations are still being accepted and will be put to good use as they wrap up the remaining projects before opening.
 


Demolition of its theater to bring about a season of change for Playhouse in the Park


The historic Robert S. Marx Theatre in Eden Park will be demolished following the Playhouse in the Park's 2018-2019 season, as part of an optimistic revisioning that will celebrate the theater's 50th birthday and help the venue better cater to modern audiences.

“The theater was built at a time when there was less technology and the goal was to use as little scenery as possible,” says Playhouse artistic director Blake Robison. “Theater has changed a lot over the last 50 years.”

Currently, the only way to move props on and off stage is through the floor via elevator systems. Compared to many modern theaters, this is highly limiting and can be a hindrance to those accustomed to more versatile theaters that offer clearance for large scenery and props to be navigated from all directions.

“At the time it was built, there was a very minimalist approach, but I think dramaturgy has changed since then and audience expectations have certainly changed,” Robison says. “One of the things that I think Playhouse is known for is its beautiful sets and costumes. You always walk into our theater and experience the surprise of what it’s going to look like next time. So, we want to stay ahead of the eight ball and make sure that we’re bringing Cincinnati the widest variety of plays and musicals that we can. We feel strongly that we need that upgrade in order to keep up with the times.”

While no specific location has been finalized, the Playhouse ensemble will continue to perform during demolition and construction. It’s estimated the construction will displace the troupe for only one season.

“This facility in Eden Park has been so meaningful to people," Robison says. "We want to reassure people the Playhouse is staying in the park where it belongs, but we need to upgrade our home. We’re leaving the shelterhouse completely as-is, except that we’re going to put in more comfortable seats. I guess you could say that in there it’s going from economy to business class.”

The Marx Theatre at Playhouse in the Park recently premiered Jane Eyre, which runs until April 8.

 


Brewing Heritage Trail moving along, new app on the way


Cincinnati loves good beer, and it turns out that that’s nothing new. Thanks to the droves of skilled brewers who immigrated from Germany and settled in Cincinnati prior to Prohibition, it's long been known as a mecca for beer aficionados.

The Brewing Heritage Trail, which will begin in Pendleton and weave its way through OTR and into the Mohawk area, is gradually nearing completion, and will help tell the storied past of the Queen City’s role in the world of brewing. The trail will showcase former brewery buildings, share brewery information and tie all of that beer culture it into Cincinnati history.

Steven Hampton, executive director of the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Urban Redevelopment Corporation, took some time away from Bockfest festivities to provide updates on the trail and to give some insight to the motivation behind the trail.

How would you describe the Brewing Heritage Trail to a tourist who's never heard of it before?
It is a fun and engaging way to learn and experience our city’s rich brewing heritage through signage, art, digital experiences and guided tours through the streets and historic breweries. It is not just the story of how much beer we made and drank, which was a lot, but the story of Cincinnati and America told through the lens of beer.

Has construction started on the trail? What kind of work needs to be done to complete this project?
In partnership with ArtWorks, there are almost a dozen public art pieces along the trail already. The first 3/4-mile physical segment of the trail, including signage and bronze medallion way finding, will be under construction this summer with completion around September, thanks to funding from the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati. We are also just about to launch the first version of the smartphone app for iOS and Android to lead you along the trail digitally and share even more content.

How is the trail organized?
The trail has three initial story segments, of which we are building one plus small portions of the other two as key connectors. The segments generally tell the overall story of brewing beer in Cincinnati, with many sub-stories that are tied to specific locations and buildings along the route.

The first segment we are building is the middle segment, “Glasses and Growlers." During the second half of the 19th century, breweries began playing a controversial role in the proliferation of saloons in cities across the nation. The "Glasses and Growlers" segment of the trail will explore the role that Cincinnati’s hearty beer industry, unregulated saloon trade and thirsty population played in shaping Americans’ relationship with beer.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the Brewing Heritage Trail will be accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once the app launches, you can download it for Apple or Android here.

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