It starts with a beer and a dream. Homebrewers and entrepreneurs around the Tristate are reviving Cincinnati’s heritage as a world brewery capital. Breweries are bubbling up all over town with unique flavors, nods to nostalgia and taprooms to suit every sort of hangout.
In a two-part series, Soapbox is taking you on a "tour" of the breweries that are planning to open before the end of the year.
Bircus Brewery, 322 Elm St., Ludlow
Opening: Spring 2017
“Real clowns subvert authority,” says Paul Miller, chief “goof officer” of Bircus. Miller and his team plan to disrupt the craft beer market by pairing beer with the circus.
Circus Mojo already calls the old Ludlow Theatre home, but they’re in the process of renovating the building to accommodate the brewery operation. The site is home to an eclectic assortment of events, including high school reunions, monthly square dances, professional wrestling and of course, circus acts. Miller says he’s excited to pour Bircus' own beer for these events.
Bircus’ brews promise to celebrate Ludlow nostalgia and the circus with its innovative recipes — and names. The Belgian blonde owes its namesake to another blonde, Anne Lee Patterson, a Ludlow native who won the Miss USA competition in 1931. Bircus also partnered with Blue Oven Bakery to create “The Breaded Lady”, a bread-beer hybrid brewed with an Old World process to referment bread into beer.
The debut of its beers around various bars in Kentucky will feature fire-eaters, live acrobats, jugglers and hula-hoop artists.
13 Below Brewery, 7391 Forbes Rd., Sayler Park
Opening: Early summer 2017
Doug Menkedick noticed that the homebrews from his friends Dick Busche, Ray Busche and Bob Luebbering got better year after year. He said they should talk if they were ever serious about starting a brewery, and that's how 13 Below was born.
13 Below will have classics like a West Coast IPA, a Belgian white and a Scottish ale. The brewery is also inventing its own kinds of beer, including a “darker beer with some sweetness to it — somewhere between a porter and a brown ale," says Menkedick.
13 Below occupies the riverside space that was once the Mariner’s Inn in Sayler Park. Its one-story taproom is fully handicap accessible with an area of the bar where guests using wheelchairs can sit and enjoy their beer. Menkedick says his team imagines their brewery will be a family-friendly place with views of the river and nearby marina. With easy access off Route 50, he says it’s the perfect place to stop on the way to or from a ball game.
16 Lots, 753 Reading Rd., Mason
Opening: Summer 2017
Mike Burton was the chief marketing officer at Sunny Delight until he decided to switch his focus to the hard stuff — or beer. His partner, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been home brewing for about 20 years.
“The consumer knows what they’re going to get when they buy our product,” Burton says.
16 Lots will emphasize a “focus on style,” and will feature six beers that will rotate seasonally. Although the brewery hasn't officially opened, it has already released its Warhorse IPA and will follow that soon with its Muddy Creek Oatmeal Stout.
The brewery will occupy the former Mason Pub in the heart of downtown Mason. Burton describes the taproom's interior as an industrial farmhouse with intimate bar seating, gaming areas and a full view of the brewery.
Burton believes that the community has to come first. In fact, the name of the brewery references the 16 lots of land purchased by revolutionary war hero Major William Mason that eventually became downtown Mason.
“If you satisfy the neighborhood, you can build a nice thriving business,” Burton says.
Stay tuned for next week's issue of Soapbox, where we'll continue our list of up-and-coming independent breweries.