Monday, March 3, 2014

Pilgramage: Rhinegeist Brewing Co.

After Winterfest, I had basically fallen in love with Truth, an IPA by Rhinegeist, so on our way back from Lexington, the Little Lady and I decided to make a stop in Cincinnati, OH to check out the brewery in person.

The brewery is located in an area that used to be called "Over the Rhine" which was host to much of Cincinnati's German immigrant population, at one point getting over 43,000 people strong. People spoke German, ate German and most importantly drank German. Rhinegeist is a nod to the German heritage of the area. The name translates Ghost of the Rhine, remembering the people that came before and really helped bring that rich brewing tradition to the Midwest.

Rhinegeist pulls from the area's incredible German heritage and is obviously one of many businesses that seem to be helping to gentrify the beautiful old buildings in this part of Cincinnati. So often, when you go to a brewery downtown you're stuck with street parking, but Rhinegeist hooks it up with a lot across the street from their building.

Rhinegeist is housed in a beautiful old brick building that housed a bottling facility at the end of the 1800's. When we went through the door, I was surprised to see a set of stairs in front of me. There wasn't a lot of indication that the brewery was upstairs, but there really weren't any other options, so I started walking up. When I got to the next floor, I was surprised to see that there was no door on this floor, but there were more stairs. Up I went for three floors before finally finding the brewery, but when I did I was in awe of how amazing the space was.

The brewery occupies the top floor of this beautiful old building. The room is an easy thirty feet tall with huge windows all around and skylights that let tons of natural light into the room. There are hand made picnic tables made out of pipes and reclaimed wood. This created a bright contrast to all the old brick and concrete that form the rest of the building. Tanks and brewing equipment were right there in the middle of the open tap house space. The tables were all huge, which encouraged you to sit with someone you may not know and have a chat. This really is one of the biggest things that I think we're missing in Indy. All of our breweries that do pint sales have intimate drinking spaces. There are small tables that don't encourage any interaction. This place looked a lot like an old school German beer hall.

The bar had a great industrial vibe to it and about ten beers on tap. They had their three staple beers and some outstanding seasonals on the chalk board menu. Beers were being served in tasters, pint glasses and snifters, giving Rhinegeist options for any beer that they're bringing to the table.

I was pretty disappointed that they didn't have any cans available. There weren't even coolers that would say that cans would be there in soon. Since they just started canning a few weeks ago, I will give them the pass for now.

I got their Gramps, American Barleywine. It came in at 8.8 ABV and had a wonderful bitter American hop profile. It poured out a red orange color with a thin layer of off white head on top. There was a big hop aroma right up front, and the hops continued nicely into the flavor. The beer had a huge sweet candy malt flavor but was cut nicely with the strong citrus flavor of the American hops. This brew was missing some of the big dark fruits and sherry notes that I look for in a barleywine, but that could be because it was fresh. I prefer most of my barelywines aged at least a year or so. All this flavor did an awesome job hiding the taste from the big alcohol. This was a wonderfully balanced brew and if it wasn't so boozy and it hadn't been noon I probably would have had a few more.

It's exciting stuff because these guys have just started selling cans at the end of January to their local market. They started with two styles: Cougar Golden Ale an easy drinking, very accessible beer and Truth IPA. Truth IPA is a big, flavorful, hopped beer that I fell in love with at the first sip.

I'm really impressed because these guys just came to the market in June of 2013. That means in just about eight months they've gone from not existing to canning beers and the cans look awesome. If they keep up the quality, these guys are going to be a driving force here in the Midwest. I can't wait for them to add Indiana to their distribution foot print. 

If you have time to make the drive this Friday, Rhinegeist is releasing their Saber Tooth Tiger Double IPA. It should be a great beer and a great party! Cheers.

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