Zinzinnati

I spent last weekend in Cincinnati visiting my best friend, and loyal BBs reader, Haley! Cincinnati has a booming craft beer scene, and we packed as much Cincy beer as we could into my short trip.
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I arrived late on Friday night and we relaxed on Haley’s roof and enjoyed a couple cans of Rhinegeist Crash. Rhinegeist is probably Cincinnati’s most known craft brewery. The barely three-year-old operation has experienced enormous popularity and growth since opening in June 2013, and they just started expanding distribution to the East Coast. I really enjoyed the flavorful, easy drinking Crash pale ale. It has tropical hop notes, mild bitterness and a short, clean finish.
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On Saturday morning we went to yoga at the newly renovated Central Parkway YMCA and browsed at The City Flea. Our first beer stop of the day was Taft’s Ale House, named for 27th President, William Howard Taft. Taft’s is housed in a renovated Evangelical church. The enormous three floor space has a bar on each floor, tons of seating, a private events space, and a full food menu. We grabbed flights on the top floor (in the balcony?) and took a seat to discuss the important issues of the day. 😉
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Unfortunately they were out of Haley’s favorite beer: Snake in the Grass, a Belgian-style blonde brewed with lemongrass and local basil. I thought all the beers I tried were solid. My favorite was the Nellie’s Key Lime Caribbean Ale, described by Haley’s husband Andrew as “the craft version of a Bud Light Lime.”  It’s a wheat beer brewed with key lime juice and coriander. So refreshing!
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From Taft’s we walked to Rhinegeist, just half a mile up Elm Street. Rhinegeist was having their annual mini Oktoberfest inside, but we went straight to the rooftop bar–Haley and Andrew’s favorite in the city. Rhinegeist has a huge selection of beers and ciders on tap. I wish I could report on the rosé cider, but I only had eyes for beer! Andrew recommend Rhinegeist’s flagship IPA, Truth, the brewery’s most solid offering in his opinion. I wasn’t disappointed! Truth is packed with West Coast hops and effortlessly masks the 7.2% ABV. I also enjoyed Haley’s choice,  Chester, a dry saison brewed with sour cherries.
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The people-watching on the Rhinegeist roof is highly entertaining, but we finally tore ourselves away from lederhosen, bachelorettes, and dress-wearing runners to take in the view. Andrew and Haley pointed out all the old buildings being converted to swanky new apartment buildings and businesses. Like Bushwick, the landscape of Cincinnati is constantly changing, and understandably it hasn’t been without controversy.
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From Rhinegeist we took Cincy’s new street car back to the apartment for a little r&r. Haley and I made this delicious, extra crunchy, pistachio guacamole, and we had more skyline time on their balcony. The coolest sight on the balcony might be the outhouse Andrew built for their dog, Zoe! Do you recognize the material on the roof?? It’s covered in different varieties of Rhinegeist beer cans! Such a great idea. Reduce, reuse, rep great beer. 🙂
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The main event on Saturday evening was a trip to the Cincinnati Oktoberfest, the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany. We hopped back on the street car for a quick one mile trip downtown and emerged in a different world.
Although over half a million people turned out for “Oktoberfest Zinzinnati,” it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded. We easily grabbed beers and found seats next to an Oom-pah band. Andrew got in touch with his German heritage, grooving along to the music, and even convinced Haley to get up and do the chicken dance with him (am I the only one who didn’t know it’s an Oktoberfest song??)
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Deciding that a lap was in order, we moseyed over to another band with a less traditional set list. An Oom-pah take on oldies and classic rock? You know we were into it. Another round of beers and we found ourselves in a Congo line sandwiched between a gaggle of very enthusiastic International students from the University of Cincinnati and a group of friendly middle-aged Midwesterners. It was one of those moments when you think, “How exactly did I get here?” but decide not to care because you’re having so much fun.
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We ended the evening on the swings at the Smale Riverfront Park, recapping the day and gazing out at the John Roebling Suspension Bridge. The bridge spans the Ohio river between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, and was built 30 years before Roebling started an even bigger project– the Brooklyn Bridge! When worlds collide, it’s a beautiful thing.
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Thank you, Haley and Andrew, for showing me such a good time in Cincinnati! I’m already thinking about my next trip. If you’re a craft beer lover, this growing city needs to be at the top of your vacation wish list!

Westbrook Brewing

The Chitwood family just got back from a lovely vacay in Folly Beach, South Carolina! While there we drank a lot of good beer (..and rosé..and prosecco..). The SC beer scene had definitely improved since our last trip. The highlight of the week was finally visiting Westbrook Brewing Company, a longtime favorite of the Barley Babes.

Westbrook only packages a handful of their beers, and we were excited to see a draft list filled with brews we’d never tried, or for that matter, heard of. Maddy ordered a flight of small pours for group, and we got a few pints as well. Two standouts from M’s flight were the Key Lime Pie Gose and Coconut Weisse Weisse Baby. The KLPG is loaded with tangy, sour lime and rounds out with a graham cracker finish. Maddy noted graham cracker on the nose too; Westbrook nailed this one!  The table also enjoyed my pint of juicy Nelson Sauvin IPA. It’s the style of IPA I’ve come to expect from NYC breweries like Grimm and Other Half. Finally, we were excited to try the Mexican Cupcake, a session version of Westbrook’s hyped imperial stout brewed with habanero peppers. The cupcake didn’t quite live up to the cake, but it’s nice that you can experience almost the same flavor profile in a lighter, lower ABV beer. Great for summer!

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The small tap room was hopping on Friday evening. Groups of friends gathered for post-work pints and young parents kept a relaxed eye on their kids over flights. Like us, I think everyone was looking for an air conditioned spot to drink beer and escape the oppressive SC heat.
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Our only complaint about the visit is that the Westbrook staff wasn’t very friendly. No one that helped us was overtly rude, but they seem to keep lines short by taking an all-business approach to customer service. I didn’t feel comfortable asking to taste before ordering, and when I ordered a beer that had just run out, the bartender walked away instead of recommending something else. We’re often on the other side of the counter, so we understand the stress that comes with a busy weekend night. I guess we just wanted to experience a deeper personal connection with the staff since we’ve loved Westbrook for so long.
We’ll have more highlights from our trip later this week! Another favorite destination: The Charleston Beer Exchange!

Bridge and Tunnel Brewery

Now it’s time for some NYC brewery action! I found out about Bridge and Tunnel and Rich Castagna when I first started working at Hops and Hocks. One of our draft lines was occupied by a brewer that brewed in his garage in Queens, and who was currently working on building out a tasting room entirely on his own?? That’s pretty neat. Fast forward one year and the Bridge and Tunnel tasting room is officially open in Ridgewood!

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Our trek was slightly rainy..oh wait, my walking companions already told you?

Since opening at the end of November, B&T has expanded their tasting room hours from Saturdays only to Friday-Sunday. Last Sunday evening we took a pleasant walk to the cozy tasting room for some pints and coloring.

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B&T has more of a neighborhood vibe than any other NYC brewery I’ve visited. Those sitting at the bar were clearly regulars, and excitedly answered questions about the beers and tasting room. The space is industrial, yet homey, with colored lights hanging above the bar, long wooden tables, and a decent selection of board games. We easily found a table and sipped our beers while working on illustrations for B&T’s “Tank Fund Color Off.” The color off is to raise awareness about the small crowdfund campaign they’re launching in March to raise money for a unitank fermenter and chiller. Rich’s daughters are choosing the winner of the color off!

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Kat and Cooke Cooke took their submissions very seriously

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I started with a super flavorful rye DIPA, while Matt and Kitty Kat chose two of the darker selections on the menu (Rich’s specialty), and Allison tried a blackberry kombucha. Kat analyzed the differences between B&T’s vanilla porter (Bone Orchard) and that of Woodstock Brew House (Casey Joes); we’re always working, I tell ya!

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Mitch is deep in thought about which beer to choose next..
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‘Bucha Baby!

For my second beer I picked Tank Fund Saison, the SMASH beer Rich brewed for NYC Beer Week. In honor of this annual event, every brewer creates a SMASH (State Malts and State Hops) beer that emphasizes the same three hops and grains. It’s really cool to see the wide range of styles that result. Tank Fund is now one of my favorite B&T beers. It’s medium-bodied with flavors of lemon and honey, and has a closing bitterness that keeps it from being too sweet.

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They serve popcorn and pretzels in the tasting room, and you can also order from Houdini, the wood fire pizza place next door. I see your wheels spinning, Pammy! We can definitely put B&T on the itinerary during your next visit. Like many NYC spots, B&T is cash only, but if you forget dat paper, just bop into Houdini and use their ATM.

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Rich explains the 1642 Maspeatches, a gruit brewed with local honey and spruce.

Rich was at H&H for a tasting last night and we chatted about how NYC Beer week is going. He confessed that he was a bit tired of the events, and couldn’t wait to get back to the tasting room this weekend. If you read the reviews on Yelp, or any other press about B&T, it’s so clear that B&T is Rich and his family. He’s so passionate about the tasting room and his beer, and he loves to tell the backstory behind each brew. Customers will return to B&T for the delicious beer, welcoming atmosphere, and amazing prices, yes, but most of all, because of the faces behind the bar.

Happy Friday! Cheers to passion.

p.s. Want to know more about about Rich and the Bridge and Tunnel story? Of course you do! Check out these beer reads:

Building a Brewery From Scratch
Bridge & Tunnel Brewery Taproom Opens in Ridgewood, Queens
Bridge & Tunel Brewery Set to Open Ridgewood Location This Saturday
Bridge and Tunnel Microbrewery in Ridgewood, Queens: The Definition of DIY