The craft beer business is booming
across Greater Cincinnati, with about 40 breweries now open or planning to open this year. Northern Kentucky is firmly on the region’s beer bandwagon, hosting a number of breweries and taprooms with more to come.
Here’s a look at the state of NKY’s breweries, including those that have been open for a while and are continuing to grow and those still in the planning stages.
Braxton Brewing, 27 W. Seventh St., Covington
If you haven’t heard of Braxton, you’re missing out on some great beer. Evan Rouse, who started out as a homebrewer at the age of 16, and Richard Dubé, formerly of Christian Moerlein, have teamed up for NKY’s most recently opened brewery. Before debuting this spring, the Braxton team launched one of the area’s most successful Kickstarter campaigns to date, and they’re already growing.
You can find about 15 beers on tap there on any given day, with a variety of Braxton’s core beers as well as rotating seasonal and specialty options. The regulars are Storm, a golden cream ale; Sparky, a hoppy wheat ale; Crank Shaft, an IPA; Dead Blow, a tropical stout; and Trophy, a pale ale. This summer Braxton brewed 1957, an English mild ale, for the All-Star Game, and they’ve blended Dead Blow with their own Starter coffee for a unique infusion.
Not only does Braxton have some of the best beer in town, but they also have a unique space. The garage-inspired taproom goes back to Rouse’s roots of brewing in his parents’ garage. The 11,000-square-foot-space has plenty of room for everyone and is available for special events.
Ei8ht Ball, 95 Riveria Drive, Bellevue
On your next trip to The Party Source, make sure to walk all of the way to the back of the store to Ei8ht Ball’s brewery and taproom. Grab a basket of popcorn and a barstool and order from the extensive list of 40-plus beers on tap. They’re not just Ei8ht Ball’s brews, but local and national guest taps as well as hard-to-find beers from all over the world.
Ei8ht Ball opened two years ago and recently jumped on the canned beer bandwagon. They did a limited release of their Prodigal American Pale Ale in cans in July and are planning to release runs of Tarnished Golden Ale and Red Drink Rye IPA soon. The cans were distributed to a small number of bottle shops and are also available at the taproom.
The Party Source also has a private label brewery called Quaff Brothers, but it’s not always brewed on-site. The Quaff staff travels to use other brewery’s setups, but you can usually find a beer or two on tap at Ei8ht Ball.
Hofbrauhaus, 200 E. Third St., Newport
Decidedly German, Newport’s was the first authentic Hofbrauhaus in the U.S. and is modeled after the 400-year-old icon in Munich. The Duke of Bavaria handed down his beer recipes in the 1600s, and those recipes and the brewing process haven’t changed.
Hofbrauhaus staples are Premium Lager, Light, Dunkel and Hefe Weizen and are joined by a number of seasonal beers throughout the year, including Oktoberfest, Maibock, Pilsner and Hefe Weizen Dunkel.
Hofbrauhaus offers more than just beer, of course. The experience is rounded out by authentic German food, polka music, the yelling of “Prost,” standing on tables and strolling through the outdoor biergarten.
Bircus Brewing, 322 Elm St., Ludlow
Paul Miller is embarking on a journey to open a brewery tied to Circus Mojo
, which he also owns and operates. He got the idea for a “bircus” after a visit to Ghent, Belgium, where he met circus performers who earned money to operate their craft by selling beer. He obtained a license for the concept and plans to use Belgian-inspired recipes for Bircus beer.
Miller purchased the old Ludlow Theater five years ago and has been operating the circus there. He also owns a church around the corner and wants to move the circus there in order to make room for his Bircus operation. He’s encountered a few issues with building permits but continues to move forward with the brewery and taproom plans.
Darkness Brewing, 22 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue
Homebrewers and friends Eric Bosler and Ron Sanders will be opening Darkness Brewing in October or November. They’re focusing on dark beers
— stouts, porters and browns — but say there will be some lighter styles and surprises, such as a dark beer that tastes like a light beer.
The 4,200-square-foot brewery and taproom is an industrial space that used to be a car lot and showroom. The taproom will offer to-go growlers and host an outdoor space with games and a place for live music. There won’t be a food menu, but customers can bring in food from nearby restaurants to enjoy with a pint.
Plans are to have at least six different Darkness beers on tap at any given time, plus a few featured guest taps from other local breweries. There are also plans for some wine options, which will help Darkness appeal to everyone and give the brewery a more neighborhood bar feel.
Geo. Wiedemann Brewing, 530 York St., Newport
At one time, Wiedemann’s was the largest brewery in Kentucky. It was moved to Evansville, Ind., in the 1980s, and then Pittsburgh Brewing acquired the rights to the brand and made the beer until 2006, when the company filed for bankruptcy. At that point in time, Jon Newberry purchased the rights and asked Kevin Moreland of Listermann Brewing Co. to develop an updated recipe, and Wiedemann’s Special Lager was born
Wiedemann’s is currently available in more than 300 stores and bars in Northern Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, but Newberry wants to think bigger.
He’d like to open a brewery and taproom in a 10,000-square-foot space in WaterTower Square in Newport’s Mansion Hill district. It would boast a large taproom with 12 Wiedemann’s taps, food and an outdoor biergarten with a separate bar in the building’s existing courtyard. Newberry also wants to host brewery tours and events.