CINCINNATI - One of the newest attractions on Ohio's riverfront has received attention from around the world, and is more proof of downtown Cincinnati's rise back to popularity and fun.
The Moerlein Lager House, located next to Great American Ball Park, promised to be a staple of this city's nightlife and brewing heritage, and it has not disappointed.
Head there any weekend night and you'll be greeted by huge crowds, and with the opening of Smale Park, it's only going to get more popular as it has become the diamond on the necklace of Cincinnati parks.
Moerlein Lager House CEO and President Greg Hardman said he worked closely with a team of advisors so the Moerlein Lager House captured Cincinnati's rich brewing history.
"I've worked over a decade to return Cincinnati's grand brewing heritage and it's been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, a lot of blood sweat and tears," said Hardman. "We really look to bring Cincinnati's brewing back and I knew it would come."
Hardman made sure the building design showcased the connections between Cincinnati's brewing history and today's culture.
"From the Beer Baron Hall of Fame, you can look to the north and see into Over-the-Rhine where Cincinnati's brewing heritage started in the Over-the-Rhine brewery district and this was the exact route the beer traveled in the late 1800's from Over-the-Rhine down Main Street to the Port of Cincinnati to bring Cincinnati beer to the world," Hardman said.
The restaurant cost around $10 million to get off the ground, it holds 500 people inside and the outside beer gardens adjacent to Smale Park hold another 600 people, it has three kitchens, two bars, a concession stand, an underground lab and wheat shredder, a hops garden and an ornate microbrewery that brews six Christian Moerlein brands on site and two additional seasonal beers every month.
"Right here, I brew it and I serve it from my serving tanks, I can walk around and talk to the customers and have a direct feedback and that's what is so exciting about it is to be so close to that feedback," said Richard Dube, Brewmaster for Moerlein Lager House.
The Moerlein Lager House also features artwork from Jim Efler, a local artist.
"The Beer Baron mural faces to the west, which is to our outdoor beer garden, and Christian Moerlein is to the east and he is welcoming you to his beer garden back in the 1800s while he is looking out in the future of Cincinnati's brewing over the western beer garden," Hardman said.
The Lager House is meant to serve as one of the main organs pumping life into Cincinnati's riverfront; Hardman had serious visions about the revitalization of the city's urban core, and he chose beer as the conduit.
And the Lager House menu transcends typical biergarten fare with classics like pretzels and beer cheese, a spaetzle-accentuated pork belly entrée, onions rings and a whole slew of meals cooked, roasted or marinated in beer. Other dishes may come as a surprise: Fish tacos with cilantro aioli, saffron-accented paella, crab cakes with tomato chutney and spinach risotto signify executive chef Carl Chambers' commitment to providing modern American fare to match the fresh, sleek interior with just a hint of old-timey influence.
For the full Lager House menu: http://www.moerleinlagerhouse.com/menus/dinner-menu/ .
Of course, it's only proper the menu would span such a vast range of palates. That's been designed to match the giant beer selection. The house holds a total of 90 taps, including eight consistent taps of strictly Moerlein selections and up to 20 guest taps. Altogether, Hardman has created something of a beer museum — drinkers can choose from up to 200 styles of beer from around the world.
Just like the fresh batches of beer crafted in the brewery at the front of the restaurant, the Lager House's design has been executed with great care. The second floor, Hardman says, is designed for parties looking for a more intimate, quiet dining experience, while the first floor is garnished with TVs and modest furniture for a more casual time. He points to the Stammtisch table on the first floor, which provides four taps of free-flowing beer.
If you haven't made it down to this Tri-State gem that has found its place among the great pub/brewery/restaurants/historical buildings in the U.S., you're missing out on a huge part of what has made Cincinnati so great the past year.
For more information on the Lager House, go to www.moerleinlagerhouse.com/ .
Information from CityBeat was used in this report.