FIRST LOOK: Taft's Ale House opens in Over-the-Rhine

Check out the first 10 beers

CINCINNATI -- Opening Day isn’t just a big day for the Cincinnati Reds, it’s also deadline day for the city’s newest brewery.

Taft’s Ale House opened at 8:30 a.m. Monday with a blessing of the beers. The brewery is located at the corner of 15th and Race streets.

Co-founder and Head Brewer Kevin Moreland even brought in a former priest who frequents the area to make it official.

PHOTOS: Take an Inside Look at the new Taft's Ale House

“Father Kroger is a close friend of mine. … He stops in quite a bit and is sort of a character,” Moreland said. “I asked him if he wanted to bless our first beers the other day, because here we are in a former church and people say, ‘You put a brewery in a church?’ Well, I want to get things started right.”

The crunch is on for the team to get the three-story brewpub ready for action.

taft's ale house

In addition to some finishing touches on the architecture and some design flourishes, Taft’s is still in the process of getting some liquor permits finalized. They had inspections on Tuesday and will have another round Wednesday.

Even if they don’t get all the liquor permits taken care of, Moreland isn’t worried about the outcome.

“Our focus is to be ready Opening Day, but if not we’ll have 10 Taft’s Ale House beers on tap and ready,” Moreland said.

Another reason patrons should come visit Taft’s on Opening Day -- it’s Moreland’s birthday.

“I think it’s going to be a special day,” Moreland said. “I think we’re in good shape.”

Bring on the Beers

Speaking of those first 10 beers, here are the brews that patrons can find out tap staring Opening Day:

  • First Pitch Pale Ale: American pale ale brewed and dry hopped with Zythos and Centennial hops. Tropical and citrusy -- 4.7 percent ABV 35 IBUs

“It was our very first batch brewed here at Taft’s Ale House. … We focused on Zythos and Centennial hops in that beer. … We really wanted to brew a beer that was good for year-round drinking. It’s not over-the-top bitterness-wise. Also, [William Howard] Taft was the first president to throw out a first pitch at a professional baseball game.” -- Moreland

  • Nellie’s Keylime Caribbean Ale: American wheat beer brewed with keylime juice straight from the islands and a hint of coriander. Refreshingly fruity. – 4.8 percent ABV 19 IBUs

“I brewed this beer for me because I love the hot weather. And when I can get away, I like to be on a beach or somewhere warm. … I love key lime pie. … I get the fresh lime juice for this from a company down in Key West, Fla. … We also infuse coriander in to the batches. … That beer is all about spring and summer. Hopefully we can keep it around year-round and make you feel like summer.” -- Moreland

  • Gavel Banger IPA: American IPA brewed and dry hopped with heaps of Amarillo, Citra and Simcoe hops. Juicy, hoppy justice. -- 6.0 percent ABV 70 IBUs

“We hope to make that beer a year-round IPA. It focuses on all my favorite hops and is a West Coast-type style of IPA. … At 6 percent, I want it to be sessionable -- to be able to drink more than one.” -- Moreland

  • Cherrywood Amber: American amber ale brewed with a touch of cherrywood smoked malt. Smooth and sultry. – 5.6 percent ABV 23 IBUS

“It’s got some cherrywood smoked malt in there. It’s an all-around good drinking beer. … It goes well with our tri-tip beef and I wanted something that would go well with that.” -- Moreland

  • 27 Pils: Traditional pilsner made with German pilsner malt and noble Tettnang hops. A crisp, golden lager. -- 4.7 percent ABV 15 IBUs
taft's ale house

“This is a true, authentic German pilsner. We’re in a 1850s German church and this is a German neighborhood, so I thought I needed to bring some of that presence back into the building. So this beer has 100 percent German ingredients.” -- Moreland

  • Culebra Cut Coconut Brown: American brown ale infused with toasted coconut. A taste of the tropics. -- 5.2 percent ABV 12 IBU’s

“I love beers with coconut, so that’s always going to stick with me no matter where I go. … You can drink a little bit of this and get that good coconut character but it’s still sessionable.” -- Moreland

  • Saison de Paulus: Belgian-style saison fermented at high temperatures for a dry, spicy farmhouse ale. Bubbly and bright. – 4.5 percent ABV 22 IBUs

“We are in St. Paul’s Church, so we wanted ‘The Paul.’ It’s a straightforward Saison – very clean. This is an authentic Belgian saison. It’s got only one hop addition. It’s all about the yeast strain.” -- Moreland

  • Rookwood Mosaic Lager: India pale lager brewed in honor of the historic Rookwood Pottery, in Over-the-Rhine. Showcases the bold aromatics of Mosaic hops. – 6 percent ABV 55 IBUs

“The Rookwood Tile Company is right here in Over-the-Rhine. They actually wanted us to have a lot more tile than what we could afford, so they ended up donating to the project to get everything done. So I came up with this beer to symbolize our relationship with Over-the-Rhine and the Rookwood Tile Company.” -- Moreland

  • Maverick Chocolate Porter: Brown porter brewed with cacao nibs and roasted cacao husks from our friends at Maverick Chocolate. Dark and aromatic. – 5.5 percent ABV 23 IBUs

“When I walked into their shop, I said, ‘I want to make a chocolate beer. But I don’t want to make just any chocolate beer, I want to make one of the best chocolate beers.’ This beer smells and tastes just like you walked into their place.” -- Moreland

  • Mooly Wooly Coffee Milk Stout: Milk stout made with oats and locally roasted coffee. Moo-cha-licious. – 4.6 percent ABV 25 IBUs

“This is an Oatmeal Coffee Milk Stout. We used Coffee Emporium’s Tanzanian Project roast coffee. We want to use coffee from the local neighborhood. … So every time we brew this beer we’ll change the coffee strain. The story behind this beer, is that Taft was the last president to have a ‘presidential dairy cow’ that grazed on the lawn of the White House.” -- Moreland

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Barrel-aged beer fanatics should know the Mooly Wooly is already aging in bourbon barrels. The Cherrywood Amber is also aging in bourbon barrels.

Moreland said he’s also got a sour program growing. He has already filled his on-premise foeder and hopes to release some sours on draft soon.

“It’s going to take a little time but we’re already working on growing the program,” Moreland said.

taft's ale house

Some of the sour beers are already aging in wine barrels, as well.

The brewers at Taft’s have also already brewed a double-digit ABV beer. Moreland said their Russian Imperial Stout will go 100 percent into barrels.

“We’ve got a lot going on but we’ve got a lot of other things up our sleeves,” Moreland said.

The brewers said they’ve secured a lot of unique hops and fans should expect to see some single-hop beers on tap soon too.

An Odyssey from Start to Finish

It’s taken Moreland almost a decade now to get where he is from his humble start as a homebrewer.

“It’s been about six years ago now since myself and one of my business partners [David Williams,] were talking about trying to get Taft’s Ale House to become what it is today. It’s been quite a ride since then that’s for sure,” Moreland said.

Bring Taft’s Ale House to life has forced Moreland to get out of his comfort zone and put on more hats that he imagined.

“I started out as the head brewer. Well I’ve done a lot more than just brew to get us to open day at this point -- project management and the whole nine yards. I’ve learned a lot on this journey,” Moreland said.

When asked if he could visualize what it would become when it started, Moreland said, “You know, I come from the ‘grunge style’ of brewing. I’ve brewed in my garage, my basement, outside -- I just wanted to brew. While I thought the building had awesome potential, I never foresaw it becoming what it is today. We owe a lot to our design time. They came up with a vision that is second to none.”

taft's ale house

The Taft’s team said when they started considering the old St. Paul’s Church, they could only enter from the 15th Street side because the front doors were ready to fall off their hinges.

“There was a dirt floor when I walked in and there was only one window that you could look out from --not to mention the minimal light. So I would say my first impression was, ‘Whoa,’ and my second impression was, ‘This is going to cost a lot of money,’” Moreland said.

In addition to the build-out, getting the concept and feel of the brewpub right was a big concern for the team.

Moreland said the brewing team has taken extra care on training the bar staff on how to properly care for the beer. For instance, they’ve been thoroughly trained on the proper way to wash and dry the glassware, in addition to making sure they use the right glass for the right beer.

“It may take a little extra time, but believe me -- you’ll see a lot more life in your beer because of it,” Moreland said. “At the end of the day, I need people who realize that good craft beer and glassware and cleaning of the glassware is very important. The way we present ourselves is very important. It’s all about the craft.”

Building Lasting Partnerships

One of the first big events Taft’s will have is a chocolate tasting with the folks from Maverick’s chocolates at Findlay Market. Moreland partnered with the company to make one of his beers early on.

Moreland said he wants to show how the brewery staff worked with the chocolate makers to come up with the collaboration. He said patrons can expect to try three to four different types of chocolate at the tasting.

“It’s been a fun project. We think we definitely captured the aroma and magic of the work they do down there at Findlay Market,” Moreland said.

Another team-up that has provided dividends to Taft’s is Moreland’s relationship with DME Brewing Solutions in Canada. The head brewer said he helped design the system used at the brewery after weeks of talks. Getting that system up to speed has been one of his greatest joys in the whole project.

taft's ale house

Moreland said DME is even using some of his designs in their new models.

“I got to know these people many years ago. … I told them I’d love to come up and spend a week with you and design a new brew house together,” Moreland said.

While he can’t give all his trade secrets away, Moreland said he designed a system that allows for a more efficient way to hop the beer. He said the DME engineers liked it enough they called the system the “Moreland valve” and that it’s being used in new brew house designs.

When it opens Monday, the new brewery and restaurant will “officially” take over the historic St. Paul's Church at 1429 Race Street. The site is in the heart of Over-the-Rhine and only one block north of Washington Park.

Taft’s Ale House will feature three floors, each with a different experience in mind.

The beer hall will be the main seating area with shared picnic-style seating. It will also have the brewing tanks in full view to allow patrons to see the process. The restaurant side will feature tri-tip steak sandwiches and other pub fare.

The mezzanine level will have private rooms and a separate bar, overlooking the beer hall.

The final level will be “Big Billy’s Cocktail Lounge,” an upscale cocktail lounge – “but for beer.” The lounge will offer some appetizers but will focus on drinks with the aim being a place for people to wait when the beer hall and mezzanine are full.

For the latest Cincinnati beer news and entertainment, go to wcpo.com/beer or follow Jesse on Twitter at @wcpojesse .

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