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Hamilton's Fretboard Public House hits all the right notes with small-batch brews and pub classics

Brewpub opens in former Quarter Barrel space
Posted at 5:25 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 12:48:59-05

HAMILTON, Ohio — Quarter Barrel Brewery & Pub, touted upon opening as a shining example that Hamilton's ongoing revitalization efforts could work, announced its closure Jan. 3, 2019, two weeks before its first anniversary. City business development specialist Lauren Gersbach started searching for a replacement the next day.

Fast forward to 11 a.m. Wednesday, as Hamilton city officials celebrated the grand opening of Fretboard Brewery and Public House at the same three-story location on Main Street.

"When Hamilton called me and said they had this property becoming available, you know, the first phone call I made after looking at this property was to Kevin, and I said, 'Hey, they have a brewing system, and we might have our collaboration,’” said Scott Schmidt, founder of Looking Glass Hospitality Group.

Kevin Moreland, a longtime brewer and co-owner of Fretboard Brewing Co. in Blue Ash, was ready.

“I was ecstatic about trying to get a small-batch brewery where we could do some small test batches, to just have a lab,” Moreland said of that conversation.

Fretboard Brewery and Public House was born out of the subsequent collaboration, which incorporates both of their skillsets.

“We’ve talked many times about doing something,” Schmidt said. "I don’t really have any interest in being a brewer. He’s not really interested in doing food.”

Schmidt brought the culinary skills that shape the menu at his hospitality group's restaurants, including SW Clyborne’s in Mason and Tahona Kitchen in Blue Ash, while Moreland delivered Fretboard’s lineup of craft beers to the table.

“The goal was to create a restaurant and microbrewery that offers something different than what most breweries offer,” Schmidt said.

He describes the public house’s food menu as a showcase of classic pub fare with an upscale, scratch-kitchen twist. Those items include fresh-cut steak frites, burgers, fish and chips, macaroni and cheese, pasta scampi and blackened salmon.

“The Nashville hot southern-fried chicken thigh with the beer cheese macaroni and cheese, which is made with (Fretboard flagship beer) Vlad and a nice Vlad pilsner would probably be my go-to at the moment,” Schmidt said.

Moreland said for the Public House’s grand opening, Fretboard added something new to its regular lineup of beers: Its first brew made in collaboration with another local brewery.

"Municipal Brew Works here in Hamilton, you know, they helped bring craft beer to this market,” Moreland said. "So, we brewed a beer called Winter Jam.”

Winter Jam, a winter ale brewed with hints of cinnamon and oranges, is available on tap at Fretboard’s Public House and Municipal Brew Works, which is located a few short blocks away at 20 High St. in Hamilton.

Moreland added that Fretboard, with its affinity for live concert performances, will bring local musicians to the Public House on Saturdays within the next few weeks.

“It would not be Fretboard without music,” he said.

In the months between Quarter Barrel’s closing and Fretboard Brewery and Public House’s opening, LGHG Construction remodeled the first and second floors of 103 Main St. The work added seating to both spaces.

When warmer weather returns, visitors will also notice a bar on the building’s rooftop patio that overlooks the Great Miami River.

“To bring two such well-established entities together for a project right here on this very visible corner property in Hamilton, you know, is very, very exciting,” Gersbach said.