CINCINNATI -- If you think Cincinnati’s brewery scene is hopping today, you should have seen it 150 years ago.
Soon, you’ll be able to.
The first signs of the city’s long-anticipated, $5.2 million Brewing Heritage Trail will soon be unveiled, with the trail’s website and smartphone app becoming available in the coming days.
The 2.3-mile long trail will stretch through Over-the-Rhine and celebrate the city’s long love affair with beer by showcasing historic stops, such as old breweries, with bronze markers and signs.
The trail is six years in the making and Cincinnati leaders hope it can become a tourist destination similar to other historic trails across the country, like the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
“It’s shown to be very powerful in many other cities,” said Steven Hampton, the executive director of the Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation. “History has drawn people to these neighborhoods maybe they normally wouldn’t visit. This amazing brewing history we have and their stories are already bringing people to the neighborhood, but this is going to bring them to a much greater level.”
Thanks to a partnership with the nonprofit ArtWorks Cincinnati, brewery murals and mosaics already dot the buildings that run along the trail. But later this month, you’ll be able to get interactive with the trail.
The Brewing Heritage Trail app that will be released later this month allows users to take self-guided tours throughout Over-the-Rhine and pull up brewing history on location.
Hampton is expecting to break ground on the physical trail later this year, hopefully around summertime. Bronze markers will be inserted in the sidewalks and life-size signs will detail the area’s history. By fall, the first 3/4 mile will be ready to tour, Hampton said.
“We hit the really historic brewery sites along this first segment,” Hampton said. The first part of the trail to open will start near Christian Moerlein Co. on Moore Street and end around Findlay Market.
Once the trail is finished, it will feature as many as 30 historic breweries.
The trail will also route OTR visitors and tourists off popular Vine Street and toward the northern part of the neighborhood, which doesn’t see quite as much foot traffic as Vine.
“As the trail starts to get developed and people start realizing what an awesome culture we have here, it’s only going to help not only Rhinegeist, but all the businesses and future businesses here,” said Katie Hoffman, the marketing manager for Rhinegeist.
The city of Cincinnati kicked in $100,000 for the trail and the state granted $200,000. Donations and grants will fund the rest of the trail. About 40 percent of the project’s funding has been secured, Hampton said.
He expects more people will be inclined to donate to the trail, too, once the first phase is completed.
The trail will be used to sell everyone from travel writers to tourists once it’s complete. While local craft beer is becoming popular in cities throughout the country, the city’s history with beer makes Cincinnati’s brewery boom unique, said Yancy Deering, the communications director at the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau.
He’s already making plans to take reporters who come here to write about Cincinnati tourism on the trail – with a stop for a beer at a local brewery on the way – in the future.
“We see it as: There’s a great product for us to promote,” Deering said. “Microbreweries are popping up all over the place. Ours is different because we have the history and all the buildings intact.”