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COLUMN: Cincinnati's craft beer scene is special, and here are 9 reasons why

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Posted at 11:00 AM, Sep 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-07 12:23:07-04

Many cities stake a claim to being the “beer capital” of the United States, citing their number of craft breweries, like Portland, Oregon, their number per capita, like Grand Rapids, Michigan, or the quality of their local beer, like San Diego or Denver. 

Whether Cincinnati is the “beer capital” in anyone’s opinion or not, local and national craft beer enthusiasts alike have taken notice of the Queen City. (See Fortune's "Best New Cities for Beer Lovers" or Smart Asset's "Best Cities for Beer Drinkers."

Here are nine reasons why we think Cincinnati's craft beer scene is special.

1. Craft beer is our culture. Nationwide, the United States is experiencing rapid growth in the beer industry, and the trend doesn’t appear to have peaked yet. Cincinnatians are no different than our counterparts around the country -- we’ve caught the craft beer bug in a big way.

2. Cincinnati's beer scene is fun. If Listermann Brewing isn’t hosting a festival, Rhinegeist Brewery has an event. If MadTree Brewing doesn’t have a special release on a given weekend, then Fifty West Brewing is doing something -- probably outdoors -- worth checking out. This weekend Cincy Beerfest returns to Fountain Square. Beer is meant to be social, and enjoyed, and if the brewers around town are good at making it, their marketing counterparts are equally good at generating buzz surrounding those libations.

3. Cincinnati has a long beer history. Not too many places have as rich a brewing history, and honor it, as Cincinnati does. Whether it’s Christian Moerlein continuing its own tradition, as well as resurrecting other local lines like Little Kings and Hudepohl, or breweries opening in historic buildings, the city respects its ties to the past while growing into its present and future. (And did we mention the Brewing Heritage Trail?)

4. Cincinnati breweries support each other. On any given night, chances are high that when you walk into one brewery you will see brewers/owners/employees from another. Few new breweries open in this city without a story like, “The guys at MadTree really helped,” or “Scott (LaFollette) at Blank Slate set me on the right path.” Quaff Bros. uses this collaborative approach as a basis for its business. This is a community that supports each other.

5. Cincinnati breweries produce quality beer. Ultimately, Cincinnati's scene couldn't thrive if our many breweries didn't produce good beer. Ask craft beer fans around town what's their favorite brewery and most will name a local company. Sure, Dogfish Head, Stone and others have their followers, but the local tap handles and shelves in package stores have a high percentage of Cincinnati-area-produced suds.

6. There's easy access to local breweries. By the end of the year, no one in town should live more than 15 to 20 minutes from a brewery. Why go to the same old place when you can spend roughly the same on something different in a shiny new taproom an equal distance away? No one is judging what you drink, nor where, but given the options Cincinnatians are choosing their craft breweries in droves.

7. Local breweries reflect their communities. In Greater Cincinnati, people ask where you went to school -- high school. They are trying to figure out what neighborhood you call home. This could easily transition to favorite brewery. Each one has a slightly different feel, from Over-the-Rhine’s life-of-the-party vibe to a suburb’s more sedate local ambiance. Breweries have done a good job at matching taprooms to their respective neighborhoods.

8. Cincinnati pride runs deep. People from this area will argue longer trying to convince someone Cincinnati chili is worthwhile than they will over being given incorrect change at a gas station. Same for LaRosa’s and Graeter’s, though to a lesser degree. Applying this pride to craft beer has been a natural progression, and it’s only going to grow as breweries become more entrenched in the fabric of the city.

9. The local brewing community gives back. Whether it is giving spent grain to Brewhaus Dog Bones, hosting a fundraiser for a member of the community or even brewing a beer like Braxton’s Trophy that is geared toward raising money for charity, brewers in this town are generous folks. It seems to be a second motto in the brewing industry that with great success comes great responsibility.

What do you think makes Cincinnati craft beer so special?