CINCINNATI -- With little to show for it in the short term, tireless volunteers in Cincinnati's Westwood neighborhood worked behind the scenes to pump new life into its woebegone business district along Harrison Avenue.
On June 30, they'll be toasting their success with a frosty beer in a brand new microbrewery, the west side's first.
"You might say, 'well how unique is a brewery?' On the west side, it really is. We're hoping to attract people from Dent and Cleves, Bridgetown and Delhi and Montfort Heights and Price Hill and even beyond that once the reputation of quality gets out," said Larry Eiser, president of WestCURC redevelopment.
West Side Brewery will host its grand opening at 2 p.m. in the former Wullenweber car dealership on Harrison and Ruehlman avenues, just across the street from the iconic Westwood Town Hall.
Joe Mumper, brewery president and co-founder, was the sole partner who doesn't live on the west side to invest in the brewery. But the Newport resident was drawn to the location and to the pent-up demand for a brewery and gathering place in Westwood.
"There's a heck of a lot of excitement in the neighborhood," he said.
Making its mark
Mumper said West Side Brewery will distinguish itself from a crowded -- albeit collegial -- local microbrewery market by offering a wide variety of beers from IPAs "that will knock your socks off" to easy-drinking lagers, as well as a range of porters, stouts and wheat beers.
In a U-shaped configuration wrapped around the bar, West Side Brewery will serve a dozen of its own beers and complement them with outside beers and even four taps with wine. A total of 30 taps will be on duty.
A full liquor license means spirits will be on the menu, too.
They'll have a few food items like soft pretzels to go along with the beer, but the owners plan to have food trucks park outside regularly, and customers can bring in their own food, too.
Mumper said the bar will be family-friendly, with features like a cornhole court, live music and long communal tables in the half of the bar called the Ruehlman Room.
On the other side, the Harrison Tap Room will be nestled between the bar and huge windows that face Harrison Avenue, and the Wullenweber room behind that will be available for private parties.
Eiler envisions West Side Brewery as a community gathering place, which Mumper encouraged by inviting community groups to gather behind roped off sections for meetings.
Mumper plans to open in May or June. The community buy-in included a Kickstarter fundraising campaign that drew nearly 400 small investors who pitched in about $19,000, he said.
Veteran Brewmaster Colin Foy will oversee an operation that can brew 15 barrels of beer simultaneously and ferment 120 barrels at a time.
The brewery will distribute its beer to other restaurants and bars in kegs for now. In 2018, they'll add a canning operation and a rooftop deck thanks, in part, to a Duke Energy Urban Revitalization Grant that WestCURC won on behalf of the brewery.
Tip of the iceberg?
Eiser said the brewery will be joined by a growing number of other projects coming to fruition, including groundbreaking this summer on a project to build a park on the grounds of Westwood Town Hall.
His group and others are looking for a restaurant and bar to move into the nearby historic firehouse, and Madcap Puppet Theater is working on renovating the Cincinnati Bell building to move into and expand its offerings.
"A lot of it has been under the surface. In the next couple of months, we're going to see a lot opening up in the neighborhood," he said. "We're already seeing young couples moving into the neighborhood from Over-the-Rhine, and they want a yard now. Maybe they have kids on the way, and Westwood has great, affordable housing stock."