CINCINNATI -- East Walnut Hills’ Woodburn Brewery hasn’t even been officially open two weeks and its owners are already finding ways to expand, as they plan to start offering small dishes from Mazunte Taqueria on Friday.
Woodburn co-owner Dennis Chacon explained that Mazunte’s take on Mexican food is why he wanted to serve its food in the brewery he and co-owner Chris Mitchell opened Aug. 26.
“They’re a bunch of surfer gringoes, but they have really studied both the culture and the cuisine of Mexico,” Chacon said. “There’s all sorts of regional food in Mexico, and they get that Mexican food is not just ground beef and crunchy taco shells.”
RELATED PHOTOS: Sneak a peek inside Woodburn Brewery
Chacon, who is originally from Arizona and of Mexican heritage, said Woodburn will keep it simple by offering three dishes under $10: tostada sliders, an adaptation of a traditional Mexican goat dish called birria and chile verde.
While brainstorming the menu, Mazunte’s owner Josh Wamsley said he tried to adapt Cincinnati favorites – think buffalo wings and chili – into a Mexican style without losing their integrity.
An order of three crunchy tostada sliders will come in pork and potato options, both with a guajillo chile sauce for $8.
Birria is customarily made of braised goat meat stewed in a heavy, spicy sauce with lots of herbs, but Mazunte's version puts a unique spin on the traditional dish from the Mexican state of Jalisco.
“Most Cincinnati palates are not going to be ready for goat,” Chacon said. “Ours will be called beeria, braised in our beer and made out of beef. I love the riff on a traditional, esoteric dish that most Cincinnati people wouldn’t try. It’s a great way to expose folks to the complexity of Mexican food.”
Woodburn’s chile verde dish will be a bowl of bright green soup with braised chicken thighs, queso fresco and herbs.
“Right now, people aren’t thinking soup weather, but this is a really fresh dish with a lot of herbs and veggies and lean meats,” Chacon said. “And it’s going to be really good.”
Both the beeria and chile verde will set customers back $9. A Sunday option of chilaquiles (fried tortilla shells topped with a local, free-range egg) will cost $10. Woodburn also will offer chips and salsa ($3) or chips and guacamole ($5) for those who want a lighter snack.
That’s just the starting point. Chacon said Mazunte will set up a small prep kitchen by Thanksgiving in the 1,000-square-foot space next door to the Woodburn Brewery while they also plan to rent it out as event space. Eventually, they hope to knock down part of the wall between the two buildings to extend the energy of the Woodburn taproom throughout the new space.
For now, Wamsley said Mazunte will prepare the food at its newly opened catering commissary in Madisonville and plate it up at the Woodburn.
Keeping up with demand
The Woodburn Brewery has seen five times the amount of business its owners initially planned for, meaning its owners have had to adapt quickly to keep customers’ glasses full.
“It’s a cool problem to have because it’s a testament to the quality of our product, but at the same time people will come in and be disappointed if it’s not on draft for a couple days,” Chacon said.
Mitchell came trundling in mid-conversation with Chacon carting a bucket of pawpaws he had foraged from a nearby wooded location he preferred not to disclose. The pawpaws will be infused into a creamy “Pawpaw and Lactose IPA” within the next couple weeks, which Mitchell likened to being just one color in the whole rainbow of creative beer varieties he loves trying to see how people react.
“It’s up to us to be the favorite brewery and to make as many different colors as we can and that’s our goal: We’re going to make everything and try to make it as great as possible,” Mitchell said. “We have a three-barrel pilot system that lets us experiment and test the market instead of making 20 barrels of chocolate chip stout that might not sell. We can test the market before taking it up to the big system.”
Woodburn also offers a Home Brewers’ series that features locals’ concoctions such as the current Belgian Quad, brewed by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital research fellow Patrick McLendon.
“It’s a free exchange of marketing, and it’s everybody’s dream to get their beer put on tap somewhere. So we provide that dream,” Mitchell said.
Alongside the new bites, Woodburn Brewery plans to tap three new beers: an Imperial Pumpkin Ale, a Berliner Weisse and a New England IPA that Mitchell describes as blasted with hops and very hazy, almost like pulpy orange juice.
They’re also proud to serve as the official beer sponsor of the Cincinnati Street Food Festival on Oct. 1. The daylong event, organized by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, will fill East McMillan Street near Peebles’ Corner with food trucks, art exhibits, live music and kids' activities.
Find the Woodburn Brewery at 2800 Woodburn Ave. in East Walnut Hills.