Moerlein Lager House, I love you… Not?

So I just saw Steve had an unpleasant experience at the lager house as well, just as a note our 2 reviews being so close together was not planned. He focused more on how there weren’t that many beers brewed on site and the price of all the beers. I have a slightly different take, focusing on the entire experience and how it disappointed me… or at least didn’t meet my fantastical expectations.

First, the vision:

We park in the new parking garage and walk right up to the Lager House. Hostess says 15 – 20 minute wait, that’s great! The place is new and packed so that’s to be expected. We head over to the bar and I have a chat with a very knowledgeable bar tender who is explaining the nuances of the Lager House’s specialty beers as well as pointing our their favorites from other breweries. Our table is ready and we bring our drinks to go sit down. Order an appetizer and have another talk with the waiter about their favorite beers, then they suggest just getting a sampler with four of my choice of beers on there. We have a great meal as I try eight different beers via the sampler. Then the wife gets desert, we pay the bill and we’re merrily on our way having had a wonderful night.

The reality:

The wife and I headed down to the Lager House tonight to do a little celebrating and visit it for the first time. I foolishly didn’t check to see if there was a Red’s game tonight, which there was so parking was $20 everywhere and non-existent, at that. Luckily valet parking right in front of the Lager House is only $20 anyway (normally $12 when the reds aren’t playing), which is awesome. Valet for the same price as any garage within eight blocks, that can’t be beat. Now, I’m not a fan of waiting, I actually hate it if any average restaurant that tells me there is a 20 minute wait; just lost my business. So we get inside and are told its a two-hour wait for a two person table. As our car just got valet-ed away we don’t have much option, we take the buzzer and head over to the bar.

The Red’s game is only in the second inning so the place is packed and it takes a while, but we finally get to order. Instead of trying to yell a complicated beer at the bar tender I just go for a Northern Liberties IPA, my favorite Moerlein beer. So it comes in a plastic cup… but whatever. It’s just a bar, no biggie. As there is no where to sit and it’s a nice night we decide to head outside and check out some more of The Banks.

First off I’m psyched about the entire Banks development, I’ve lived in the great Cincinnati area for sixteen years now and was always saddened by this expanse of dirt and parking lot along our riverfront while Newport got the Aquarium and the Levee. Plus, getting the lager house was just this crazy awesome bonus.

Anyway, back to the Lager House. Luckily that two-hour wait was only 45 minutes and we were promptly seated at a nice table. Not a great view of the river like some tables could get, but c’est la vie. The joint is also so loud my wife and I have to raise our voices to hear each other across the table, but not that big a deal; just an annoyance. So now that I’ve got time to review the menu, both beer and food, I’m relatively impressed. A great list of beers with 15+ on tap and a good 40 or so on bottle. I’ve always been a fan of Belgian ales so when I see they have Chimay Grande Reserve on tap (labeled Chimay Blue… which makes the beer snob in me sad, I would’ve at least hoped for it to say Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue) but whatev, minor complaint) I’m a happy camper. I do feel odd having a non-Moerlein beer in Moerlein’s lager house, though. I’m just not in a tasting mood and want something I’m familiar with. We also order some beer pretzels and I ordered a filet (I’m a sucker for a filet). This is when things start to go south, here’s a picture of the drink I received:

This is a $10 imported from Belgium authentic Trappist ale brewed by monks in a monastery served… in a clear plastic cup. My initial thought is wondering if a frat bought out all the red solo cups first?? So the beer snob in me is now outraged. I’m not a huge stickler for having a specific glass to match the style of beer, but I try and can certainly say that I’ve noticed a difference with certain styles. Regardless of the Red’s game across the street and how packed the place is you can’t find one freaking snifter to put this in? I then look around and realize there is not one single glass in the place. Looks like water/soda goes in Styrofoam cups and all beer goes in clear plastic cups. So now I’m hoping that they’re just doing this because it’s a Reds game. If not, its a pretty sad sign for what’s supposed to be an amazing restaurant.

Moving along, the pretzels were fantastic! Crazy hot mustard (I’m gonna say level 7 heat or so) and awesome beer cheese. The pretzels are now a guaranteed order every time I come here. My steak was on the rare side of medium rare but that’s a tricky thing anyhow. The sauce was also full of  peppercorn which overrode the taste of the steak.

Overall, the experience wasn’t too bad, but it’s like they’ve built some kind of wannabe beer lover’s paradise for people who know nothing about beer. Instead of trying to help them learn more about beer they’re just simmering it down to the lowest common denominator of Reds fans.

Edit: After talking with some other people who had been to the Lager House before the Reds season started they said that they were served in glasses and did have knowledgeable talks with the bar tenders and seems the brewers themselves are often milling about and being social with customers. I am now making it a priority to return soon, but not when the Reds are playing.

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