With the winter holidays upon us and the new year drawing near I’m taking a moment to think about what I’d like to see develop for Cincinnati next year. WCPO’s Jesse Folk hatched this idea to “pick an aspect of the industry or scene that we’d most like to see or change in Cincy.” I’m pretty satisfied with the brewers, bars, and beer stores in the area, so I decided to think out of the box a bit to other fermented products.
We’ve already got local wineries and distilleries in the area, so what else can Cincinnati add to its fermentation portfolio?
Mead is growing in popularity thanks to folks like B. Nektar, Brother’s Drake, and Schramm’s. These folks aren’t making what most people think of mead. They’re crafting unique, delicious meads with everything from raspberries to Habaneros to Arnold Palmers. It’s truly craft mead just as MadTree is making craft beer. But there are still few meaderies across the country. Honey is expensive and hard to come by in the volumes needed, both resulting in a bottle cost far higher than your average craft beer.
Cincinnati does already have at least one place making mead. Valley Vineyards has produced the classic, super sweet, style of mead for years and most recently teamed up with Quaff Brothers, via Cellar Dweller, to make Grendel. Grendel is a bourbon barrel mead that’s (as of publishing) available at Party Source for $20 for a heavily waxed 750 ml bottle.
But Valley Vineyards isn’t going to push mead as a core product like I’d like to see someone do. They’re also not getting as creative as would be needed for a craft meadery to survive in the market.
Update 2016: MadTree has released 1 collaboration mead, and Cellar Dweller has released 2 more Quaff Bros. collaboration meads.
From what I’ve seen cider has yet to get as exciting as mead has. It seems there is a stigma around cider as being overly sweet or a way for macro brewers to crack the craft market. I think there is a significant amount of untapped creative power with ciders to exploit. And Cincinnati is the perfect place for that exploitation to happen. Maybe a line of ciders featuring different apples? Throw in some Thai spices? Dry hopping could open up a plethora of possibilities and lure IPA fans. I recall having a sour cider once that was rather enjoyable.
Update 2015: Rhinegeist is now making and canning two ciders.
Update 2016: Moerlein and Rivertown have also gotten into the cider game.
I was initially just going to write about cider and mead, but then this month’s Beer Advocate magazine had an article about sake. The Beer Advocate was about sake-beer hybrids but let’s start with Cincinnati just having a saké brewery, sake-beer hybrids can come later.
Technically one could argue that Sake is just a style of beer. Beer is, in the broadest sense, made by converting the starch in the grain to sugars then fermenting those sugars into alcohol. Beer mainly uses barley with the occasional appearance of wheat, oats, and rye. Sake uses rice. Rice is still a grain, so Sake is still “beer”, Reinheitsgebot be damned. Budweiser and Miller have never shied away from using some rice in their beers, but sake is all rice, no barley at all. Anyway, I digress…
Unfortunately, the way Ohio’s liquor control permits are setup no beer brewery can create these products without acquiring a separate license and having a different bonded area. The good news is that the permit to make cider, sake, or mead is only $75! So if you’ve been thinking of opening a brewery, I urge you to reconsider beer and contemplate mead, cider, or maybe sake.
Update 2016: Still holding out hope for local Sake.
Well, that’s what I want for Cincinnati. What do you want to come to town or see change? Leave your comments so we can get a discussion started and maybe someone thinking about opening a business here will act on them!